Halit Habip Oğlu: “We call on our country Greece to end immediately its interventions in the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace which was granted by the treaties and to fully respect its freedom of religion”
The Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs has issued a circular on religious communities’ places of worship in the country existing before 1955. The circular dated 19.10.2018 and signed by Giorgos Kalantzis, Secretary General for Religious Affairs, involves all religious communities in the country with exception of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. The mosques and masjids belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace existing before 1955 have also been included in the regulation following to the circular.
In the circular, it is indicated that several old places of worship belonging to the religious communities which have been continuously in operation for decades even before 1955 do not have permission of foundation and operation, therefore there is a need to register them. The circular also includes information on the procedures to be followed to apply for an operating licence.
As regards the issue, Halit Habip Oğlu, President of Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), stated: “As the Turkish community in Western Thrace, we cannot accept our mosques and masjids inherited from the Ottoman Empire to be included within the ministerial circular and the condition for an operating licence. Our mosques and masjids have been serving continuously up to date since the time they were built and have been meeting religious needs of the Western Thrace Turks. The Turkish community in Western Thrace was granted the religious autonomy by 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty and since then they have had the right to establish, use and manage their own prayer halls in line with their religious requirements. We call on our country Greece to end immediately its interventions in the religious autonomy of the Turkish community in Western Thrace and to fully respect its freedom of religion which is an integral part of universal human rights.”