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Western Thrakia and its importance
By Hüseyin Kansu on the II. International Conference of the Turks of Western Thrace, 18th of March 1996, Istanbul
Western Thrakia consists of the districts Dedeagac, Gümülcine and Iskece situated between the rivers Maritsa and Karasu, a region of 7500 m2 where 120 000 Muslim Turks reside.
It has been under Ottoman rule for nearly 650 years between 1363 and 1913. In 1913 the first Turkish Republic under the name of 'TURKISH REPUBLIC OF WESTERN THRAKIA' was established. However within the turbulences of World War I it was not to last long and was occupied 28 May 1920 by Greece and in the treaty of Lausanne it was given the status of a minorty and, under the guaranteeship of Turkey left to Greek administration.
While in 1940 50 to 60 % of the population consisted of Turks who held 75 to 80 % of the land this changed with the politics of 1960 when Turks were forced to immigrate, were prevented from the purchase of real estate and were limited through economical, social and political pressure so that the Turkish population shrank to 40 % and the land owned by them to 30 to 35 %.
The European View
According to international law the Muslim population of Western Thrakia is a minorty that has a special status to organize its religious affairs within the frame of the treaty of Lausanne. It is the only Muslim group remaining from the Ottomans in Europe who are under a guarantee by international law. The balance based on the reciprocity between the Muftiship of Western Thrakia and the Patriarchate of Fener (Istanbul) as established according to the treaty of Lausanne further underlines the representative character of the Muslim population in Western Thrakia. Since the Patriarchate of Fener is striving to achieve an ocumenic status since recently, there should be precautions taken to strengthen the international significance of the Muftiship of Western Thrakia. In this setting Western Thrakia has a significance far beyond that of being one of the many minorities, namely that of representing the Muslims in Europe.
Since the entry of Greece in to the European Community the issue of Western Thrakia has ceased to be merely a internal matter of Greece. In this new setting the Muslim Turk population of Western Thrakia is a European Minority with its minority rights assured by international agreements and must be represented in the European forums.
The Balkans and the regional significance
Western Thrakia has the significance of being the backbone of the historical Muslim Balkans consisting of Bosnia, the Sanjak, Kosovo, Makedonia, Kircaali, Western and Eastern Thrakia. A regional strategy that leaves Western Thrakia unconsidered has no chance to be successful. Turkey must now in the issue of Western Thrakia abandon the viewpoint of it merely being a point of difference with Greece but begin to view it both as an economical and cultural door to the Balkans and Europe and as an important element of regional politics.
The Turkish-Greek relations and Western Thrakia
As the Agean Islands are the most vulnerable point of Turkey in its relations with Greece so is Western Thrakia the most vulnerable point of Greece. It is almost impossible for Turkey to achieve a balance in matters of difference with Greece as long as it does not take a dynamic position. The regaining of strength and recovering peace for the Turks of Western Thrakia will significantly contribute to the peace between Turkey and Greece.
Turkey must now abandon the viewpoint that Western Thrakia is merely a card to be played out when the issues in the Turkish-Greek relations heat up but rather develop long- term strategies for the future of the Turkish minority. For this it is of great importance that the Turkish minority is strengthened culturally, economically and socially.
The interior politics of Greece and the Turkish Minority
Greece has up to this date applied the tactics of forcing the Muslim Turkish population of Western Thrakia to immigrate by means of cultural, economical and political opression and has been successful in a great scale. The basic politics of Turkey must be to keep our fellow-citizens in their regions and to strengthen them. The distress caused by the 'cleaning out' of the Balkans and before all Western Thrakia is plain to see.
in order to strengthen the Muslim Turkish population of Western Thrakia.
1. To guarantee the right of political representation - now impossible by the barrier of having to gain a minimum of 3% of the votes - initiative has to be taken on the international level and precautions taken regarding the development of the interior politics of Greece.
2. The protection of the rights of the Turks of Western Thrakia as guaranteed by international agreements.
3. It must be insisted on the right of the minority electing its own leadership foremost their Mufti and this issue must be presented again and again to the public opinion and the impositions of Greece in this matter should be answered by retaliations on the Patriarchate of Fener.
4. Precautions must be taken on the perservance of the status of the Vakf properties which are the most important element of the economical existence of the Muslim Turks of Western Thrakia - all precaution must be taken in order to protect and preserve the rights acquired by means of these Evkaf which are a document of our historical right to the region and to prevent the abolition of these rights.
5. The politics of Greece regarding settlement and the population must be observed carefully, the clearing out of Western Thrakia be stopped.
6. Efforts must be made to provide infrastructure for the educational, health and cultural services for the population - the agricultural based structure must be balanced by establishment of trade and services sectors.
7. A cultural politics which will strengthen the self- conciousness and the sense of unity of the Muslim Turkish minority of Western Thrakia and particular importance attached to the education in the deen.
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