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Turks of Western Thrace (Turkish : Batı Trakya Türkleri, Greek : Τούρκοι της Δυτικής Θράκης) are ethnic Turks who live in Western Thrace, in the province of East Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece.
According to the Greek census of 1991, there were approximately 50,000 Turks in Western Thrace, out of the approximately 98,000 strong Muslim minority of Greece.Other sources estimate the size of the Turkish community between 90,000 and 120,000. The Turks of Western Thrace are not to be confused with Pomaks nor with Muslim Roma people of the same region, counting 35% and 15% of the Muslim minority respectively.
Due to the multiethnic character of the Muslim minority of Greece, which includes Turks, Pomaks and Roma Muslims, the Government of Greece does not refer to it by a specific ethnic background, nor does recognize any of these ethnicities, including the Turks, as separate ethnic minority in Western Thrace,instead referring to the whole Muslim minority on religious grounds, as the "Muslim Minority of Western Thrace" or "Greek Muslims". This is in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne to which Greece, along with Turkey, is a signature member. The Lausanne Treaty, along with the Greek Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, enshrines the fundamental rights of the Turks and other ethnic groups of East Macedonia and Thrace and the obligations towards them.
Parts of Western Thrace were overrun by the expanding Ottoman Empire in 1354 and remained in Ottoman control until 1913. At this time, the Turkish community outnumbered the Greek community four to one and owned close to 84% of the land. By August 31, 1913 the Turks of Western Thrace had formed the first 'Turkish republic', the Provisional Government of Western Thrace.However, it was taken over by the Kingdom of Bulgaria on October 25, 1913, which had been victorious in the First Balkan War. France occupied the area at the end of the First World War, following the defeat of Bulgaria, and it passed into Greek hands under the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920. Under a protocol of the same year, the Turks of Western Thrace were exempted from the 1922-1923 exchange of populations agreement between Greece and Turkey and were granted rights within the framework of the Lausanne Treaty. However, since 1923, between 300,000 and 400,000 Turks have left Western Thrace most of which have immigrated to Turkey. The actual Ottoman-era Greek Muslims of Macedonia had been included among those 'Turks' expatriated to Turkey in 1924. including the Vallahades. In contrast, the Western Thrace Turks are completely distinct from those referred to as Greek Muslims and were exempt from the terms of the population exchange.
A number of estimates and censuses during the 1912-1920 period gave the following results about the ethnic distribution of the area that would become known as Western Thrace:
|General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace (1912-1920)|
The Pomak population depending on the source was sometimes counted together with the Turks according to the Ottoman system of classifying people depending on religion, while in other occasions was specified separately. On the other hand, according to the Bulgarian view, they are considered "Bulgarian Muslims" and an integral part of the Bulgarian nation.
According to the Turkish thesis, as it was presented at Lausanne Peace Conference (1920), the general distribution of population in Western Thrace was as follows:
|Turkish thesis on the General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace in 1920 (before the population exchange)|
|Komotini||59,967 (74.8%)||8,834 (11%)||9,997 (12.5%)||1,007 (1.3%)||360 (0.4%)||80,165 (100%)|
|Alexandroupolis||11,744 (42.7%)||4,800 (17.5%)||10,227 (37.2%)||253 (0.9%)||449 (1.6%)||27,473 (100%)|
|Soufli||14,736 (46.4%)||11,542 (36.3%)||5,490 (17.3%)||-||-||31,768 (100%)|
|Xanthi||42,671 (81.7%)||8,728 (16.7%)||522 (1%)||220 (0.4%)||114 (0.2%)||52,255 (100%)|
|Total||129,120 (67.4%)||33,910 (17.7%)||26,266 (13.7%)||1,480 (0.8%)||923 (0.5%)||191,699 (100%)|
During Ottoman rule before 1912, Greeks constituted a minority in the region of Western Thrace.After the Balkan Wars and World War I the demography of the region was changed. While groups such as the Turks and Bulgarians decreased, the Greek population increased by the resettlement of ten thousands of Greek refugees from other areas of the Ottoman Empire, after the flight of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor, as a result of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), the Greek Genocide and the subsequent population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Of all Greek Asia Minor refugees (around 1.2 million), 8% of them were resettled in Western Thrace. The Greek government's reason to settle the refugees in this region was to strengthen the Greek presence in the newly acquired provinces and the homogenization of the population. The Greek government especially resettled the refugees in Komotini, Xanthi and Sapes regions where the majority of Muslim Turks lived.
