Prof. Dr Ata ATUN

Near East University and SAMTAY FOUNDATION


Key words

Western Thrace, West, Thrace, Greece, Turkish Minority, Turkish, Minority, Genocide,     Ethnic Cleansing, Human Rights, IKSAREN, International Crime, History




When the Lausanne Agreement was signed the Turkish population, including the Pomak Turks were more in number proportionally than the Greek, Bulgarian, Armenian and Jewish population.  The Turkish population numbered around 129,120 in the area, and was 67% of the population. Today is 40% of the population. Despite the fact that the rate of population increase was around 2.8%, due to constant     emigration the population did not increase and the result of this is that they became a minority in the area.

The land ownership in Western Thrace has also dramatically changed. Whilst in 1923 the land ownership by Turks was 84%, they now only own between 20 and 40%. Throughout the years the area has been subjected to a ruthless genocide by Greece.


The place of western Thrace in history


During the period around two thousand years before Christ the first inhabitants of Thrace were the (1) Indo-European Traks (Thracians). (2) 

After the end of the 8th century BC to the start of the 7th century BC the area was under the sovereignty of the Peni, Ancient Greeks and Macedonians, and until 355 BC was ruled by the Kingdom of Thrace. After that, coming under the rule of the Empires of Rome(5) and Byzantine,(6) Western Thrace was first included in the boundaries of the Roman (7) and after that the Byzantine Empires. (8)

After the conquest of these lands by The Ottoman Empire in 1354 the lands came within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire (9), who ruled there for 559 years.  Between the years of 1913 – 1920 Western Thrace came under the occupation of the allies. In 1923, in accordance with the Lausanne Agreement (10) it was left to Greece.

The first presence of Turks in Western Thrace began with the ‘Western front’ who emigrated there from Central Asia and the İskit Turks who arrived there in the 2nd    Century. (11) It continued with the Hun Turks in the 4th Century, (12) The Avar Turks in the 5th Century, (13) the Patzinak Turks in the 9th Century (14) and continued with the Kuman

 (Cuman) Turks (15) in the 11th Century.

During the 560 years that Western Thrace was part of the sovereign land of the Turks from the 1360s till it was handed over to the Greeks by the main / big European countries after many machinations and without firing one shot in the area, in May 1920, no other nation was sovereign over the lands and they stayed Turkish. Western Thrace is so Turkish that the first Independent State (16) was founded on these lands in 1913.

On the 25th /26th January 1990, under the crescent and moon and star decorated ceiling in the  building where the  Western Thrace Turkish State was declared (17)on 31st August 1913, Sadık Ahmet (18) and İbrahim Şerif (19) were arrested , tried and sentenced to 18 months in prison because they said they were ‘ Turks’(20).

For centuries, as the land of Western Europe and especially Western Thrace is very

productive, many tribes have poured into the area. Due to this productivity Western Thrace has changed hands many times throughout the centuries. However it is the Turks who have lived and developed the area the longest .Today if we take into account the Turks living in Western Thrace, we will see that the Turks have lived on these lands continually for about 2100 years. (21)

Greece, as it does everywhere and claiming that the whole world is of the ‘Hellenic ‘ race, also rejects the ethnic identity of the Turks of Western Thrace, and claims that there is a ‘’Muslim Minority’’ as stated in the Lausanne Agreement . However, the title of the migration agreement, signed in addition to the treaty is ‘The Exchange of the Turkish and Greek      population’’.  Furthermore, the report prepared by the League of Nations (22) (the United Nations of the period) on 5th March 1925 in Genève is entitled ‘’ Minority in Western Thrace of Turkish Race ‘’ (23)


Turkish states founded in western Thrace


With a surface area of 15.000 km2 the population dispersion in Western Thrace in 1910 was as follows. 325.000 Turkish, 56.000 Bulgarian, 30.000 Greek, 11.000 Muslim Gagavuzian (Gagavuz) Turks, 3.500 Jewish, 4.000 Romanies, 1.600 of whom were Muslim and 850 Armenians, making a total of 430.350 people.

With this population concentration the Turks first founded the Rodop Turkish “Hükümet-i Muvakkate (24) (Temporary Government) in the town of Çirmen in 1878. This    government lasted for eight years till 1886.

Secondly on 31st August 1913 the independent ‘Western Thrace (25) ‘State was founded. The Western Thrace Independent State was first named غربی تراقیا حكومت موقته‌سی in Ottoman script and pronounced “Garbî Trakya Hükûmet-i Muvakkatesi (in modern Turkish this means Western Thrace Temporary Government), it later became غربی تراقیا حكومت مستقله‌سی, Garbî Trakya Hükûmet-i Müstakilesi (in today’s Turkish Western Thrace      Independent Government). Nowadays it is described by some sectors as ‘’Western Thrace Turkish Republic’. The ‘’ Western Thrace Turkish Republic ‘’founded on 31st August 1913 is the first   Republic in which the word Turkish is found. This Turkish Republic also known as Garbi Trakya Müstakil Hükümet, (Western Thrace Independent Government) was recognised by both Greece and Bulgaria.


The National Anthem of the Western Thrace Turkish Republic declared by Chief of General Staff Infantry Division, Major Süleyman Askeri Bey in Dedeağaç on 3rd September 1913  .

National Anthem of the Western Thrace Turkish Republic


O Western Thracian child of Turkish descent how happy for you

You gave life to the national freedom fight with your blood

Noble Hero imprinted all around the universe

The nation stands in attention to this your national flag


Here where you stand is full of your illustrious martyrs

The enemy cannot harass the spirit of these honourable heroes’s

Illustrious martyrs enveloped in the flag of freedom

What a divine honour it is to be buried in ancestral land.


