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President´s Column - 07.03.2019

Message to the Greek Government: We want our educational autonomy to be restored!

Dear Readers,

Turkish community in Western Thrace has autonomy in fields of education and religion with the Lausanne Treaty.

Just like Greeks living in İstanbul, Gökçeada(Imbros) and Bozcaada(Tenedos).

Problems in education are pending for many years. Each year, a new one has been added to the ex-isting problems.

Since 2010 our primary schools have been closed on grounds of decreasing number of pupils, therefore number of our schools has fallen ever year.

And our existing primary schools with bilingual education has low-quality of education due to nu-merous interventions by the state.

We discussed bilingual education system of the Turkish community in Western Thrace extensively on 2 March 2019, Saturday at the workshop and the following conference held open to public.

Prior to the conference we addressed the issue of bilingual education with experts and scholars of bilingual education from our country Greece and motherland Turkey, civil society representatives from the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium with best-practices of bilingual minority education models, and our teachers from Western Thrace.

It is very pleasing that there has been an intensive participation by Turkish community in Western Thrace at the conference in Komotini.

Another pleasure is that our teachers at Turkish schools including the Hayriye Madrasah in Ko-motini attended the conference as well.

With participation of Prof. Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, as the guest of honour, it is no doubt that the conference has gained a different dimension.

As a result of the discussions in the workshop and the conference, as Western Thrace Turks, we will convey our demands in education to the Greek government and the relevant authorities.

However, if I have to summarize it in a single sentence, our autonomy in education which has been entirely politicized should be urgently taken out of field of politics!

Issues concerning us should be discussed with us, solutions for problems should be sought togeth-er with us!

Even though scholars from our country admitted that there is an unjust treatment against us, ma-jority of them opted for Turkish lessons within the state school system as the solution.

And they say that reason for this is the poor quality of education in Turkish schools!

I want to reiterate here what I said constantly at the workshop and conference:

From 1923 to 1967 while good results were achieved thanks to the autonomy we had, today this autonomy is considered to be bad.

Because, the issue of education has been politicized since the 1970’s, the state has taken this au-tonomy through countless interventions.

Consequently, the result has been a poor-quality education with a complex structure in our schools.

Schools were closed due to the lack of enough students.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is to restore the autonomous structure granted by the treaties!

The Turkish community in Western Thrace should be allowed to provide bilingual education, as part of the right to education in mother tongue, in its own schools with a political approach based on good will.

Just like Greeks living in the island of Gökçeada (Imbros) in Turkey, where they could re-open their own schools on the basis of their autonomy in education, we also expect a sincere and real step from our country.

Yet, our country asks for education in mother tongue for the Greeks living in Albania and follows diplomatic initiatives for this end.

Well then, why the same Greece cannot ask the same thing for the Turks in its own country?

What’s more, we are a community granted autonomy in education with the treaties!

Then I ask: Where is the mistake, who is mistaken? Is it us who allegedly do not want to integrate with their country or is it the state which has lost the confidence of Western Thrace Turks due to its numerous interventions in education?

Don’t you also think, the answer is obvious?


Halit Habip Oğlu
ABTTF President

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