|General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace in 1923, presented by the Greek delegation in Laussane (after the relocation of Asia Minor refugees)|
|Districts||Total||Total Greeks||Local Greeks||Relocated Greek refugees||Turks||Bulgarians||Jews||Armenians|
|Total||314,235||199,664 (63.5%)||94,226 (30.0%)||105,438 (33.6%)||95,407 (30.4%)||16,828 (5.4%)||1,112 (0.4%)||1,183 (0.4%)|
The Turkish community has a strong presence in the Komotini (Turkish : Gümülcine) and Xanthi (Turkish : İskeçe) departments of East Macedonia and Thrace, while it is scarcely present in the Evros prefecture, the closest to the international boundary with Turkey. According to estimates, Muslims as a whole, represented 36-38% of the Rhodopi Department population, 12-24% in the Xanthi Department and less than 5% in the Evros Department.
According to Ethnologue, in 1976 the Turkish language was spoken by 128,000 people in Greece, the majority of whom are located in the Western Thrace portion of the province of East Macedonia and Thrace. [ citation needed ]However, the Greek language is also widely used.
|The Muslims of Western Thrace between 1919-1995|
|Census/ statistics||Total||Turkish speaking||Pomaks||Roma||Others|
|Bulgarian 1919 (A)||96,908||79,539||17,369||-||-|
|Bulgarian 1919 (B)||98.035||77,726||20,309||-||-|
|Greek 1920 3rd version||100,491||93,522||6,969||-||-|
|Greek official 1928||102,621||84,585||16,740||<1,023||?|
|Greek official 1951||105,092||85,945||18,664||303||180|
|Turkish MFA (1995)||150,000||?||?||?||?|
|Greek MFA (1995)||120,000||~60,000||~42,000||~18,000||-|
Article 37 through 45 of the Lausanne Treaty set forth the obligations of the Greek and Turkish governments to protect the Turkish and Greek minorities in their territories. Each country agreed to provide the following:
The Lausanne Treaty defined the rights of the Muslim communities in Western Thrace, on the basis of religion, not ethnicity, as well as maintained a balance between the minority communities of both countries (Turks in Greece and Greeks in Turkey) on reciprocal obligations toward each of those minorities. The Treaty contained specific obligations for their cultural and religious rights. These have been largely respected, in contrast to measures taken by successive Turkish governments against the Greek minority in Turkey (like forced labor battalions, the Istanbul pogrom and Varlik Vergisi), a minority that is nearly eliminated today (from 70,000 in 1923 to 3,000 in 2000).
In 1990 a new electoral law was enacted in Greece, which set a threshold of at least 3% of the nationwide vote for a party to be represented in the parliament. Consequently, independent Turkish MPs were barred from election at the 1993 elections. Since then the Turkish minority in the Hellenic Parliament has been represented by Turkish deputies belonging to nationwide political parties, and the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace, which succeeded the Independent Muslim List in 1991, practically disappeared from the electoral scene.
|Turkish MPs from Rhodopi and Xanthi|
|election||elected Turkish MPs|
|1989 (June)||Sadik Achmet (Independent Muslim List)|
|1989 (November)||Ismail Molla (Independent Muslim List)|
|1990||Sadik Achmet, Achmet Faikoglou (Independent Muslim List)|
|1996||Moustafa Moustafa (Synaspismós), Galip Galip (PASOK, architect), Birol Akifoglou (ND)|
|2000||Galip Galip (PASOK), Mechmet Achmet (PASOK; Mechmet Achmet, already elected in 1981, was not directly elected in 2000, but he acted so that the elected MP, Hrissa Manolia, was forced to abandon her seat because she had not relinquished her other political mandate at the local level)|
|2004||Ilchan Achmet (New Democracy, lawyer)|
|2007||Tsetin Mantatzi (PASOK), Achmet Chatziosman (PASOK)|
|2009||Tsetin Mantatzi (PASOK), Achmet Chatziosman (PASOK)|
|2012||Aichan Kara Giousouf (Syriza, dentist), Chousein Zeimpek (Syriza, pharmacist), Achmet Chatziosman (PASOK)|
|2015||Rhodopi: Moustafa Moustafa, Aichan Kara Giousouf (Syriza) .|
There are presently two Turkish MPs from the Western Thrace portion of East Macedonia and Thrace, both of whom are affiliated to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement: Tsetin Mantatzi (Xanthi) and Achmet Chatziosman (Rhodope), former president (1999–2007) of the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace created by former (1989) MP Sadik Achmet in 1991.
