ABTTF raised the issues of the Turkish community in Western Thrace at the conference where the participation of national minorities in public life is discussed.
Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) attended the conference entitled “From Lund to Ljubljana: Promoting the participation of national minorities as a pathway to the integration of diverse societies”, hosted by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities on 14 November 2019. Melek Kırmacı Arık, ABTTF International Affairs Director represented Western Thrace Turks at the conference organised in Lund, Sweden to mark the 20th anniversary of the Lund recommendations on the effective participation of national minorities in public life.
Lamberto Zannier, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities made the opening remarks of the conference organised in cooperation with Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law who played an important role for the preparation of the Lund Recommendations in 1999. Following to the high-level introductory panel, experts discussed the political participation, cross-borders and economic participation, participation of minority women in public life and Sweden example at four different sessions. Besides, at the conference, film on OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities participation project in Georgia as well as the book entitled “Effective Participation of National Minorities and Conflict Prevention” prepared by the Office of OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities were presented.
At the session where the minority participation with the focus on Sweden was discussed, ABTTF took the floor and said that because of the non-recognition of the “Turkish” ethnic identity of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, the community faces many obstacles in the participation of social, cultural and religious life in contradiction with the autonomy they have in the field of education and religion. In this regard, ABTTF indicated that regarding the right to have an education in mother tongue, the establishment of bilingual Turkish minority preschools is not allowed. Moreover, in terms of the field of religion, ABTTF added that Western Thrace Turks’ right to choose their religious leaders is usurped. ABTTF also explained that there is no opportunity for a dialogue with the state for the solution of the problems. At the session where the importance of the structural dialogue with national minorities is highlighted, ABTTF stated that Greece pursues a unilateral and imposing policy regarding the decisions on Western Thrace Turks.
At the panel in the afternoon where the participation of national minorities in the political life and decision-making process is addressed in detail, ABTTF noted that Greece considers the issue of Western Thrace Turks as a matter of national security therefore considers Western Thrace Turks as dangerous. As an example, ABTTF explained the 3 percent election threshold against the participation of Western Thrace Turks in the political life and added that through this threshold, the representation of Western Thrace Turks with their political party in the parliament is prevented.