Yunanistan’da görev yapan ABD’li diplomatlar, ülkelerindeki ait oldukları birimlere Balkanlar’ın bir parçası olan Batı Trakya hakkında gerçekçi bilgileri aktarmıyorlar. Böylece hazırladıkları raporlar eksik ve bölgedeki gerçekleri yansıtmıyor. Bölgeye geldiklerinde her yıl olduğu gibi kendilerine yakın ve destekledikleri çevrelerle görüşüp kulaktan duyma kalıplaşmış yalan yanlış, eksik bilgileri alarak bölge hakkında ülkelerine doğru bilgi aktardıklarını zannediyorlar. Oysa doğru bilgi ve gerçekleri öğrenebilmek için herkesi dinlemeleri gerekmez mi? Bu işlerin parayla, duayla olmadığını bilmiyorlar galiba.
Her yıl olduğu gibi bu yıl da Amerikalı diplomatlar 2013 İnsan Hakları Raporu hazırlıkları için Batı Trakya bölgesine geldiler ve bir dizi temaslarda bulundular. Birlik gazetesi olarak geçtiğimiz yıl da yazmıştık, “AYNI TAS AYNI HAMAM”. Bu yıl da yine hiçbir şeyin değişmediğinine bizzat şahitlik ederek yazıyoruz, “AYNI TAS AYNI HAMAM, SADECE BU DEFA İÇİNE SU KOYMUŞLAR”. Yani sizin anlayacağınız işi sulandırmışlar.
Atina’da ABD Büyükelçiliği’nde ve Selanik ABD Başkonsolosluğu’nda görevli diplomatlar Yunanistan’da yaşayan Batı Trakya Türk Azınlığı’ndan haberdar değilller galiba. Eğer haberleri olsa, oturdukları o koltuklardan kalkarak Türk Azınlığın temsilcileriyle muhakkak görüşürlerdi.
İşini iyi yapan bir diplomatın yaptığı gibi yaparlardı. Mesela Yunanistan’ın atadığı Müftüyü dinlediği gibi bir de ayırım yapmadan esas Türk Azınlığın seçtiği Seçilmiş Müftüyü de dinlerdi.
Dahası da var, etten püften pındıkı pıs gerekçelerle kapılarına kilit vurulan sivil toplum örgütlerinin yöneticileri ile bir sohbet edebilirler. Ama malesef bunu da yapmıyorlar. Galiba bu diplomatlar, sohbet etmek demek kabullenmek olmadığının farkında değiller.
Peki her tarafı, “haklıyım” diyeni, “haksızlığa uğruyorum, haklarım elimden alındı ve alınmaya devam ediyor, İnsan Haklarım ihlal ediliyor” deyeni neden görmemezlikten gelip dinleme ihtiyacını hissetmiyorlar? Böyle hazırlanan bir İnsan Hakları raporu ne kadar inandırıcı olur dersiniz?
Biz yine önümüzdeki yıl, aynı yazıyı, aynen onların her yıl yapmış olduğu “İnsan Hakları Raporu” gibi yazımızı buzdolabından çıkarıp yayınlayacağız. Çünkü 2012 ve daha önceki yıllardaki raporlarda olduğu gibi 2013 yılı raporunda da birşey değişmeyecek. Dolayısıyla bizim de yazımızı değiştirmeye gerek kalmayacak.
Ola ki, Okyanus ötesinden, bizzat ABD Başkanı sayın Barack Obama, buradaki memurlarının da Yunanistan’daki “siesta”ya uyduklarını ve “salla başını al maaşını” misali çalıştıklarını öğrenmesi durumunda, işte o zaman belki önümüzdeki yıl yazımızı gözden geçirebiliriz. Hani iyiye iyi demesini de biliriz. Yeter ki haklı haklının, doğru doğrunun yanında olsun.
Yunanistan’da, Batı Trakya bölgesinde gerçek “İnsan Hakları Raporu” hazırlanıncaya kadar sizlere “güle güle” gidin diyoruz.
GENEL YAYIN YÖNETMENİ
AVRUPA GAZETECİLER DERNEĞİ
BAKEŞ Müdürü Pervin Hayrullah’ın kaleminden de bir rapor değerlendirmesini ve mektubu sizlere aktarıyoruz.
