Ethnic Turks in Greece face continued serious discrimination in the enjoyment of language, religious, and educational rights, according to a report The Turks of Western Thrace.
Greece has enacted a number of discriminatory measures to force ethnic Turks to migrate to Turkey or to disrupt community life and weaken its cultural basis. The most egregious example was Article 19 of the Citizenship Law, which, until it was abolished in 1998, allowed the state to strip approximately 60,000 non-ethnic Greeks of their citizenship between 1955 and 1998. Human Rights Watch welcomed abolition of the law last year, but noted that it did not apply retroactively, so tens of thousands of ethnic Turks remain wrongfully deprived of their Greek citizenship.
A 1990 law granted the state wide-ranging powers in appointing the mufti, the Turkish community's religious leader who also serves as an Islamic judge in civil matters. In defiance of the law, the Turkish community has continued to elect its religious leaders, who have been prosecuted and imprisoned by Greek authorities. In addition, the repair of mosques is sometimes blocked by state authorities, and those involved in the repair are prosecuted.
Human rights violations in the education field affect the largest number of individuals and have done the most to foster economic underdevelopment among the Turkish minority. Turkish children attend schools that are overcrowded and poorly funded compared to those attended by ethnic Greeks. And the two Turkish-language high schools in Western Thrace can provide only a fraction of the needed places, resulting in a disproportionate drop-out rate.
In addition, Human Rights Watch has received credible complaints from members of the ethnic Turkish minority, alleging police surveillance, discrimination in public employment, and restrictions on freedom of expression. Representatives of Human Rights Watch and the Greek Helsinki Monitor were trailed by police operatives in Thrace whileconducting research for the report.
For Further Information:
Holly Cartner in New York, 1-212-216-1277
Lotte Leicht in Brussels, 32-2-732-2009