The traditional iftar (fast-breaking dinner) of the Rumelia and Balkan Federation was held in İstanbul on Sunday with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış in attendance.
The iftar took place at the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality's dining facility in Topkapı. Along with Arınç and Bağış, Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe, former İstanbul Mayor Ali Müfit Gürtuna and Yalova University Rector Niyazi Eruslu were also in attendance.
Speaking during the iftar, Arınç said Turkey has not forgotten fellow Muslims in the Balkans and Rumelia and tries to keep its centuries-old ties to the Balkan countries alive.
“The Atatürk High Institute of Culture, Language and History is organizing ceremonies in cooperation with other institutes to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balkan Wars. We will have the chance to remember once more our bittersweet memories,” Arınç further stated.
Bağış also made a speech during the event in which he wished Muslims worldwide a blessed Ramadan and said he hopes the holy month of Ramadan will encourage sentiments of peace, fraternity, solidarity, mutual aid and sharing among humanity.
“İstanbul is a city that bears the traces of many civilizations, including Balkan civilization,” Bağış said, adding, “Tonight, I feel like a host rather than a guest here at this dinner.”
Turkey is home to many ethnic groups, with people who migrated to Turkey from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania -- who define themselves as “Rumelia-Balkan immigrants.”
The president of the Rumelia and Balkan Federation, Ayhan Bölükbaşı, said the federation was established seven years ago to keep people who migrated from the Balkans to Turkey together.
“We lost some 632,000 people in the Balkan Wars, but this isn't mentioned in any history books and 5.5 million people were forced to migrate from their countries. The real genocide took place in Caucasian and Balkan countries in front of the eyes of the world,” Bölükbaşı said, adding that what was experienced during the Balkan Wars should always be recalled and recited.