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Western Thrace Turks

 

Western Thrace is the name of the region stretching out from the Turkish border in north-eastern Greece up to the Karasu River. In Western Thrace, 150 thousand Turks live today, who have  settled in the region during the conquests of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. In 1923, with the Peace Treaty of Lausanne, the minority rights of these 150 thousand Turks have been guaranteed and Western Thrace has been left to Greece.

Since the Western Thrace Turks have been living in Greece as a minority, it was tried through various injustices and pressures to compel them to immigrate, and even assimilation of them in the long run was aspired. During the 1990s, they were apparently discriminated; they could not obtain a driving licence for tractor in order to cultivate their lands, repair their defective roofs of their homes, acquire real estates and were not even allowed to benefit from basic rights. Under Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Law, which was repealed in 1998, 60,000 Turkish minority members were deprived of their Greek citizenship through an administrative decision. Again, until the mid 1990s, the minority was condemned to live isolated through the application of  a “military zone” against the so-called “communist infiltrations.” In 1923, the Western Thrace Turks formed the most populated ethnic group with a population number of 129 thousand, and possessed 84% of the lands in the region. Due to continuous emigration, and although they have a large population, they could not demonstrate a population increase and possess today only 30% of the lands.

Although the Western Thrace Turks have begun to benefit from the basic citizenship rights parallel to the increasing importance of the minority rights in the new era in Europe and in the world, and through intensifying foreign pressures on Greece, in the field of their minority rights, which have been guaranteed by the Peace Treaty of Lausanne and other bilateral and international treaties, no improvement has been able to be achieved till now.