The wind of freedom and liberty is blowing in the Land

The brave fighters are overthrowing this awful slavery

We can never turn back from this great National struggle

Even if armies of steel challenge us we will not be scared!

We have crossed Meriç and Karasu for national liberty (TN)

We have reached our goal by crushing all armies

We have opened a great path to a Republic in the Balkans

For the first time it was us who lit the torch of freedom


This flag will fly, this Republic will live!

The enemies opposite us will be scared and run away from us!

We are the grandchildren of a nation which has lived free for thousands of years

We are the wolves of these steppes, the lions, and the eagle of the skies

The attack of fighters is always like a storm

In war the enemy faints at the grander of our majesty

Western Thrace Republic will live, will live!

Nations will be amazed at out progress 

O, sweet Western Thrace!..... See how at last you have been freed of slavery

O, enemies! …. Don’t think this nation is tired from wars.

The illustrious flag of the Republic will fly at all times over this land

All these Western Thracians will live in freedom till doomsday


On 29th September 1913 in accordance with the İstanbul Treaty signed between the   Ottoman State and Bulgaria, in return for Eastern Thrace and Edirne being given to the     Ottoman State, Western Thrace was left to the Bulgarians. The ‘’Western Thrace Temporary Government’’ disputed this situation and declared that it did not recognise the treaty.

In the period which followed, The Thrace Temporary Government set up its governance organs in all its areas and founded a 30.000 strong defence force. The government             administration declaring its independence, first of all set out its borders, hung the symbol of the independent state, the moon and star, green and white flag on all government offices and institutions, founded its 29,170 strong army, prepared its budget, printed postage stamps and started passport formalities. In the meantime, accepting the Ottoman charter the Garabi Thrace court of justice started to rule on cases. Emanuel Karasu (Carasso) a Jew born in Salonica, set up a news agency and a newspaper named Müstakil-Indépendant was published in both French and Turkish.

          Following these developments Bulgaria started to mass in the area. However, in those days The Ottoman State, with foreign pressure did not look favourably upon the newly formed Republic. In addition to this the political fighting and chaos in İstanbul eradicated the chance of dealing with an independent state in Western Thrace. Due to this the government of Sadrazam Sait Halim Paşa provided for the emptying of the area by putting pressure on the Western Thrace Temporary Government. Finally, with the signing of the İstanbul Treaty on 29th October 1913, the Ottoman State left the whole of Western Thrace to Bulgaria. 

On 30th October 1913 under the command of General Lazarof the lands of the ‘Western Thrace Independent Government ‘are completely occupied and this Government comes to an end.  In this way the struggle for freedom which had started with great hopes during the first days of August 1913, ended just three months later in October with bitter disappointment.  These lands where Turks were in the majority, and which had been under Turkish  administration for hundreds of years, like Macedonia were left outside the boundaries.

The Ottoman State made its last treaty in relation to the Balkan War with Serbia on 13th March 1914. As there were no longer any common borders more emphasis was given to the situation of the Turks in Serbia and the ‘’Western Thrace Temporary Government’’ was founded. However it only lasted for 3 months.

This big fight which started in October 1912, later with the participation of Romania   affected the whole of the Balkans, ended in August 1913, which is a period as short as 10 months.  From the outcome of this great fight Greece took the biggest part of the spoils.


The gains from the sharing of the Ottoman States, 5 Balkan States, Salonika Monastery, Kosovo, Yanya and  İşkodra is as follows ;



Moreover, Albania declared independence and added İşkodora to its lands. The other Balkan states whilst sharing this great inheritance and literally swallowing Macedonia, the real owners, the Macedonian people were not mentioned at all. The big nations made the observation about the Aegean Islands: Italy would keep all the islands it had occupied. Except for Meis, the rest except for İmroz and Bozcaada would stay in Greece’s hands. However before this decision could be made legally binding, the First World War broke out.

The ‘Western Thrace Public Centre’ (26) founded under the auspices of the French on 15th October 1919 was destroyed on 23rd May 1920.

It is very difficult to get hold of numbers of minority groups in Western Thrace. Greece has always shied away from giving out this information.

According to the numbers given by the Turkish delegation at the Lausanne Peace     Conference the total population of Western Thrace in 1923 was 191.699. Of these 129.120     (67%) Turks, 33.910 (18%) Greeks, the remaining 28.699 consisted of mainly Bulgarians with a small number of Jews and Armenians. Therefore the Turks were in a majority of four to one compared to the Greeks. (27)

Today the situation is different. The total population of Western Thrace is 360.000.


As the Greek authorities shy away from giving figures about minorities it is not   possible to give exact numbers for Turks living in Western Thrace.  Despite this, around 120.000 – 150.000 (33 – 42%) are of Turkish origin. This is an estimated figure. From these figures it can be seen that rather than there being an increase in the Turkish population there is a decline.

         According to the census of 1951 the number stating that their mother tongue was     Turkish and that they were Muslim is almost twice as high. The population was recorded as 7.632.801. Whilst 112.665 (1.4%) of the population stated they were Muslim, 179.895 stated their mother tongue was Turkish. This equates to 2.4%.


Attempts to eradicate the Turkish population in western Thrace


When the Lausanne Agreement was signed in 1923, the Turkish population, including the Pomak Turks was in comparison larger than the Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians and Jews. When the Treaty was signed the number of Turks in the area numbered about 129.120 and made up 67% of the total population, today it makes up 40% of the population. Whilst it is known that the rate of increase in the Turkish population is 2.8%, due to constant emigration the population has not increased and has now been reduced to a minority in the area. (28)

Greece by engineering emigration and assimilation polices has used the following

strategies to completely eradicate the Muslim Turkish minority in Western Thrace.

