Greece does not consult Turkish minority: Party chief

by on 29 June 2019

Party gaining support of ethnic Turks in Greece in EP elections offers to be mediator between Athens, Turkish minority

Athens does not consult with the ethnic Turkish minority in its northeast on the group’s own affairs, a Greek political party garnering overwhelming support from the minority said on Friday.  

Greece’s Western Thrace region is home to around 150,000 Muslim Turks. The Friendship, Equality and Peace (FEP) party received overwhelming support in two provinces of Western Thrace in last month’s European Parliament elections.

The government did not accept the FEP’s offer to act as interlocutor with the group, party chief Cigdem Asafoglu, told Anadolu Agency.

“I hope those who govern this country will see the truth from now on and acknowledge the FEP party’s role,” Asafoglu stressed. 

She criticized the Greek government’s recent decision to restrict the autonomy of the muftis– Muslim religious clerics– in Western Thrace.

Muftis in Western Thrace have the jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.    

Asafoglu said they were not consulted regarding the decree, which concerns the Turkish minority directly. 

“If we were consulted, maybe we could have met at a common ground,” she stressed. 

Asafoglu said the FEP party could act as a mediator for dialogue between Athens and the Turkish minority. 

‘FEP is not a threat to Greece’

The FEP party was subject to harsh criticisms after its success in the recent European Parliament elections.

Asafoglu said her party was not a threat to Greece and that the Turkish minority was instead a source of richness for the country.

“They tell us ‘if you are a Turk, go to Turkey’ and I respond to them each time with the same answer: No, I will not, because this place belongs to me as much as it belongs to you,” Asafoglu stressed.

She said members of the group wanted to stay in Greece as equal citizens with equal rights. 

“We are not going anywhere, we are in Western Thrace, we are in Greece, but we are Turks and we are trying to contribute to the Greek democracy,” Asafoglu added.

She said after the 2019 EP elections, the FEP proved that its success in the previous 2014 EP elections was not a coincidence and showed Greece and Europe that the Turks of Western Thrace would not prefer another party over the FEP, if it participates in elections.

Asafoglu said during the night of the EP elections, the map of Greece — showing the provinces won by each party — was in three colors. 

One was the color of the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), another one was the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party and the third one was the color of the FEP, she said.

The party got a plurality of support in Rhodopi and Xanthi, two provinces in the Western Thrace region with a sizeable Turkish minority, thus making the party win the first place at both Rhodopi and Xanthi prefectures.

* Writing by Fatih Hafiz Mehmet

Mehmet Hatipoglu – aa.com.tr