Minority school on Aegean island set to reopen after 50 years

Minority school on Aegean island set to reopen after 50 years

Minority school on Aegean island set to reopen after 50 years

Patriarch Bartholomew (R) at a meeting with Greek former Foreign Minister Stavro Lamnrindis (L) in Gökçeada Island. DHA photo

The Education Ministry has responded positively to a demand to reopen a Greek minority school on the Aegean island of Gökçeada that has remained closed for nearly half a century.

Announcing his ministry’s decision to grant permission for the reopening of the Private Gökçeada Greek Primary School, Education Minister Nabi Avcı told Anatolia news agency on March 28 that the decision was valid as of the date of the announcement.

Laki Vingas, who is in charge of minority foundations in Turkey’s Foundations Directorate General, told the Daily News by phone today that he was very happy about the decision, which came after a long period of struggle.

The school was among many others that were closed some 50 years ago, Vingas noted.

“For half a century we have been working on creating a future starting from point zero.”

Vingas said he was thankful for the government and the bureaucrats who lent support to the reopening of the school, which will be operational by the next school year starting in September.

Commenting on a question about whether this was a clue that Heybeliada Halki Seminary would also be reopened, Vingas said the two issues were different but related. “First of all, it makes us very happy to see that the government has a will to solve the problems,” he said.

The school, which was opened in 1951, had been shut down in 1964 following a decree issued by Turkey’s second president and prime minister at the time, İsmet İnönü, on the pretext of the growing tensions in Cyprus that led to an exodus of Anatolian Greeks. The school in Gökçeada was shut down shortly after.

Only Turkish citizens are allowed to receive education in minority schools, in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. According to Anatolia news agency, since 2011, three Greek minority primary schools and one Greek minority high school were closed down by the Education Ministry upon demands by the founders of the schools.

The ministry is heeding applications for either the opening or closing of minority schools, Anatolia news agency added.

Gökçeada (Imbros in Greek) is an island in the Aegean Sea and the largest island of Turkey. It is located to the north of the entrance to the Dardanelles Strait.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu from Istanbul contributed to this article.