- Laying the foundations for the splitting up of the minority group by stating that the Turks, Pomaks and Gypsies are not composed of a homogenous community.

- Weakening the links between Turkey by emphasising and recognising religious     identity rather than ethnic identity and therefore realising the aim above.

- By encouraging emigration through the prevention of economic development and by disrupting social security and togetherness.


1- The problem of loss of land


Land property ownership in Western Thrace has also dramatically changed. (29)      According to records, in 1920, 86% of the movable and immovable property belonged to the Turks, 7% belonged to the Bulgarians, 6% belonged to the Greeks and the remaining 1% to others; as for animals and farm equipment 86% belonged to the Turks, 8% to Bulgarians, 6% to Greeks. (30) The Turks who then owned 84% of the land, today only own 20 to 4o % of the land.

Utilising the fact that Turks are loyal to their land, Greek governments have used     various excuses to expropriate or have made it compulsory to combine lands or have got possession of them using underhand methods in this way they have estranged the Turks from the area. Alongside this policy they have in a co coordinated way, by introducing certain policies, made it attractive for those of Greek descent to want to buy up the land of the minority .If we look at the agreement signed by Greek Central Bank and the Ziraat Bank (Agricultural Bank) on 22nd November 1966 whereby it would encourage Greek citizens and those of the Christian population to purchase land and farm land belonging to Thracian Muslims’ it is very easy to understand the situation. In recent years suitable and long term credit opportunities have been used to persuade people to buy land belonging to the Turks. As well as this, after the break up of the USSR, so called Pontus Greeks have been brought to the area to settle.


2- Expatriation


The most important method used to dilute the Turkish minority is the 19th Article of Greek Nationality Law which came into force in 1955. The law has been used to keep the Turkish minority to an ‘acceptable ‘level. Due to this law the nationality of around 60.000 Turks of Western Thrace was ended.

This practice uses the 19th Article of the Nationality Law, (32) and is as follows:

‘Any person not of Greek descent who leaves Greece, whether or not they intend to return can be stripped of their Greek citizenship. This decision can also be applied to those born and   living abroad who are not of Greek decent .A child who is not of age, living abroad and whose parents or the parent alive has had their citizenship revoked may also have their      citizenship revoked.’ The Minister of the Interior makes the judgement if the Citizenship Council takes such a decision. The main aim of revoking the citizenship of citizens, who are non Greek ethnically when they go abroad, is to reduce the Turkish population in Western Thrace.


Thus due to this Article in 1988, 122, as of June 1990, 66, and in February 1991 544 Turks from Western Thrace had their citizenships revoked without their knowledge or consent. The majority of these citizens are students who had gone to Turkey, USA and Germany to study. Despite this ruling the number of Turks who have had their citizenship revoked is kept secret. (33) This Article used to revoke the citizenship of the Turks of Western Thrace, by taking the ‘ethnic decent ‘of Greek citizens as criterion, discriminates between ‘’those who are of Greek descent and those who are not ‘’Those who had their citizenships revoked in accordance with this Article, were not given any notice and had their citizenships revoked by arbitrary decisions.  These citizens found out about the ruling at the border and were not even given permission to enter Greece to appeal against the decision. It is estimated that around 60.000 Turks have had their Greek citizenship revoked in this way.

Even though on 11th June 1998, the Citizenship Law’s 19th Article was lifted by a law, as no provision was made for the return of the 60.000 Turks of Western Thrace they are still without a nation. The 19th article has been lifted, however its negative and discriminatory     effects will mean the Turks of Western Thrace will experience the negative effects of it for many years to come.


3- Forbidden zone implementation


Starting from 1936 till recent years a quarter of the Turks of Western Thrace were forced to live  in the region declared ‘ Forbidden Zone ‘ by Greece in İskeçe and         Gümülcine on the northern border of Bulgaria . (34) (Picture 1). The majority of the Turks in the ‘forbidden zone’ are Pomak Turks and have been forced to live under heavy pressure from the police and army. (36) To gain entry and exit to Pomak villages a special document is needed.

Another important example of the Greeks attempts to assimilate minorities, is the

 ‘Forbidden Zone’’ policy, which although lifted in 1995, shows the mentality of the Greeks towards ethnic minorities, in not allowing minorities the right to survive and to limit their thinking. However, alongside this policy, implemented in order to break up the Turkish     minority of Western Thrace, the policy of denying that the minority living in the mountainous areas are not Turks continues.

The Minister of Defence at the time Arsenis, announced during his visit to Western Thrace in 1995 that the military no go zone was to be lifted. Even though the military control points were to be lifted, and Greek citizens living outside the area would no longer need permission to enter or leave the area, Arsenis however did not follow this announcement with the necessary legal order. It is still necessary for non - Greek citizens to get permission to enter, from the local security forces.

The forbidden zone implementation was actualised with the aim of not only leaving the Turks of Western Thrace without information from each other but also alienating them from each other. The minority known as the Pomak Turks, lived in the area declared a forbidden area in 1936, and the aforementioned long lasting prohibition meant that they formed closer links with the small number of Bulgarians living in the area, and the Bulgarians living on the other side of the border.  During the 59 years the prohibition continued the Pomaks were socially and culturally affected by the Bulgarians and therefore alienation occurred.