Bilindiği üzere ABD diplomatları ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı 2013 Yılı İnsan Hakları Raporu’nun hazırlıkları için geçen hafta bölgemizde bazı temaslar gerçekleştirmişlerdir. Dünyanın her yerinde herkesle çekinmeden temas ettiklerini gördüğümüz ABD’li dostlarımızın kendilerine ilk elden ve en sağlıklı bilgileri verecek konumdaki Seçilmiş Müftülerimizle, hukuki sorunlar yaşayan derneklerimizle ve Azınlık mensubu gazetecilerimizle yine görüşmediklerini üzülerek anladık.
Hafıza tazelemek için ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı’nın 2012 Yılı İnsan Hakları Raporu’nun yayınlanmasının ardından Batı Trakya Türk Azınlığı’nın öndegelen derneklerin başkanlarınca hazırlanarak imzalanan ve ABD misyonların yanı sıra ülkemizdeki ve yurtdışındaki diğer diplomatik misyon ve uluslararası kuruluş yetkililerine de gönderilen mektubun örneğini kamuoyuyla saygıyla paylaşırız.
Not: Mektup kısaca aşağıdaki başlıkları içermektedir:
1- Türk Azınlığın Etnik Tanımlanması
2- Azınlık Eğitimi
3- Basın Özgürlüğü
4- Din Özgürlüğü
5- Irkçılık ve Yabancı Düşmanlığının Yükselişi
6- Siyasi Haklar
7- Vatandaşlık ve
8- Rodos ve İstanköy Türk Azınlığının Sorunları
BAKEŞ Genel Müdürü
J O I N T L E T T E R B Y L E A D I N G T U R K I S H N G O ’ S
O F T H E T U R K I S H M I N O R I T Y O F W E S T E R N T H R A C E
H.E. Daniel Bennett Smith
U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic
U.S. Embassy in Athens
91 Vas Sophias
101 60 Athens
Komotini, 7 June 2013
As the civil society representatives of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace we would like to express collectively our sincere appreciation for the US sensitivity concerning human rights violations in our country, Greece.
We have read the “Greece 2012 Human Rights Report” to which we assume your office must have contributed substantially. The report is comprehensive and reflects on the overall human rights troubles that we see in Greece today which are unfortunately exacerbated by the current crisis. In this letter, we would like to present you how we differ with certain elements of the Report regarding human rights violations faced by the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace. We are convinced that the report does not portrait in full the scope and gravity of the violations faced by the Turkish Minority. It also does not mention the problems of the ethnic Turks in the islands of Rhodes and Kos, who suffer from similar problems, as is well-recorded in similar reports of the Council of Europe.
Oppressive and discriminatory practices against the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace is on the rise. We are not free to call and define ourselves collectively as who we are, the Turkish Minority. Our self-expression is systematically suppressed by our own state. Our associations are shut down, members of them sued and/or fined for no good reason. We constantly try to swim upstream against the incomprehensible argument that we are only “Muslims” and therefore, we cannot collectively express our ethnic backgrounds. We are indeed proud Greek citizens of Muslim faith. That is not an issue for us. The issue is that we are denied our ethnic status, which is also important to us. This practice is refuted by the three consecutive decisions of the European Court of Human Rights which are yet to be implemented.
The Minority education of our children are condemned to the lowest of standards as a result of implicit and explicit policies of Greece tuned to slowly but surely undermine the Minority Schools (The number of teachers are limited, the schools are not permitted to upgrade or expand the facilities, school books are not permitted on time, education material is poor and outdated etc). As a matter of fact, the Turkish Minority lives in three provinces in Western Thrace, namely Rodopi, Xanthi and Evros. The Turks make up % 50 of the population in Rodopi, % 35-40 in Xanthi and slightly more than % 10 in Evros. As of 2012-2013 school year, there are 20 state secondary-high schools in Rodopi, 34 in Xanthi and 46 in Evros. However there is only one Minority secondary-high school in Rodopi, also only one in Xanthi and none in Evros. In terms of pre-school education, Greece enacted new legislation in recent years rendering one year of pre-school education obligatory. What should be a welcome upgrade of standards becomes, however, yet another tool to diminish Minority Education. Because, Turkish-Greek dual-language kindergartens and institutions were closed down and not allowed to re-open, despite all requests duly filed with the relevant authorities. As a result, a Muslim-Turkish child is implicitly being steered to abandon the mother tongue and the option of education in Minority Schools later on at a tender age. What is worse is that a child who does not go to a Greek-only kindergarten is being denied his right to commence primary education altogether. In this regard, we would like to kindly remind Your Excellency that the Greek Orthodox Minority in İstanbul has its own Greek-Turkish language kindergartens.