At least 14 candidates from the Turkish minority have been nominated, mainly in Rhodope and Xanthi.
For New Democracy, former MP (2004–2007) Ilchan Achmet and Achmet Achmet are candidates in Rhodope,and in Xanthi Aisel Zeimpek and Achmet Mpountour. Zeimpek had lost her Greek citizenship under Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which allowed of its revocation for non-ethnic Greeks who left the country. After a lengthy legal battle, she finally won her case with a second appeal before the European Court of Human Rights and re-secured her Greek citizenship in 2001.
For PASOK, Tsetin Mantatzi and Seval Osmanoglou are among the 5 candidates in Xanthi, Rintvan Kotzamoumin and Achmet Chatziosman among the 5 in Rhodope.
For the KKE (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Faik Faik in Rhodope and Chasan Efendi in Xanthi.
For SYRIZA (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Chasan Malkots and Chousein Zeimpek are candidates in Xanthi,and in Rhodope Dr. Moustafa Moustafa (former MP) and Tzelalentin Giourtsou.
In 2014 and 2019 European Parliament election in Greece, Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace (DEB) has emerged as the first party in Xanthi and Rhodope regional units, under Moustafa Ali Tsavous, and most currently under Çiğdem Asafoğlu, respectively. In 2019 elections, DEB received 38% of the votes in Xanthi regional unit and 25.24% of the votes in Rhodope regional unit.DEB also received 1.30% of the votes in Evros regional unit. While in the overall region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the party came in as the 3rd biggest party after top 2 national parties New Democracy and Syriza. Other regions outside Eastern Macedonia and Thrace where votes were cast for DEB were listed as Dodecanese, Thessaloniki, and Athens.
According to the former Article 19 of the 1955 Citizenship Law (No. 3370), a person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality. According to the Greek government, between 1955 and 1998, approximately 60,000 Greek Muslim individuals, predominantly Turkish, were deprived of their citizenship under Article 19. Of these 60,000, approximately 7,182 lost their citizenship between 1981 and 1997.The application of this law to the Turks of Western Thrace was a retaliatory measure in response to the devastating state-sponsored pogrom which targeted the Greeks of Istanbul in September 1955. The pogrom precipitated an exodus of ethnic Greeks from Turkey. Article 19 was repealed in 1998, though not retroactively.
Since the Treaty of Lausanne used the criterion of religion to refer to the ethnic communities, the Greek Government has usually insisted that the basis of identification of a minority is religious and not ethnic (or national).Thus Greek officials refer to the Muslim minority in Greece as Greek Muslims, who were based mainly in Western Thrace. Muslim communities also lived in Greek Macedonia, Epirus, and Crete (see Cretan Turks) and were the descendants of Ottoman-era Greek converts to Islam who joined the Turkish Millet (Ottoman Empire). However, these particular communities were relocated from Greece to Turkey following the Population exchange signed between the two countries in 1922-23, with only the Greek Muslims of Western Thrace exempted from it.
Successive Greek Government policies refused to acknowledge the existence of an ethnic Turkish community in Northern Greece, and insisted on referring to Western Thrace Turks as Greek Muslims, suggesting that they were not of ethnic Turkish origin but were the descendants of Ottoman-era Greek converts to Islam like the Vallahades and other Greek Muslims of Greek Macedonia.This policy was introduced immediately after the unilateral declaration of independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 on lands that once had an 82% Greek majority before becoming refugees during the Turkish invasion in 1974. The Greek government declared that it was a measure to avert the possibility of the Greek region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace becoming a "second Cyprus" sometime in the future or of being ceded to Turkey on the basis of the ethnic origin of its Muslim inhabitants.
Greek courts have also outlawed the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe the Turkish community. In 1988, the Greek Supreme Court affirmed a 1986 decision of the Court of Appeals of Thrace in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed. The court held that the use of the word 'Turkish' referred to citizens of Turkey, and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece; the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe Greek Muslims was held to endanger public order.This led to about 10,000 people demonstrating against the decision in Western Thrace. According to members of the Turkish minority, it was the first time ethnic Turks had taken to the streets.