Whilst after pressure from the EU in lifting the forbidden zone implementation an alternative method of dividing the Turks from within was implemented. The aim of the Government was to reduce to a minimum the numbers of those who felt Turkish and those regarded as Turkish and thereby initiating nationalism and division between them in the future.

Greece’s activities in accordance with the policy of spoiling the solidarity between the Turks of Western Thrace include the claim that the Pomaks are ‘Muslims of Greek origin’ and use propaganda campaigns to prove this. It has been discovered that Konstantin Mitçotakis in 1991, for the first time used the terminology ‘The Muslim Minority in Western Thrace ‘’, ‘’ Pomaks and Gypsies of Turkish descent ‘’. (37) Efforts in the same vein saw the production of a ‘Reading Book’ with a Pomak Alphabet on 12th June in Athens after a presentation. (38) This was followed with the launch of a newspaper named Zagalisa in 1998.

The announcement by the Greek Corps Commander   ‘’ we undertake the mission of the Pomaks ‘’ is without doubt very important. During his speech the officer calling the Pomaks  ‘ Helen Pomaks ‘ said that the Pomak language would be promoted to University status, and that they were also  considering  the creation of  a university professorship as well. The commander continued by stating that work had started on a Pomak dictionary and grammar, as well as this he said that the Pomak language should be taught at the Academy of Education in Salonika and added that such activities would not affect the activities of the army. Whilst speaking at another meeting in Şapçı in 1998, the District General Secretary of East Macedonia and Thrace, Stavros Kabelidis, stated that a 10 year plan was needed in order for the development of the area and in the video prepared by Desine  Pantazi , entitled  ‘ Pomaks of Thrace’ it is said that the Pomak Turks in the Eastern  area of Thrace had been forced into Islam, whereas their lifestyle included such actions that were more the style of Christians, and in accordance with the Lausanne Agreement these villages should be educated in Pomak. ( 39 )


Once again due to these policies followed by Greece which are contradictory to the   policy of emphasising the existence of minorities and ethnic identity, it has been proved that the primary aim of the policy followed is aimed at dividing the Turkish minority. Greece in accordance to a strategy determined after 1995, as well as putting great pressure on the Pomak Turks in terms of culture and starting moves to change history, attempted to prove that the Pomak Turks were from a separate race and so that the Pomaks would believe this went as far as giving government support for the publishing of the Pomak alphabet and newspaper. They also do not shy away from using other persuasive methods, such as improving living standards and utilising EU funds for the Pomaks who describe themselves as Turks. The most          interesting development in terms of Greek policy is the closing of organisations with the word Turk in their names, not giving permission for new ones to be founded, but the founding by the Government of the Hronos Pomak Society in İskeçe. Firstly whereas it is clearly  discrimination that whilst associations with ‘Turk’ ,’ Macedonia’ and ‘Minority’ in their names are being closed down, associations where the word ‘Pomak’ is found are getting high level support, more importantly the fact that the Forbidden Zone implementation is continuing is more  important

The Greek Government acting on the knowledge that their long term aim of banning the word ‘Turk’ would not be able to be continued for much longer, due to the norms of the EU, has since the 1923 Lausanne Agreement been referring to the minority as ‘Muslim’ and has put forward that the Muslim minority is not all Turkish but is made up of Turks, Gypsies and Pomaks.


 Pomak settlement in western Thrace


Starting in the 15th Century the Anatolian Nomads came to the Balkans in droves and bonded with the "Kıpczak-Kuman Turks’ who had arrived there hundreds of years previously. When Aydınoğlu Gazi Umur Bey started the conquest of Thrace the noble Turkish groups, volunteered to take on the duty of outpost and advanced guard.

The nomads who came in waves to Western Thrace  under the guidance of Süleyman Paşa, Timurtaş Paşa, Lala Şahin Paşa, Doğan Bey, Hacı İlbey, Evranos Bey, Deli Balaban Bey ve Akçakocaoğlu were helped by the Pomak Turks who were already there to settle and gave them monetary and moral support.

The term ‘’Pomak’’ only started to be seen in Balkan and Western sources in the 1830s. This word used as an adjective was given to the Pomak Turks, part of the areas Turks, by the Balkan Slovak people of the area. In the Balkan Slovak dialect it means ‘Helper’. 

The term which in the Slovak dialect is pronounced ‘’pomağa’’ and ‘’pomagadic’’ over time started to be pronounced ‘’pomak’’. The source for the giving of the word as a name to the Turks of the area is the fact the Anatolian nomads who had been coming to the Ottoman Balkans to settle in droves in the 14th Century  and were helped by these Kıpczak – Cuman groups.

The science of history science shows that the Pomak Turks are the grandchildren of the Cuman (41) Turks who settled in the area from Rodop in the 11th Century. The Pomak Turks carry all the characteristics, language, hand crafts, dress and folkloric characteristics and still live in the same way as the Middle Asia Turks.

Despite all of these facts, Greece has never given up its endeavours to divide the    Pomak Turks from other Turks and declare them as having Greek ancestry. Many   propaganda books on this subject are being written claiming that the Pomak Turks were  “forcibly converted Greek Thracians” and “Muslims of Hellenic ancestry”. 


4- the prevention of the political rights of the minority


Parallel to Turco-Greek relations, since 1999 changes in the attitude towards the    Western Thrace Turkish Minority (W T T M) have begun to be seen.  However, despite this change it is not possible to say that the administration has changed in its attitude or is more favourable towards the WTTM in terms of bringing them up to the same status in bilateral agreements and international treaties, having a say in traditional organs or finding a          comprehensive solution for the problems of minorities in education.