Our freedom of press is constantly violated through intimidation and other means whereby arbitrary and vigorous fiscal and legal controls on our press/media institutions have unfortunately become common place. No day passes without a journalist from our newspapers being summoned to a police station or a tax office to be questioned on trivial grounds. In one such questioning in Xanthi just recently a Minority member journalist was warned by a high level local security officer, in daylight presence of his lawyers, that “if he insisted to continue naming the Minority as Turkish, one day a Greek patriot may pick-up a stone and smash his head with it”. What may sound as an appalling threat to a Western ear is unfortunately common place in our daily life.
In this letter we will refrain to reflect at length concerning the restrictions on our freedom of religion since it has been subject to the State Department’s recent “International Religious Freedom Report” on which we will separately share our views. Suffice it to mention just a few of the problems: The Turkish Minority of Western Thrace has the right to choose its own religious leaders according to various bilateral and international agreements and treaties, a right that is long ignored by our country. The Minority fully and exclusively supports the elected Muftis, does not recognize the imposition of appointed Muftis by the Greek State, rejects and condemns the recent legislation foreseeing the appointment of 240 “religion teachers” to state schools and mosques as an interference in their religious freedoms. As for the Muslim Charitable Foundations (Wakfs), instead of being freely administered, they continue to be run and managed by Administrative Boards, members of which are appointed by the state. Among the oppressive practices initiated by the Junta regime, unfortunately this is one of the very few that our state chooses not to abolish to date. The credentials of these appointed Board members are highly questionable and their track records in running Wakf properties are very poor. The constant erosion which amounts to a plundering of these properties and the diminishing income levels irrespective of the current economic crisis is a testimony to this factual observation. Moreover, the usage of the Waqf property by the Minority is completely hindered.
The rise of racism and xenophobia is a more recent concern for the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace. “Golden Dawn” and its proxies spare no effort in their provocations and intimidations towards the Minority. We expect our state to take all the necessary precautions against this campaign.
Mr. Ambassador, please accept our letter as a constructive and democratic expression of the widespread views of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace. Racism and xenophobia are unfortunately on the rise in our country and occupies the daily attention of the international public opinion. However, our plight and rightful demands should not go unnoticed. With your indulgence, and since the State Department Report is public we will take the liberty to share a copy of this letter with other diplomatic missions. The Speaker of the Hellenic Foreign Ministry has been on record recently to state that our opinion could be asked “precisely because ‘the Muslims of Thrace’ live under the principles of rule of law and equality before the law”. We will indeed raise our voice in such letters, however the truth of the matter is that we do not feel, at all, like we live under such serene circumstances.
We are, and will always be, loyal, tax-paying, good citizens of this country. Our freedom to express ourselves in liberty, individually and collectively, does not and will not run against this loyalty. We remain faithful and look forward to better days where our country, a member of the EU, will be more self-confident towards her own citizens, and grant in full the rights they deserve and are entitled to.
Before concluding, we would like to share with you the English translation of the Article 40 of the Peace Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which is the core of all other articles of that Treaty in terms of protection of respective Minorities and which also speaks loudly for us.
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other Turkish nationals. In particular, they shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein.”
We would be grateful if you could take into account our observations particularly in drafting future reports on human rights.
Please find, Your Excellency, also the copies of the relevant judgements of the European Court of Human Rights on the cases of three Turkish associations, the report titled “The Situation of the Inhabitants of Rhodes and Kos With a Turkish Cultural Background” submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in February 2011 and the recent Resolution of the European Association of Daily Newspapers in Minority and Regional Languages (MIDAS) regarding the incredible fines imposed on two Turkish language newspapers in Western Thrace, namely “Millet” and “Gündem”.
DETAILED VIEWS ON THE REPORT
In the Executive Summary, the Report uses the wording “Muslim Minority” and under the Section National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities, it states that “the Muslim Minority is consisted primarily of ethnic Turkish, Pomak, and Romani communities”. Although the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 employed the terms Muslims and Non-Muslims for the minorities in Western Thrace and Istanbul, Gökçeada and Bozcaada respectively, various successive documents do identify them on an ethnic basis. The fact that “Pomak” and the “Romani” associations can be run while Turkish associations are not allowed, speaks volumes for itself. It is now an undeniable right for human beings to refer to their ethnic identity, beside their religious one. To punish the use of one’s ethnic identity is clearly not in line with democracy, European Union norms and even basic human rights.
