Halit Habip Oğlu, “As the Turkish community in Western Thrace, we demand that the Greek government should immediately put an end to its unilateral practices that would undermine our right to religious autonomy guaranteed by international treaties and engage into a direct dialogue with us in resolving our problems.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Western Thrace on May 6, 2019. Tsipras spoke at the meeting organized by his party SYRIZA in Xanthi and touched upon the issue of Mufti offices and elections of board of trustees which are particular interest to the Turkish community in Western Thrace. Tsipras asserted that they have enacted the reforms based on European law regarding the democratic rights of the Turkish community in Western Thrace. He expressed that within this framework, the sharia law has become non-mandatory and reforms have been made to contribute to the work of the Muftis to be more transparent and the institution of the Mufti offices has been reformed. Tsipras stated that Mufti regents were appointed for the implementation of the reforms at Mufti offices and the Presidential Decree regulating the mandates of the Muftis would be published in the coming days. Tsipras noted that they are reviewing the framework of the law 1920/1991 and they consider that it needs to be amended. Tsipras stated that this law should be amended in a way that it shall enable the Muftis to be elected by a committee of religious officials and be adopted widely by the Turkish community in Western Thrace. Tsipras indicated that such a critical reform would eliminate the unofficial structures and added with the aim of assigning board of trustees through election, necessary amendments would be made for effective implementation of the foundations law enacted in 2008.
Regarding the matter, Halit Habip Oğlu, President of Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) made the following statements: “As the elections approach in Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with the concern to collect votes for SYRIZA party made a promise that elections would be held regarding Mufti offices and foundations’ board of trustees. On the other hand, the SYRIZA government which has been in power for many years, maintains the official policy of the Greek state towards the Turkish community in Western Thrace by appointing its own Muftis and imams. Moreover, Greece does not recognize the Muftis elected by Western Thrace Turks and usurps the right to religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace guaranteed by the international treaties. Members of the administrative committees of our foundations have been determined by the state through appointment since 1967 in contradiction to the article 40 of the Treaty of Lausanne. As the Turkish community in Western Thrace, we demand that the Greek government should immediately put an end to the unilateral practices that would undermine our right to religious autonomy guaranteed by international treaties, fulfill its obligations arising from international law and engage in dialogue directly with us in solving our problems.”