Yet  The WTTM’ s steps in fighting for their rights is really because of the Greek administrations discriminatory practices in not allowing citizenship rights in other words it is linked to their fundamental rights and freedoms .

The restrictions faced by the WTTM, with regards to elect and be elected rights also restricts the possibility of the minority when it comes to taking the problems to Greek politics.  A change in the election laws in 1990, so that the threshold for election is 3%      nationwide (to reach the threshold 200 thousand votes are needed) and the implementation also being valid for independent candidates, means that the WTTM has literally had the chance of forming a party or having an independent representative in the Greek Parliament taken way from them. In this way for members of the WTTM to be elected as members of parliament they need to be nominated as candidates by other parties.

The Greek Governments implementation in recent years of a step in regards to the right to elect and be elected, is aimed at the prevention of minorities getting into the Greek Parliament is a new step one  which is very striking. In order to split possible uniting of votes by minorities the Greek government has started a geographical order. To reduce the political effectiveness of minorities, the Law in question, known as the Kapodistrias Plan, has united the provinces, municipalities and sub districts. By changing the boundaries of the polling stations and changing the election districts of the areas where Turks live, on paper, they have created super provinces, and because these areas, where there is a high concentration of Turks, were divided between districts with a higher number and concentration of Greeks, the opportunity of completely combining the votes of the Turkish minority was avoided, thereby the opportunity of Turks being elected to parliament was prevented. With the ‘Kapodistrias Plan’, Athens, in order to keep the Turks as a minority permanently, have incorporated the Turkish minority into Greek towns, reduces the municipalities from 7 big ones to 3 even bigger ones. In this way, by founding widened district provinces they prevented the chance of the Turks governing themselves by electing their own Governor. (42)


5- The prevention of the right to associate


The intensified suppression policy started during the Coup (of the Colonels), continued after 1974 with the closing down of all civil society organisation containing the word      ’Turk ‘and continued with the word ‘’Turk’’ being erased from school signs. (43). Associations such as the Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Association, the Gümülcine Turkish Youth Association  and the İskeçe were closed because the word ‘Turk’ in was aimed at creating minorities.

Associations like the Thrace Turkish Teachers Association, the Gümülcine Turkish Youth Association and the İskeçe Turkish Association were closed down as it was said they were intending to create minorities. Also permission was not granted for the foundation of the District of Rodop Turkish Women’s Culture Association, because it contained the word          ‘Turk’. The newest and most interesting ruling on this matter is the appeal case (44) which has continued since 2003 when the case was brought by the Evros (Meriç) Minority Youth Association whose application for recognition had been rejected. The Court of Appeal, after it reiterated the official state line that ‘there were Greek citizens in Thrace who were of the Muslim religion’, rejected the appeal on the grounds that the name was illegal (45)and that ‘Minority Youth’, had not been used in a way which was clear and did not give rise for suspicion, because the confusion as to whether the name represented a religious or ethnic identity was contrary to public order. (46) The Court of Appeal did not only reject the application for registration, it also set a precedent against Minorities, that any minority term used in the name of an Association without a clear definition could ‘hide offences’.

Following a law suit brought against Greece in 2005, by The Iskeçe Turkish Association because it had the name Turk in it, and as it refused permission for the Rodop Turkish Women’s Cultural   Organisation to be formed for the same reason, The ECHR on 27th March 2008 came to the decision that Greece had violated the ‘’right to associate and form           associations’’ when it banned the groups.

The law suit which was brought after Galip Galip and the other seven people applied to the ECHR, against the closure of The Iskeçe Turkish Association and the Western Thrace Minority Higher Education Association, had lasted more than 21 years. Due to this the court ruled that Greece ‘had not fairly executed justice in a reasonable time’ and had therefore violated the rights of the associations and fined Greece 8.000 Euros as damages.

“The Lausanne Peace Agreement does not recognises that in Western Thrace there is a    Turkish minority but rather a Muslim Minority’’ and that “ due to the  nationality of the   associations founders the public could be influenced in the wrong way” the suit against Greece brought by Hülya Emin and six other people at the ECHR ruled that in the Emin   et al case the persons who had applied to the court had had their damages issues  addressed that they were satisfied that  “ justice had been served” and therefore there was no need for compensation.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni announced that Greece would appeal against the decision of the ECHR in the unanimous decision they took in the ‘’ Iskeçe Turkish      Association v Greece " (application No: 26698 /05) and "Emin et al v. Greece” (application No.34144/05) cases, that Greece had violated the ‘’right to associate and form associations’’ when it closed down the groups.


During a press conference on 19th June 2008, Bakoyanni was asked ‘’Exactly what had been discussed on the issue of minorities in the dialogue between Ankara and Athens during talks about the complications over the issue of minorities’’, to which she answered ‘’ that the subject of the protection of human rights was no longer on the agenda because respect       for minority rights and the formation of related policies is the duty of all democratic          governments’’. Foreign Minister Bakoyanni stating that this decision had been taken after much deliberation but did not give any information about exactly which Article the Greek state was to appeal against.  

Speaking at the press meeting Bakoyanni said that Greece was carrying out its duties as regards the Muslim minority of Thrace. By saying that Greece was respectful to equal rights and in the face of the law, was not only carrying out its duties but deepening them too, however whenever issues regarding the Muslim minority was brought up they faced problems due to Turkeys own policies, and in doing so she indicated that the problems were still continuing and that they would continue because of the Greek government. 

