Working to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples

Minority Rights Group International campaigns worldwide with around 130 partners in over 60 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard.

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The Turkish Minority in Western Thrace

Greece, 2019 – A Community Still Struggling for Recognition

It is estimated that almost a half of the population of Western Thrace, in the northeastern corner of Greece between Turkey, Bulgaria and the Aegean Sea, is ethnic Turkish – but to this day they cannot identify themselves as such. Anna Alboth, MRG Europe’s Media Programmes Coordinator, recently visited the community and highlights some of the challenges that they still face.

Chapter One

For centuries, Western Thrace was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1913 when, after the short-lived Provisional Government of Western Thrace, it was occupied by Bulgaria and subsequently France at the end of the First World War. In 1923, the territory was formally transferred to Greece – a key moment in the region’s history that […]

Every religious minority group in Greece, for example Orthodox and Armenians, can elect their religious leader. Everyone but not us."

Chapter Two

Hülya Emin, born in Komotini, smiles from behind her desk. She is the editor in chief of Gündem newspaper, a local newspaper written in Turkish, with a column in Greek. ‘Yes, there are Turkish-Greek friendships, they do exist. But in everyday life we do not live together. It is like parallel realities’, she says. The […]

Chapter Three

Ibrahim Şerif, the elected mufti of Komotini, stirs a small silver spoon in his teacup and explains, at least in theory, the parallel system between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul and the Mufti Office in Western Thrace. ‘Every religious minority group in Turkey, for example Orthodox and Armenians, can elect their religious leader,’ he […]

Chapter Four

The whole of Western Thrace has just three Turkish mayors. Ismet Kadi, former mayor of Iasmos in Rodopi province, held this position from 2010 to May 2019. He describes his own experiences and the challenges of minority representation at a local level. Learn more from the video interview with Ismet Kadi: ‘Maybe 15 times a […]

Chapter Five

In the area of education, the problems faced by children and young people in accessing education in Turkish are in place at every stage from primary and secondary schools to university and beyond. In the last 12 years, more than 60 minority primary schools have been closed, and there are no bilingual kindergartens. Islam is […]

Chapter Six

Minority associations and organizations form the backbone of the Turkish community and play an important role in supporting schools, teachers, leaders and other activities. This has been central to ensuring the survival of Turkish language education in the region. The Western Thrace Turkish Teachers’ Union, which was founded in 1936, has experienced a long history […]