Qa-43, 21 June 2019, Statement Of The Spokesperson Of The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hami Aksoy, In Response To A Question Regarding The Recent Presidential Decree In Greece Concerning Muftis.

Republic Of Turkey Ministry Of Foreign Affairs 21.06.2019

The Turkish Minority Consultation Board of Western Thrace has demostrated a strong reaction to the said Presidential Decree through its statement on 21 June 2019. Our Ministry fully shares the views expressed in that statement.

Firstly, Greece violates the Lausanne Peace Treaty, by failing to recognize the Muftis elected by the Turkish Minority. This time, instead of correcting its wrongful practices, Greece has aggravated its violations by putting the office of the Mufti and the work of the Minority Muftis under the control of a newly established government department.

The said decree, which contains regulations regarding the administrative status, structure and the jurisdiction capacity of Muftis is the clear violation of the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty which gurantees the Minority’s right to establish and administer its own religious and charity institutions.

The decree, whose first draft was tabled in August 2018 and met with the Minority’s rightful strong reaction, disregards the rights of the Turkish Minority in Greece guaranteed by the Lausanne Peace Treaty also on the basis of reciprocity. The decree, which is clearly aiming at destroying the institutional autonomy of the Muftis by transforming them into an ordinary government department, is not acceptable to the Turkish Minority in Greece.

Greece neither made a comprehensive and candid communication with the representatives of the Minority nor took their views. Instead it entrusted certain circles responsible for religious affairs in the state system to prepare this decree who are known to be the source of the problems and their oppression practices to the Turkish Minority. This demonstrates once again that the Greek mentality towards the Minority is far from good intentions.

What Greece has to do is to recognize the elected Muftis and turn away from its mistake of imposing illegally appointed Muftis.

We also expect Greece to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights regarding non-governmental organizations, which were forbidden by Greek authorities due to bearing the word “Turk” in their names; to ensure that the Minority have full control over its waqfs and waqf properties; to re-naturalize the members of the Minority who have been deprived of citizenship due to the repealed Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Law; and, to meet the demands on opening Minority kindergartens and Minority schools at other levels.

This development further worsens the negative record of Greece violating the religious freedom and rights of the Turkish Minority and the very fact that it takes place in an EU country is an additional source of concern.

We invite international and regional organizations as well as the EU institutions to monitor the situation of human rights in Greece to carry out impartial investigations about Greece's legal actions that contradict the European values and universal human rights.

Turkey will continue to advocate the rightful interests and demands of the Turkish Minority in Greece, and reiterates that any improvement in the rights of the Minority will have a positive impact on our bilateral relations.

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