The decision by the Greek Government to take the court decision of the ECHR to appeal naturally caused amazement in the Western Thrace Turkish Minority, in the EU and in Turkey. In the rightful struggle of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority, the ‘’Minority’’ was found to be justified and Greece was convicted. The decision given by the ECHR literally ordered that freedom to assemble and forming of associations could in no way be prevented.


The Law Suits dealing with this issue were opened in 2005 by the İskeçe Turkish              Association and by The Rodop Area Turkish Women’s Cultural Society. The court was of the opinion that Greece with its decision to close down the Associations of Greece’s minorities was in breach of the 11th Article of the European Human Rights Agreement.

The İskeçe Turkish Association was founded in 1927 and after functioning under this name till 1983, claiming that they were carrying out Turkish identity propaganda and     claiming that this was not in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty, the Greek authorities took them to court. The Association ,which in the 60 years since  it has been formed had carried out its   activities lawfully, in 1986 , with the decision of the İskeçe Court was ordered to close ,  as the Governor of İskeçe claimed that ‘’ there are no Turks in Western Thrace’’.

The İskeçe Turkish Association had taken the case to the ECHR after around 20 years of   struggle in the internal courts resulted in a ruling against them

The European Court of Human Rights in its decision in this matter decreed, that the closing down of an Association just because it uses the term Turk is an unnecessary practice in a democratic community.  It announced that, even if the Association did claim that there was an ethnic minority in Greece, that on its own, this was not on its own a threat for a democratic community.

It was decreed that in closing the Association Greece had violated the related Articles of the European Human Rights Convention, which allows for freedom of assembly and association and fair trial. It was decreed that Athens pay the Association which had been closed 8 thousand Euros in compensation.

In the other case, it refused Athens argument that ‘there are no ethnic minorities in Greece only religious minorities’. The court came to the conclusion that the refusal of the court in 2001 to register the Turkish Women’s Cultural Association because it had Turk in its name, contravened the European Human Rights Conventions, right to freedom of assembly and association.

This decision in accordance with the European Council standards, carries with it direct sanctions. Under normal standards Greece should revise its Laws and allow for the formation of Associations with the name Turk in them. The European Council Committee of Ministers is responsible for the implementation of this decision and the path it follows will determine the future and will create stability in the area. No matter what happens the ECHR will not change the decision they took regarding associations with the name ‘Turk’ in them.

          With the announcement on this issue the head of the Western Thrace Turkish Federation (WTTA) Halit Habiboğlu by saying ‘’ the just struggle the Minority has been staging for many years has been strengthened by the ruling of the ECHR. It is difficult to understand why our country Greece has taken the decision to appeal despite the fact that the courts Greek members also voted in favour of this decision. Greece is determined to see the Minority which is bound to its country with loyalty as a threat. In relation to Minority rights in my heart neither did we want to take the case to the ECH nor did we wish that our country Greece would appeal the decision. It is the aim of the minority to establish dialogue between the majority and minority. The real aim of the minority is to establish this for our country on a democratic platform. However due to the Greek state and the Governments politics the minority has been forced to defend its rights outside of its own country. We have complete faith that the decision by the ECHR will not change. The minority has the right to form associations with the name ‘Turk’ in them , and this will not change’’ has enunciated that the Turkish Minority living in area wish to live on Western Thrace soil in friendship with the Greek Government.

          On the other hand, in 2005 after the Greek High Court upheld the decision  of  the lower courts in 2001 not to allow the formation of the ‘Rodop Turkish Women’s Cultural Association’ because of the word Turk the case was taken to the ECHR  after being ratified by Arios Pagos.

In the meantime the Rodop Governor had for the same reason had taken The Gümülcine Turkish Youth Association and the Western Thrace Turkish Teachers Association to court in order to have them closed down. After a long court battle with the decision to close the associations of the lower court being ratified by the High Court, in 1988, all signs with the word ‘Turk’ in them were torn down and the activities of the associations stopped.

          It became clear that all the problems were reaching the same result, and that the biggest problem of the Turks of Western Thrace was the fact that they were unable to get their ‘identity’ to be recognised.  In Western Thrace official departments were defining the Turks as ‘Greek Muslims’ and the prohibition against the associations was in fact the result of the policy of denying  that ‘Turk’ is an identity.


6. Restrictions in the right to education


The Western Thrace Turkish community which according to the Lausanne Treaty had the right to found its own educational establishments and appoint its own teachers is today face to face with provisions which will ‘leave them uneducated’. The Western Thrace minority schools were not the property of the Greek state. The schools were administered by elected committees, and the salaries of the teachers were paid by the parents. An end has been put to this and by slowly and methodically transferring the schools to the property of the Greek state, by lowering the standards of education, the students are faced with the situation of not being able to learn Turkish.

The restrictions in bringing teachers and Turkish books on education from Turkey, insufficient quality of teaching, the implementation of a thousand to 5 limit for Turks for entry to university, and despite this not recognising the parity of diplomas received from Turkey, and despite it being compulsory to go to nursery school, not giving permission for Turks to open nursery schools which are of vital importance, are today being experienced in a very explicit way. (47)

As well as the problems explained under the main headings, problems such as , the prevention of Foundation administrators being elected and appointed and having the right to own land and being appointed directly by the  Greek authorities; the fact that the Head Müftü position to deal with matters of religion and conscience is still empty, the fact that the Müftüs elected by the Muslim Turks is not appointed by the Orthodox Governor , are a few of the other practices which are every day  pushing to the limit the patience and endurance of the Turks

At the start of the 90s, the Greek Justice Minster Athanassios Kanelopulos, by saying in a statement published by the Cumhuriyet” (Republic) newspaper on 7th June 1990, that there were 150.000 Greek citizens who were members of the Islamic religion  living in Western Thrace, for the first time gave a clue about the distribution of population during those years. Today’s Turkish minority population brings into the open one truth. That the number of Turks living in these areas should be around 235,958 when compared to the Greek population increase curve, and 667,784, when compared to the Turkish population increase curve, but that however, due to assimilation and the result of emigrations this number has fallen to around the 120.000 mark.

