The local community has condemned the military exercise in Turkish villages in Greece, calling it as an attempt to frighten Muslims.
The President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe Halit Habip Oglu has called Greek military operations in the Turkish majority villages in Western Thrace “a real scandal.”
“In which country can military units come to the streets in a settlement where civil citizens live and do armed training?” added Oglu.
Heavily armed Greek military commandos conducted a training exercise in a Turkish majority village of Glafki which is also known by its Turkish name as Gokcepina.
The operation was first reported by Ihsan Tahsin, the editor-in-chief of the Birlik (Union) daily, a local community media outlet.
Speaking to TRT World Melek Kirmaci Arik, the International Affairs Director of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe, confirmed the unusual operation which “frightened the Turks living in the village.”
Commandos with heavy military vehicles conducted the training exercises on August 12, using the village cemetery and streets.
The military, according to local sources, did not explain the purpose of the exercise, however. The muscle-flexing comes amidst a backdrop of increasing tensions between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Yunanistan Ordusu'na bağlı komandolar, İskeçe’nin Gökçepınar köyünde tatbikat düzenlediler. pic.twitter.com/5CSJfgwWB2— Doğu Akdeniz Politik (@akdenizpolitik) August 14, 2020
In a statement sent to TRT World by Kirmaci, it was also confirmed that another military operation was held in the majority Turkish village of Echinos known by the local indigenous community as Sahin.
“In a period when there is an increased concern of a conflict between the kin-state of Turkey and Greece due to the political tensions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, residents and kids of the village had great fear when they faced armed soldiers on the streets...in the morning,” said the statement.
“At a time when bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey are tense, it is unbelievable to scare the Turkish community in Western Thrace by sending soldiers out to the streets in a Turkish village” added Oglu.
The legal status of Muslims living in Western Thrace is governed by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, which also established the modern Turkish state.
After the Greek military junta regime took over in 1967, the Muslim community, which is primarily composed of the Turkish community saw its rights undermined.
Over several decades the religious autonomy of the Turkish minority of Western Thrace has been watered down by consecutive Greek governments without consultation from the local community.
As a result, the local Turkish community has seen discrimination against and seen increased interference in its internal affairs.
Ankara has warned Greece that it needs to respect the rights of the indigenous Turkish minority, which in recent years has seen schools giving education in Turkish been shut down.
The Muslim Turkish population is estimated to be more than 150,000.