Most Muslim Turks in the cities of Gumulcine (Komotini) and Iskece (Xanthi) in Western Thrace elect their own clerics (muftis), who are not recognised by the Greek state.

The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens with the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek law.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens with the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek law. (AA Archive)

Türkiye has once again urged Greece to respect the rights of the Turkish minority in its Western Thrace region and to stop denying recognition to elected Muslim clerics (muftis).

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Monday on Twitter that Türkiye expects Greece to respect the right of the Turkish minority to elect their religious leaders, "which is guaranteed by international agreements, especially the Lausanne Peace Treaty, and to end its pressures in this regard."

In a statement, the Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board, on behalf of the Turkish minority, stressed that it will stand by its rights to elect its religious leaders and protect its elected muftis.

The statement also called on minorities to fill all mosques this Friday to show solidarity and to protect their identity, religion, muftis, and usurped rights. 

READ MORE: Türkiye: Greece's move on Muslims' local elected leaders unacceptable

Turks of Western Thrace

Greece's Western Thrace region – in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border – is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.

The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated.

After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace started to face harsher persecution and rights abuses by the Greek state, often in blatant violation of European court rulings.

The Turkish minority in Greece continues to face problems exercising its collective and civil rights and education rights, including Greek authorities banning the word “Turkish” in the names of associations, shuttering Turkish schools, and trying to block the Turkish community from electing its muftis.

In addition to violating longstanding treaties, these policies are also often in blatant violation of European Court of Human Rights rulings.

READ MORE: Türkiye condemns Greece's decision to close more Turkish minority schools

Elected muftis in Greece

In Western Thrace, muftis have legal jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters for the local Turkish Muslim community.

The issue of mufti elections has been an issue since 1991.

The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens with the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek law.

However, Greece annulled this law in 1991 and started appointing muftis itself.

Most Muslim Turks in the cities of Gumulcine (Komotini) and Iskece (Xanthi), Western Thrace do not recognise the appointed muftis and instead elect their own, who are not recognised by the Greek state.

READ MORE: Greece sentences elected Muslim official to 15 months in prison

Source: AA