Today’s concentration of the Turkish population is in İskeçe, Central Gümülcine and the forest villages around these cities. Due to assimilation policies the number of Turks found around the Dedeağaç region, is so small that it is hardly worth noting. It is estimated that today around 150.00 Turks live in Greece and make up 1.5% of the general population. The Turks live mainly in Gümülcine, İskeçe and Dedeağaç. As well as this there are many Turks living in Dimotoka and Sofu.

A certain number of Turks living outside of Western Thrace in Rhodes and the 12 Isles can be found. Other than this in the Western Thrace area of Rodop there are around 40.000 Turks.


When carefully studied, the census results for Greece and Turkey show that there is a birth rate percentage for both countries, and that when the present population increase curve is applied to Western Thrace the results of the inhuman policies, in politics and the pressures encountered in every area of life can be seen.

Whilst a certain increase in birth rate can be seen in all areas of Greece, there have been dramatic reductions in the population of the Turks of Western Thrace. No one living a happy free life will leave the lands they are living on. However in Western Thrace due to the Greek Governments relentless inhuman policies, the opposite has happened.



Results of the 1821- 2007 censuses in Greece . (48) 




















































































Due to sudden change in population numbers in Turkey and Greece in 1923 – 4 and in 1925, due to a mutual exchange of population, the population increase curve in both countries has been established with information gained after 1925.  


1928 – 2007 Greece census results and population increase curve



Results of the 1927 – 2007 Censuses in Turkey (48)


























































  1928 – 2007 Turkey census results and population increase curve


Even though the population increase curve for Turkey and Greece is not parallel it still shows a tendency for increase.

The population of Greece which was 6.204.684 in 1928 increased to 11.338.624 in 2007, an increase of 5.133.940 or eighty two percent in 79 years and the birth-rate percentage was about 1.03.

The population of Turkey which was 13.648.270 in 1927 increased to 70.586.256 in 2007, an increase in 80 years of 56.937.986 or a hundred and seven percent increase with a birth-rate of 5.21 percent. 

The population increase of the Turks of Western Thrace is not parallel to either the general 82% increase in Greece, or the 417% increase in Turkey. The inhuman practices of the Greek government for years and because, despite being in the EU, the clear infringement of human rights has meant that instead of an increase in population there has been a decrease.

If the 129.120 Turks living in Western Thrace had been able to live a normal life free from pressure, they would have at the least had a population increase parallel to that of Greece and their numbers today should be 235.958. 

If they had been able to continue their lives in a Turkish style of living and family makeup, the population increase graph should be parallel to that of Turkey’s population     increase and therefore the population today should be 667.784.


                                  Comparitive population increase curve for western Thrace Turks


The table above shows the population increase of Turks in Western Thrace between 1910 – 2007 with the population increase in Turkey and Greece, parallel to what the  population should be today.


The pressures and inhuman treatment that our Western Thrace Brethren have been subjected to, the genocide they have encountered, their being ousted from the Greek Parliament, the ‘Forbidden Zone’ implementation declared in 1936, which literally sentenced them to live in an open air prison, and restrictions regarding property, can clearly be seen as  ‘forced emigration ‘’ and ‘’withdrawal of citizenship ‘’.The population which should have shown an increase in the last 80 years has in fact shown the complete opposite, a decrease of 8%.


In conclusion despite years of attempts to assimilate them, depriving them of their   basic human rights and freedoms, they have managed to protect their national solidarity and culture, and despite the fact that Greece is a member of the EU the Western Thrace Turkish minority is still in danger and has many difficult days ahead of them. One of the three main principles upon which the European Union has been built, human rights, has unfortunately not become a reality for the Turks. Including EU human rights, it can be argued how much    importance the E U has given to minority rights, but it is crystal clear what Greece’s attitude towards the Turkish minority is.       




1 Traklar , “Giriş Sayfası

2 Traklar Genel Tarih, “Traklar Genel Tarih

3 Trakya’ya İsmini veren Kavim Traklar, “Ana Giriş Sayfası

4 Michael Köhler, Unutulmuş güneydoğu Avrupa uygarlığı: Traklar


5           İsmail Hakkı Küpçü, Roma İmparatorluğu ve Hıristiyanlığı kabulü, 02.07.2005

6 Bizans İmparatorluğu Hakkında Bilgi, “Bizans İmparatorluğu

7 Roma İmparatorluğu hakkında bilgi, Roma Tarihinin Dönemleri

8 Bizans İmparatorluğu Dünya Kültürü ve Tarihi, Bizans imparatorluğu

21 Tem 2006,

9, Edirne’nin Fethi 3565338.0.0.php&Edirne%27nin%20Fethi

10  Seha L. Meray, Lozan Barış Konferansı, Tutanaklar-Belgeler, Madde 16, T.B.M.M. Kavanin Mecmuası, Devre: II, İçtima: 1,  Cilt 2, İkinci Basılış, 1942, Ankara, T.B.M.M. Matbaası