More than 10 newspapers are issued in the Turkish language. According to some sources, newspapers, magazines and books published in Turkey are not allowed entry into Western Thrace,and Turkish television and radio stations are sometimes jammed. According to other sources, the minority has full and independent access to its own newspapers radio, television, and other written media coming from Turkey, regardless of their content.
According to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish minority is entitled to freedom of religion and to the right to control charitable and religious institutions. However, the Turkish community believes that these international law guarantees have been violated by the Greek governmentby denying permission to repair or rebuild old mosques or to build new mosques, by denying the right to choose the muftis (this chief religious officers), and by efforts to control the Turkish communities charitable foundations. According to another source, more than 5 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Xanthi alone and 19 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Rhodope alone, while in the same prefecture the number of mosques exceeds 160.
According to a report by a local organization there have been frequent (six in 2010 and three in the first months of 2011) attacks against the private and public property of Turks in Western Thrace. Among the recent incidents are three in 2010 (in Kahveci, Kırmahalle, Popos and Ifestos at Komotini) where attackers desecrated Turkish cemeteries and broke tombstones. There were also attacks against mosques, Turkish associations and Turkish consulates, attackers used methods like throwing stones, molotov bombs and damaging buildings.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 Turks have left Western Thrace since 1923; most of them immigrated to Turkey.Western Thrace Turks have also immigrated to Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria and Italy. Thus, overall there are an estimated 1 million Turks whose roots are from Western Thrace.
It is estimated that there are between 25,000 and 40,000 Western Thrace Turks living in Western Europe.
There are some members of the Greek Muslim community among the some 350,000 Greeks living in Germany who are Turks or who espouse a Turkish identity.The majority of Turks immigrated from Western Thrace. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a severe crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income. This resulted in many Turks leaving their homes and immigrating to Germany with estimates suggesting that today there are now between 12,000 and 25,000 residing in Germany.
A minority of Western Thrace Turks can be found in the Netherlands, especially in the Randstad region; after Germany, the Netherlands is the most popular destination for Turkish immigrants.
There are an estimated 600-700 Western Thrace Turks living in London although this does not include those who are British-born. The total number living outside London is unknown.However even their small number, Western Thrace Turks in the UK have their own community (Association of Western Thrace Turks UK)
Pomaks is a term used for Bulgarian speaking Muslims inhabiting Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and mainly northwestern Turkey. The c. 220,000 strong ethno-confessional minority in Bulgaria is known officially as Bulgarian Muslims. The term has also been used as a wider designation, including also the Slavic Muslim populations of North Macedonia and Albania.
Eastern Macedonia and Thrace is one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It consists of the northeastern parts of the country, comprising the eastern part of the region of Greek Macedonia along with the region of Western Thrace, and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace.
Rhodope is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace. Its name is derived from the Rhodope Mountains, which cover the northern part of its territory. Together with the regional units Evros and Xanthi, it forms the geographical region of Western Thrace. The capital of the prefecture is the city of Komotini. The second largest town is Sapes. Most of the Muslims of Thrace, the only officially recognized minority in Greece, are settled in this area, where they form around half of the population.
Xanthi is a city in the region of Western Thrace, northeastern Greece. It is the capital of the Xanthi regional unit of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace.
Western Thrace or West Thrace is a geographic and historical region of Greece, between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast of the country; East Thrace, which lies east of the river Evros, forms the European part of Turkey, and the area to the north, in Bulgaria, is known as Northern Thrace.
Komotini is a city in the region of East Macedonia and Thrace, northeastern Greece. It is the capital of the Rhodope regional unit. It was the administrative centre of the Rhodope-Evros super-prefecture until its abolition in 2010, by the Kallikratis Plan. The city is home to the Democritus University of Thrace, founded in 1973. Komotini is home to a sizeable Turkish-speaking Muslim minority.
Turkish people or the Turks, also known as Anatolian Turks, are a Turkic ethnic group and nation living mainly in Turkey and speaking Turkish, the most widely spoken Turkic language. They are the largest ethnic group in Turkey, as well as by far the largest ethnic group among the Turkic peoples. Ethnic Turkish minorities exist in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire. In addition, a Turkish diaspora has been established with modern migration, particularly in Western Europe.
