We call a Kurd a Kurd, but why can’t Greeks call a Turk a Turk?

We call a Kurd a Kurd, but why can’t Greeks call a Turk a Turk?


The Greek state refuses to call a Turk a Turk because the Turkish minority in Western Thrace is defined as a Muslim minority in the Lausanne treaty. Several associations set up by Turks of Western Thrace have been closed down because it had “Turkish” in its name.

This is a highly astonishing approach, especially since it comes from a democracy like Greece.

When you ask Greece, “Why don’t you call a Turk a Turk?” the answer is, “We abide by the international treaty.” But the Lausanne treaty does not say, “Don’t you dare call them Turks.” Identifying someone as a Muslim and a Turk at the same time is not mutually exclusive; you can be both.

In addition, the Greek state references international treaties when it suits its interest, yet ignores them when it does not. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled several times against the decisions of Greek courts to close Western Thracian associations for including “Turkish” in their official name. But Greece refuses to implement the rulings made by the ECHR.

Call a cat a cat

Three decades ago, the Turkish state refused to call a Kurd a Kurd. Several ethnic Turks (who are not of Kurdish origin in other words) had argued against this stance and struggled against it; journalists among them. Many had served time in jail for their efforts on the recognition of Kurdish rights.

The Kurdish identity became recognized in the early 1990s. The right to learn Kurdish and broadcast in Kurdish has been recognized as well. Do we still have problems in terms of improving the rights of Kurds? Of course we do. But had we not had these problems, we would have been considered a well-functioning democracy and become a member of the European Union by now. It is precisely due to such shortcomings that we are not considered a fully functioning democracy and thus, stalling our membership to the European Union.

Greece, however, is considered a democracy. It is an EU member. And in 2017, the Greek state cannot call a Turk a Turk.

Like the French say, call a cat a cat. But they do not.

Turkish journalism vs Greek journalism

Last week, I wrote about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Greece, where he raised the issue of Western Thrace and I received the mail below:

“In the year 1955, there were about 150,000 Turkish citizens of Greek descent, mainly in Istanbul, Turkey, and the same number of Turkish citizens, mainly in the Thracian region of Greece.

When the Greeks in Istanbul had been forced to immigrate, they lost all their possessions (as a result of the riots, killings, and destroying of their shops) and feared for their lives.

How many Greeks are left in Istanbul nowadays? There is estimated to be about 3,000.

How many Greeks of Turkish origin are living the Thracian region of Greece nowadays?

Over 100,000 of them. You know why? Because the Greek state did not force them to abandon the land of their birth.

Is it not strange? Do you have the guts to write an article as to why the Turkish state forced its citizens of Greek origin, to abandon the land of their birth?

In the course of the past two decades, there has been a significant exercise of soul-searching in terms of the plight of non-Muslim minorities in Turkey. This is perhaps more so in civil society and less in the governmental sphere.

Only three years ago, an exhibition opened called “$20, 20 kilograms,” about non-Muslim minorities forced to emigrate from Turkey. Mainstream journalists have written about the injustices done on non-Muslim minorities.

By contrast, I wonder to what degree Greek journalists who are enjoying freedom of expression have been writing about the issue of Western Thrace from a universal human rights perspective and who of which would rather diverge from the state’s official stance?

Sixty thousand Turks have been stripped from Greek citizenship, 800,000 Turks have left Western Thrace, according to the estimates of Turkish officials. It is not a coincidence that in every cabinet there is a minister who had been born in Western Thrace or whose family is from Western Thrace. Obviously, the numbers could have been exaggerated by Turkish officials, but one thing is for sure: Greece does not accept the Turkish identity and this is anti-democratic.

I wonder how many mainstream Greek journalists have had the “guts” to write about it. I understand not too many.

Despite problems of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, at least Turkish journalists have not been insensitive to the problems of non-Muslim minorities. I wonder what prevents the hands of our Greek colleagues who enjoy free media and freedom of expression in a democratic country from writing about the same.