11  Türkler Online, İskitler Kimlerdir


12  İsmail Hakkı Küpçü, Büyük Hun İmparatorluğu, 20.02.2005

13 Türk Tarihi, Avarlar (Avar İmparatorluğu), 2004


14  Prof. Dr. Erol Güngör, Tarihte Türkler, Peçenekler, Uzlar ve Kuman-Kıpçaklar, 2004

15  Basri Zilabid, Rodopların Müslüman Halkı, İlkadım Dergisi, Ekim 2008

16  Gündağ, Nevzat, 1913 Garbi Trakya Hükümet-i Müstakilesi, Ankara, Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları: 789, Kültür Eserleri Dizisi: 87, 1987

17  Cihan, Süleyman Sefer, Balkan Savaşı ve 1913 Batı Trakya Türk Cumhuriyeti, İstanbul, Yeni Batı Trakya Dergisi Yayınları, Seri No.8, 2008

18  Kim Kimdir, Dr. Sadık Ahmet (1947 - 1995),

19  Private Sözlük, İbrahim Şerif, 26.07.2007,

20  Batı Trakya Birliği Bonn, Sadık Ahmet,

21  Trakya-Net, Batı Trakya Tarihi, Sayfa 1-6,

22  Çağdaş Türk ve Dünya Tarihi, Milletler Cemiyeti, 18/10/2008,

23  Alp, İlker (Doç. Dr.), Batı Trakya Türkleri, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi Dergisi, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi Başkanlığı, sayı 33, cilt: xi, Kasım 1995, Ankara,

24  Batı Trakya Tarihi, Rodop'ta Hükümet-i Muvakkate'nin Kurulması, 22.05.2007

25  Cihan, Süleyman Sefer, Balkan Savaşı ve 1913 Batı Trakya Türk Cumhuriyeti,

26  Batı Trakya Kronolojosi, Türk Kurtuluş Savaşı - Batı Trakya'da Mücadele Hazırlıkları, Batı Trakya Umumi Merkezi'nin kurulması,

27  Alp, İlker (Doç. Dr.), Batı Trakya Türkleri, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi Dergisi, Paragraf 1.b

28  Tekoğlu, İhsan (araştırmacı-Yazar), Ezilmiş, Asimile Edilmiş Balkan Milletleri ve Batı Trakya’nın Müslüman Türklerine Sesleniş, 1-14 Yeni Trakya Aktüel, Tarih ve Kültür Dergisi, Sayılar 180-194, İstanbul, Yeni Batı Trakya, 2006

29  Sami, Şemseddin, Kâmûs’ül Âlâm, İstanbul, 1896

30  Alp, İlker (Doç. Dr.), Batı Trakya Türkleri, Paragraf 1.a.

31  Gürsel, Mustafa, “Batı Trakya’da Bugünkü Durum”, Milliyet, 21 Ekim 1978

32  The Minority Rights Group, Minorities in Balkans, Report No. 82, London 1989, s. 33

33  Batı Trakya Sorunu, Batı Trakyalıların Sorunları ve Çözüm Yolları, (21 Mart 1994 tarihinde İstanbul’da düzenlenen panel), Batı Trakya’nın Sesi, Yıl: 7, Sayı: 60, İstanbul,  Mart 1994, s. 6-7

34  Başar, Cem, Türk –Yunan İlişkilerinde Batı Trakya Türkleri Sorunu, İstanbul, İNAF Uluslar arası İlişkiler Ajansı, 1992, s.28

35  Memişoğlu, Hüseyin,  Balkanlarda Pomak Türkleri, Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları Vakfı Yayınları; İstanbul, 1999

36  Alp, İlker (Doç. Dr.), Batı Trakya Türkleri, Paragraf  3.b.3

37  Anadolu Ajansı; 31 Temmuz 1999

38  Batı Trakya Türkleri Dayanışma Derneği; Batı Trakya’nın Sesi, Haziran-Temmuz 1997, sayı 83

39  Batı Trakya Türkleri Dayanışma Derneği; Batı Trakya’nın Sesi, Ocak 1998, Sayı 86, Makedonya’nın Yörük Tükleri, Raltar,;imode

40 Vikipedi, özgür ansiklopedi, Kumanlar,

41  Gözde K.Yaşın, Batı Trakya’da Seçim Heyecanı, Cumhuriyet Strateji, S.119, 9 Ekim 2006, s.18-19

42   1972 tarihli ve 1109 sayılı kanun-kararname ile "Türk Okulları" ismi, "Azınlık Okulları" olarak değiştirilmiş tir.

43   Talep sırasıyla Dedeağaç Asliye Hukuk Mahkemesi’nin 58/1996 sayılı kararıyla ardından Trakya Temyiz Mahkemesi tarafından 423/1998 sayılı kararla ve nihayet Yargıtay’ın mahkeme kararını onayan 58/2006 sayılı kararıyla reddedildi.  

44   Stamatis Sakellion, Yunanistan, Avgi gazetesi, 5 Kasim 2006, çev. Erol Bekir

45  Gözde Kılıç Yaşın, “Batı Trakya’da Bizans Oyunları”, Cumhuriyet Strateji, S. 135, 29 Ocak 2007

46  Gözde Kılıç Yaşın, agm

47 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Demographic history of Modern Greece

48  Belge Net, Türkiye’de Nüfus Sayımları (DİE),


According the ‘forbidden zone’ law brough out in 1936, an area 10 – 25 km deep along western Thraces border with Bulgaria, was declared a ‘forbidden zone’. The 35 -40 thousand Turks living in 133 villages in this area had their travel and social activities controlled by the Greek authorities who restricted all activities and turned the area, literally into a prison camp. Entry into or out of the forbidden area was by a special document.