Bahçeli: Minority rights demands on Turkey should be met in Western Thrace

Protesters shout slogans during a rally against the visit of leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahçeli in Thessaloniki on June 28, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

June 28, 2012, Thursday/ 14:01:00

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has stated during his six-day tour of the Balkans that minority rights requirements imposed on Turkey as part of its EU accession should first be fulfilled by Greece in Western Thrace, home to a large Turkish minority.

Attending Turkish clubs and the offices of selected muftis in Gümülcine (Komotini) and İskeçe (Xanthi) during his trip to the Balkan countries, Bahçeli came together on Thursday with Turkish minority representatives.

Bahçeli reportedly has aviaphobia and rarely travels abroad. He started his six-day overland tour of the Balkans on Wednesday. His itinerary includes visits to Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bulgaria during the tour scheduled for June 27-July 2.

Starting his visit in Gümülcine, a Greek city in Western Thrace that is home to a sizable Turkish minority, Bahçeli came together with Gümülcine's mufti, İbrahim Şerif. He later met with representatives of the Gümülcine Turkish Youth Union (GTGB). Talking to a bevy of people gathered in the yard of the GTGB building who met him with demonstrations of affection, Bahçeli stated that the rights that the Turkish minorities in Greece were guaranteed in the Treaty of Lausanne are gradually disappearing due to the extreme right, adding, “It is very concerning.”

“We think that taking up a position in order to raise awareness of those rights is best. If the rights are going to be attacked, a day will come that these rights will be lost. That's why people need to read history more thoughtfully, to understand the events better and to create the necessary political situation in order not to re-experience the grief of those events,” said Bahçeli.

Bahçeli also pointed out that while minority rights requirements are imposed on Turkey in the framework of its EU accession, Greece has not been subject to the same scrutiny. He noted in particular, “The minority rights that are required in Turkey should also be required in Western Thrace. The rights of Turkish Muslim minorities that are living in Western Thrace should be guaranteed and promoted by the Greek government so that people can emerge into a happy community.”

Greek Cypriots protest MHP leader's visit

Bahçeli also visited Thessaloniki on Thursday as part of a tour of northern Greece, drawing protests from Cypriot students, who then had several clashes with police in Greek's second-largest city. About 60 Greek Cypriots affiliated with a nationalist student movement stood outside the city's Turkish consulate to protest, but after scuffles with police the crowd was dispersed with pepper spray.