Islam in Greece is represented by two distinct communities; Muslims that have lived in Greece since the times of the Ottoman Empire and Muslim immigrants that began arriving in the last quarter of the 20th century, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki. Muslims in Greece are mainly immigrants from The Middle East(Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran), Other Balkan Regions(Montenegro,Turkey, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina)& North Africa(Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia,Egypt.
Muhacir or Muhajir is a term used to refer to an estimated 10 million Ottoman Muslim citizens, and their descendants born after the onset of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, who emigrated to Thrace and Anatolia from the late 18th century until the end of the 20th century, to escape ongoing ethnic cleansing and persecution in their homelands. Today, between a third and a quarter of Turkey's population of almost 80 million have ancestry from these Muhacirs.
The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey stemmed from the "Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations" signed at Lausanne, Switzerland, on 30 January 1923, by the governments of Greece and Turkey. It involved at least 1.6 million people, most of whom were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands.
Minorities in Greece are small in size compared to Balkan regional standards, and the country is largely ethnically homogeneous. This is mainly due to the population exchanges between Greece and neighboring Turkey and Bulgaria, which removed most Muslims and those Christian Slavs who did not identify as Greeks from Greek territory. The treaty also provided for the resettlement of ethnic Greeks from those countries, later to be followed by refugees. There is no official information for the size of the ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities because asking the population questions pertaining to the topic have been abolished since 1951.
The Muslim minority of Greece is the only explicitly recognized minority in Greece. It numbered 97,605 according to the 1991 census, and unofficial estimates ranged up to 140,000 people or 1.24% of the total population, according to the United States Department of State.
The Komotini events occurred on 29 January 1990 between local Greek Christians and members of the ethnic Turkish minority in the Komotini area in northern Greece. The events started over the conviction and imprisonment of an ethnic Turkish MP, Sadik Achmet, by a Greek court. 400 shops were looted, and the offices of two Turkish newspapers ransacked. The clashes broke out after the murder of an ethnic Greek by a Muslim, while there were no Turkish casualties at all during the events.
Albanian-speakers form a linguistic minority in Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace along the border with Turkey. They speak the Northern Tosk subbranch of Tosk Albanian and are descendants of the Albanian population of Eastern Thrace who migrated during the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. They are known in Greece as Arvanites, a name applied to all groups of Albanian origin in Greece, but which primarily refers to the southern dialectological group of Arbëreshë. The Albanian-speakers of Western Thrace and Macedonia use the common Albanian self-appellation, Shqiptar.
The Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace is a Greek political party founded to represent the interests of Turks of Western Thrace and native Muslims of Greece.
The Turks in Europe refers to ethnic Turks living in Europe. Most Turks in Europe live in European Turkey, but there is also a sizeable Turkish diaspora in countries such as Germany. This diaspora includes two groups: guest workers who migrated to western Europe in recent decades, and historic Turkish minorities in southeastern Europe who trace their origin back to the Ottoman era.
The Turkish Union of Xanthi is one of the three most important organizations of the Turkish minority of Western Thrace. Founded in 1927, the organization was outlawed by Greek authorities in 1987 and 1999. In 2008, a decision of the European Court of Human Rights ordered the re-legalization of the association and convicted Greece of violating the freedom of association; however, the Greek authorities refused to re-legalize it. It has been accused of having relations with the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party and the alleged far-right terrorist organization Grey Wolves.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe was established in Germany in 1988 by seven founding associations, as a nonprofit umbrella organization. With the Association of Western Thrace Turks in the UK, the organisation adopted its current name.
Ilchan Achmet is a Greek politician of Turkish origin.
Sadik Achmet was a Greek professor of Turkish descent. He founded the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace.
led directly to the flight of the Greek refugges from Asia Minor, the compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey
The total number of Christians who fled to Greece was probably in the region of I.2 million with the main wave occurring in 1922 before the signing of the convention. According to the official records of the Mixed Commission set up to monitor the movements, the "Greeks' who were transferred after 1923 numbered 189,916 and the number of Muslims expelled to Turkey was 355,635 [Ladas I932, 438–439; but using the same source Eddy 1931, 201 states that the post-1923 exchange involved 192,356 Greeks from Turkey and 354,647 Muslims from Greece.