To hide behind the pretext that “this was the term used in a treaty concluded a century ago” reflects a severe lack of self-confidence and is very frustrating for the Minority. We think the time has come to change the practice of denial of ethnic identity, an important yardstick which lies at the basis of other human rights violations and oppressive practices. Perhaps you would consider referring to this problem more openly in upcoming reports.
We have learned that the US team met here in Western Thrace with the representatives of the so-called “Pomak” and “Romani” associations, which actually exist only on paper. The members of these empty shell associations strictly follow the directives of the authorities. This is why, we believe, they try to mislead your diplomats by telling them that members of the Turkish-speaking community exert pressure on them to deny the existence of a Pomak identity, separate from a Turkish identity and that members of the Pomak community receives monetary incentives to identify themselves as Turkish. These people represent no one but themselves and their families. It would be very wrong to give them the same weight as the overwhelming majority of the minority, with all its colours. It would be giving credibility to the efforts of “divide and rule” and do not resonate well with the large masses. If there is one identity under pressure it clearly is the Turkish one. We know that the Hellenic authorities encouraged the Albanian authorities to ask their citizens to express their ethnic identity during the last population census in Albania. If the Hellenic authorities would be consistent, they should do the same over here and see for themselves how representative these so-called associations are.
In fact, as rightly put by the Report, the use of the terms Turk and Turkish are prohibited in the titles of local Turkish non-governmental organizations. However the Report only refers to the example of the Turkish Union of Xanthi. Indeed, based on its judgment released on 24 February 2012 the Hellenic Supreme Court continues to reject the appeals of the Turkish Union of Xanthi on the grounds that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are “not binding for the national courts” in terms of civil law. Similarly, completely disregarding the relevant ECtHR judgment, the Hellenic Supreme Court also turned down other applications for registration of Minority organizations bearing the term “Turk”, “Turkish” and “Minority” in their titles such as the “Evros Minority Youth Association” and the “Cultural Association of the Turkish Women of the Rodopi Province”. On the other hand, it is a grand contradiction that the Hellenic authorities not only allow, but also encourage the establishment of organizations bearing the names “Pomak” and “Roma” in their titles. Apparently, efforts to “divide and rule”.
The Report rightly states that there are three deputies from the Minority in the Hellenic Parliament. However, we would like to draw your kind attention to the fact that the 3 percent election threshold on political parties is applied also for independent candidates. This threshold was introduced in 1990 after the Minority elected out-spoken independent deputies. The aim has been and still is to deprive the Minority of the opportunity to be represented in the Hellenic Parliament through its own political party (Friendship-Equality-Peace Party) or through independent deputies. Therefore Minority politicians have no option but to continue their carriers through political parties which considerably limit and marginalize their voices in raising the problems of the Minority in Athens, due to party positions and party discipline. It should be noted that one of the Minority deputies was outrageously condemned to be a “Turkish spy” due to his opposition to the “240 imam law”. These standards are surely much below the universal and EU accepted norms, but have not been reflected in the Report.
RACISM AND XENOFOBIA
We are convinced that like us all, the US follows with concern the rise of racism in Greece. The Report correctly has many references to the “Golden Dawn” and its hate-motivated, racist, anti-semitic, and anti-immigrant activities across the country. (Actually, there is nothing “Golden” or promising in this movement as “Dawn” would suggest and perhaps “Pitch Dark” would be a more appropriate term). We would like to add further emphasis that many activities organized by the members of the GD undermine the concept of peaceful co-existence here in Western Thrace much beyond the tone of the report. The GD activities also lead to competition between right-wing parties, as to who is “more nationalist and more sensitive about national cases”, to the detriment of the Minority and social cohesion.
