Athens’ response to Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister: “Distorted reality”

Greek Foreign Ministry Turkey

The Greek Foreign Ministry hit back at the false and provocative claims made by the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister today during his visit to Thessaloniki.

Earlier today, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran said on Twitter that the so-called Turkish minority face “restrictions on freedom of language, religion and worship.”

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran
Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran in Thessaloniki – May 5, 2021.

He also claimed that “our kinsmen […] conserve their identity and religion against all odds.”

The Greek Foreign Ministry responded back by saying that “Greece remains firmly committed to its international obligations, fully respecting international law, which is a compass of its foreign policy.”

“In this context, it implements the provisions deriving from the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, which recognises the existence of a religious Muslim minority in Thrace,” the statement highlighted.

Turkey’s own Foreign Ministry website affirms that there is only a Muslim minority in the Treaty of Lausanne Part VI Article 2 that states:

“Moslems established in the region to the east of the frontier line laid down in 1918 by the Treaty of Bucharest shall be considered as Moslem inhabitants of Western Thrace.”

The Treaty of Lausanne, which outlined the modern borders of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, affirms that there is only a Greek Muslim minority in Western Thrace.

Despite this legal document, in recent years the Erdoğan regime has challenged the Treaty of Lausanne.

Turkey now describes all 120,000 Muslims in Greece’s Western Thrace as “Turks” irrespective of whether they are Roma, Pomak (Slavic-speaking Muslims) or Greek.

The Ottoman millet system assigned ethnicity by religion, rather than language, culture, self-identification and familial history.

In this way, all Muslims in the Balkans, irrespective of their ethnic background, were described as Turks, something that the Erdoğan regime is attempting to revive despite the Treaty of Lausanne.

Although Kıran says Greek Muslims survived “against all odds,” the fact is that near the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Muslim population in Western Thrace stood at 86,000.

In responding to his unfounded claims, the Greek Foreign Ministry highlighted that “the prosperous Muslim Minority has about 120,000 inhabitants, Greek citizens,” adding “there are currently 127 minority schools in the area, as well as 260 mosques.”

Comparatively, there were 125,000 Greeks living in Constantinople (Κωνσταντινούπολις, Turkish: İstanbul) at the signing of the Lausanne Treaty in 1923, but today there are less than 1,000 due to Turkish state and ultra-nationalist persecution and violence.

The Greek Foreign Ministry concluded their statement by saying: “Any attempt to distort reality and falsify this information, wherever it comes from, is self-evidently rejected and needs no further comment.”

READ MORE: Turkish Deputy FM provocations against Greece from Thessaloniki.