Brushing off ludicrous claims by Turkey’s Foreign Minister about Greece’s handling of its Muslim minority, the Greek Foreign Ministry said “It is paradoxical, if not downright amusing, for Turkey to be telling Greece it needs to respect minority rights.”
Greek officials were responding to statements by the Turkish foreign minister over the Muslim minority’s schools in Thrace, northeastern Greece and reminded Turkey in its response that “history will remain the most objective witness of Turkey’s attempts to wipe out all minorities in its territory during the 20th century.”
In terms of the educational choices of the Greek state, the ministry said, there is no discrimination among Greek citizens and the focus is on quality education and the interests of the students themselves.
Specifically referring to the Muslim minority, the ministry’s statement said that there are 115 primary schools operating specifically for the minority in Thrace.
“By the way,” the Greek statement said, in Istanbul in 1955 “there were 54 Greek primary schools in operation, while today there are only 3. Does the Turkish leadership wonder why?”
In 1923, following the agreed-upon exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey and after Turkey’s genocide and attempt to wipe out the Greek population, there remained just over 200,000 Greeks— primarily in Istanbul.
These Greeks were exempt from the exchange and their rights were protected by the treaties between the countries— including their rights to practice their religion, speak their language and educate their young people in schools.
But since that time, systematic abuses by the Turkish authorities, including unfair laws and taxes targeting minorities, as well as violent riots in 1955 and expulsions in 1964, decimated the community to its present state of less than 2,000 people, mostly elderly.
A similar population of Muslims in northeastern Greece were exempt from the 1923 treaty. Unlike their counterparts in Turkey, the Muslim population has thrived and grown over the decades with representatives elected to parliament, and more than 100 schools for the community’s young people.
In the predecessor to The Pappas Post, the print version called Greek America Magazine, we featured a special report in 2011 called the “Greeks of Turkey: Is It Too Late.” Click here to read that story by then journalism student Tania Karas.
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