The foreign delegation consisted of the representatives of Minority Rights Group Europe, one of the prominent international organizations in the field of minority rights, observed on site the problems of the Turkish community in Western Thrace and developments in the region on site.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) organized a study visit to the region of Western Thrace in Greece. Neil Clarke, Managing Director of Minority Rights Group (MRG) Europe and Head of Europe & Central Asia Programmes with Anna Alboth, MRG Europe Media Programs Coordinator were among the study visit delegation consisted of Serdar Kalekoğlu, Vice President of ABTTF, Melek Kırmacı Arık, Director of International Affairs of ABTTF and Fatma Ahmetcik, Member of International Affairs and Lobbying Group of ABTTF.
On the first day of the study visit, the delegation firstly met with Hülya Emin, Chairwoman of the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Region of Rodopi. Right after, the delegation visited İbrahim Şerif, Virtuous Mufti of Komotini and President of Consultative Committee of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace (BTTADK) in his office and received information about history of the mufti question in Western Thrace. At the meeting it was conveyed that the Greek government would turn autonomous Mufti Offices into simple state departments and render the Mufti Offices incompetent, therefore, the Turkish community in Western Thrace entirely denies the draft presidential decree of 28.08.2018 and demands for its withdrawal.
At the meeting hosted by Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Union (BTTÖB), the delegation had a joint meeting with BTTÖB, Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (WTMUGA) and Culture and Education Foundation of Western Thrace Minority (BAKEŞ/C.E.FO.M.) and was provided information regarding the problems that the members of the Turkish community in Western Thrace face at the levels of primary, secondary, high school and higher education and their demands. Afterwards the delegation met with İsmet Kadı, Mayor of Iasmos (Yassıköy), where they were informed about the services provided by the municipality and it was noted Turkish and Greek populations living together within the borders of the municipality are treated equally. At the meeting, also, while the details regarding the Mayor Kadı’s recent detention were provided, it was mentioned that the mayor was called to bear testimony many times on various grounds.
Following the visit to Municipality of Iasmos (Yassıköy), the delegation had a meeting at Komotini Turkish Youth Union (GTGB) and here received information about the history and activities of the association which was banned because its name includes the word “Turkish”. Later the delegation visited the headquarters of the Friendship, Equality, Peace Party (DEB); political representative of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, in Komotini. At the meeting held here, the history of establishment of the DEB Party, the Party’s success in European Parliament (EP) elections in May 2014 and issues regarding the three percent election threshold which also applies for independent candidates in the whole of Greece were conveyed and the statistics related to impacts of the economic crisis in Greece on Western Thrace region were exchanged with the delegation.
On the second day of the study visit, the delegation firstly met with Ahmet Mete, Virtuous Mufti of Komotini. At the meeting, the delegation was informed about the Mufti question in Western Thrace, 240 Imam Law and the draft presidential decree seeking to restructure autonomous Mufti Offices and bring a new working system. Afterwards, the delegation visited Xanthi Turkish Union and received information about their ongoing legal struggle and the work of the association which was banned because of the word “Turkish” in its name and had filed a case and won at European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
As part of the visit, lastly, the delegation met with Cemil Kabza, Mayor of Myki (Mustafçova) and Vice President of BTTADK and the delegation was given information about the work of the municipality-of which all its population is Turkish- and the representation of the Turkish community in Western Thrace at local level.