Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) participated at the 11th session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues organized on 29-30 November 2018 at the Palace of Nations, UN office in Geneva. Aykut Garipoğlu, representative from ABTTF Brussels Office and Funda Reşit Taştekin, member of ABTTF International Affairs and Lobbying Department participated at the session which was held under the theme of “Statelessness: A Minority Issue”. At the Forum where the Turkish community in Western Thrace was represented by ABTTF and Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (BTAYTD), the representatives of the Turkish community in Western Thrace addressed the issues and demands of 60.000 Western Thrace Turks who were deprived of their citizenship pursuant to the application of former article 19 of Greek Citizenship Law.
ABTTF: Greek Government does not take the necessary steps to solve the problems of Western Thrace Turks who were victims of the article 19
Aykut Garipoğlu, representative from ABTTF Brussels Office spoke at the fourth session of the Forum titled “Ensuring the right to a nationality for persons belonging to minorities” and stated that repealed former article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Law which was in place between 1955-1998 aimed to expel different ethnic minority groups living in Greece, in particular persons belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace. ABTTF pointed out that 60.000 Western Thrace Turks lost their Greek citizenship without their knowledge following to the application of the article 19, and it actively violated the Article 4 of the Greek Constitution and the article 12 paragraph 3 of the International Convention on Civil and Political rights. ABTTF stressed that denaturalization decisions were not nullified although the article was repealed in 1998. ABTTF also stated that in order to regain citizenship, victims of the article 19 can only apply for naturalization - the same process that applies to foreign citizens. ABTTF called upon Greece to accelerate and facilitate the process of returning citizenship for all persons concerned by fulfilling its obligations deriving from international agreements and to compensate their losses in terms of ownership rights.
Following the session, Greece exercised its right to reply and stated that former article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Law did not aim at any specific community and referred to any person of non-Greek origin who left Greece with no intention to return. Greece indicated that the legislations were implemented to avoid the phenomenon of statelessness and alleged that persons belonging to the “Muslim minority residing in Greek region of Thrace” are equal before law without any discrimination in line with international human rights standards and their property rights have never been violated.
Deputy Associate Professor Ali Hüseyinoğlu and Sinan Kavaz, members of BTAYTD, had also the floor at the Forum. BTAYTD stated that the article 19 was one of the most prominent tools for denationalization procedures in Greece and as a result, 60.000 Western Thrace Turks were deprived of their Greek citizenship. BTAYTD expressed that the ones who lost their citizenship were not asked whether they wanted to give up their Greek citizenship or not and stated that Greece does not make any effort to return their citizenship. In response to BTAYTD who called on Greece to introduce a special procedure for those who lost Greek citizenship due to the article 19, Greece explained that article 19 was repealed in 1998. Greece claimed that requests made by those who lost their citizenship were examined by the Ministry of Interior of Greece and people were returned their nationalities in line with the laws. Finally, Greece alleged that “Muslim Minority in Thrace” is protected in line with the Lausanne Peace Treaty therefore they fully enjoy their rights.