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Turkey to continue to support Western Thrace Turks

Turkey on Saturday vowed to continue supporting ethnic Turks of the Western Thrace region in Greece and to resolutely monitor their rights as well as their struggle to preserve their identity.

Marking the National Day of Resistance and Social Solidarity of Western Thrace, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that this day was a "turning point" in the struggle to secure their rights, as well as recognition of their identity as Turks.

It pledged to always stand with the Turks of Western Thrace, who it said "work devotedly for the exercise of these rights, especially the elected muftis."

Speaking on the issue, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop wrote on social media that: "The Turkish presence in Western Thrace is a reality that cannot be denied by anyone. We underline that on the National Day of Resistance and Social Solidarity, we will continue to be a follower of our cognates’ struggle for the recognition of their identity."

Under a 2008 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling, Western Thracian Turks' right to use the word "Turkish" in the names of associations was guaranteed, but Athens has failed to implement the ruling, effectively banning Turkish identity in the country.

Greece's Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish community of around 150,000.

In 1983, the nameplate of the Xanthi (İskeçe) Turkish Union was taken down and the group was completely banned in 1986, on the pretext that the word "Turkish" was in its name.

To apply the ECtHR decision, in 2017 the Greek parliament passed a law enabling the banned associations to apply for re-registration, but the legislation included major exceptions that complicated the applications.

Turkey has long decried Greek violations of the rights of its Muslim and Turkish minorities, from closing down mosques and shutting down schools to not letting Muslim Turks elect their own religious leaders.

These measures violate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne as well as ECtHR verdicts, making Greece a state that flouts international law, say Turkish officials.



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