For instance, the supporters of the GD attacked the Turkish Youth Union of Komotini on 6 August 2012. GD convoys of motorcycles and cars frequently cross the villages inhabited by Minority members last year for provocation, intimidation and show-down. Namely, the village of Avato on 13 July 2012, the villages of Avato, Genisea and Toksotes on 12 August 2012, the town of Komotini and the villages of Mishos, Mega Pisto, Polianthos and Iasmos on 9 September 2012 and the villages of Arianna and Fillira on 14 October 2012 were subject to such bullying. In all cases, they drove into the central squares of the villages, used hate slogans against Turks and Turkey, ordered us “out” and bluntly distributed hate-oriented leaflets. There were no reference to those incidents in the Report, nor to the intimidation and unease it caused in the Minority.
At this point we also feel obliged to inform you that various newspapers at both national and local level such as Stohos, Dimokratia, Hronos and websites such as www.xryshavgh, www.antifonitis.gr, www.proxeneio-stop.org continue agitating the Greek public opinion against the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace through false and fabricated stories. The interesting point is that this group of press organs act very much along the same lines, suggesting that they are centrally manipulated and supported. In other words there is not much to refer to in our region, in terms of the freedom of press either.
Another troublesome area is the educational rights of the children belonging to the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace. The Report, like the previous one, mentions only the problems of Romani children. However the children of the Turkish Minority also face grave problems. The most important of those awaiting urgent solution are the need to open Turkish-Greek language Minority pre-schools and the opening of new Minority Secondary-High Schools. There are currently only two Turkish schools for a vast population and these are in a poor condition, not being allowed to renovate or expand. In essence the problem is that through its policies that condemn the Minority education to poorest of conditions our own State authorities force the Minority families to make a choice between sending their children to the undermined Minority schools and risk the future of their children or placing them in Greek state-schools where children are deprived of their right to enjoy, express and develop their identity.
Last but not least, the Report also makes no mention of the Article 19 of the Hellenic Citizenship Law which was annulled in 1998. That Article read as follows: “A person of non-ethnic Greek origin leaving Greece without intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality”. The official data gives the number of Greek citizens of Turkish origin expelled from the Hellenic citizenship through this Article between 1955 and 1998 as 46.638. Since the repeal of that racist Article 19 was not retroactive, thousands of Minority members are still stateless and continue to face grave challenges and difficulties in various aspects of their lives. When tens of thousands of Minority members lost their EU citizenship their kins have also been deprived of the benefits of citizenship.
RHODES AND KOS
We also would like to bring to your kind attention the plight of the Muslim Turkish population in Rhodes and Kos. As the Report misses to reflect on this important matter. At present the Muslim Turkish population is around 3.500 in Rhodes and 1.500 in Kos. They were not granted the status of Minority with the claim that the Dodacanese was annexed to Greece in 1947, 24 years after the Lausanne Peace Treaty. The denial of basic human rights within the same legal space under such a lame pretext must not be allowed to stand any longer. We must shine the limelight on this issue as has been done by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe.
The problems are quite similar, however because the numbers are fewer, the violations are more extreme: Since 1972 the Muslim Turkish children in those islands have no right or access to education in their mother tongue. The Turks of Rhodes and Kos have no right to choose their preachers. The Wakf Administrations in both islands are under the full control of the Hellenic authorities like here in Western Thrace. The properties of the Wakfs have been heavily plundered and this is continuing with the help of those close to the authorities. We can provide volumes of title deeds of such properties to anyone who is interested.
We would also like to draw your kind attention to the Decision 1867 of 9 March 2012 of the Permanent Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on The Situation of the Greek Citizens of Turkish Descent in Rhodes and Kos. The decision invited the Hellenic Government to consider the reopening the Turkish language community schools, to ensure full transparency and accountability of the two Muslim Wakfs in both islands, as well as to ensure that the Muslim citizens in Rhodes and Kos are able to choose their own religious preachers and leaders, to continue the restoration program of Islamic and Ottoman monuments which are an integral part of the cultural heritage and to intensify their dialogue with the representatives of the Turkish community. We believe that if a US diplomatic team could visit those islands and meet the representatives of the local Turkish community they could observe for themselves the situation.
The popular saying in the region is that “democracy in Greece ends at the Nestos River”. We hope we can create the conditions so that we can change this understanding. We are confident that you would understand that correcting oppressive malpractices towards the Minority and adopting contemporary democratic norms would be in the interest of social cohesion, thus in the general interest of our country Greece, of which we desire to be equal citizens, not only in words, but also in practice. It would also reflect positively upon Greek-Turkish relations. Therefore, please accept our critical remarks in a constructive light which aim at improving the overall picture.