Halit Habip Oğlu: “Greek authorities prevent Western Thrace Turks from worshipping freely by keeping the Ottoman heritage mosques closed for worship”
Western Thrace Turks living in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city after Athens, have to pray at the building of the Education and Culture Association of Muslims in Macedonia and Thrace because Greek authorities do not allow the mosques there to be opened for worship. Western Thrace Turks have been praying on the carpet they laid on the floor after moving the chairs and tables out in the association building since the closure of the masjid operating inside the association they founded in 2005 upon the order of the prosecutor's office in 2017 on grounds that it is unauthorized.
The imams, appointed by the Muftis elected by the Turkish community in Western Thrace, go to Thessaloniki from the Western Thrace region every week and perform Friday prayer at the building of the Education and Culture Association of Muslims in Macedonia and Thrace and they give religious education and teach Kur’an to Turkish children.
The Greek authorities do not allow worshipping at Hamza Bey Mosque, Hortacı Süleyman Efendi Mosque, Yeni Mosque and Alaca İmaret Mosque, which are reminiscent of the Ottoman period in Thessaloniki. Although the Education and Culture Association of Muslims in Macedonia and Thrace has repeatedly appealed to the Greek authorities to allocate one of the mosques for worship, it has not received a positive response to date.
Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe(ABTTF), explained: "Our country, which is member of the European Union and claims to be the cradle of democracy, has not permitted Western Thrace Turks living in Thessaloniki to perform the Ramadan Feast prayer at the Hamza Bey Mosque, Hortacı Süleyman Efendi Mosque, Yeni Mosque and Alaca İmaret Mosque -reminiscent of the Ottoman period- hence they had to perform their prayer at the building of the Education and Culture Association of Muslims in Macedonia and Thrace that has a limited capacity. The congregation overflowed to the street. The new mosque, allowed to be built in the capital Athens after many years, was opened for worship only recently, but it is evident that its capacity is insufficient for the Muslim community in Athens. We call on our country Greece to fully respect the freedom of religion and worship and to fulfill its obligations in this field as a democratic state.”