Syriza’s Turkish deputies vow to ‘tear down wall’ in Thrace

Syriza’s Turkish deputies vow to ‘tear down wall’ in Thrace

İpek Yezdani - KOMOTİNİ
Syriza’s Turkish deputies vow to ‘tear down wall’ in Thrace

Syriza’s Turkish deputies spoke to daily Hürriyet in Komotini through the organization of the Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association. The name plate on this building of the ‘Turkish Youth Union’ was removed by Greek authorities a number of years ago.

Two leading Turkish figures of the radical Syriza party in Greece are both hopeful of solving the problems of their country’s minorities, while pledging to tear down the “wall of shame” that was built on the border to prevent immigrants from entering.

Ayhan Karayusuf, from Komotini, and Hüseyin Zeybek, from Xanthi, told daily Hürriyet that they have “great hope” for Syriza’s leader and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, some of whose relatives reportedly migrated from the Turkish side of the border in the Thrace region.

“Tsipras knows our problems well. He told us that discrimination against Turks must be ended. He also gave a message saying that the 12.5-km ‘wall of shame’ on Greece-Turkey border will be torn down,” Zeybek said.

Greece built a barbed-wire-topped fence along its border with Turkey in a bid to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the European Union in 2012.

“Both the majority and the minority in Greece should prioritize coping with the humanitarian crisis and focus on allowing the country to start producing again,” noted Karayusuf, the only Turk in Syriza’s central committee.

Crackdown on word ‘Turkish’

Turks in Greece complain that Greek authorities still crack down on the word “Turkish.” In 2008, even the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Xanthi Turkish Union must be allowed to reopen, but the Greek authorities continue to refuse to enforce the ruling.

“I’ve been involved in left-wing politics for the past 22 years and only Syriza has opposed the anti-minority practices in Greece,” Karayusuf said, adding that Tsipras has repeatedly stressed that ECHR rulings should be implemented by Greek authorities.

According to Karayusuf, another Turkish minority demand voiced by many müftüs, who are Muslims’ highest religious officials in Greece, is for muftis to be elected by Muslims themselves, instead of being appointed by Athens, as is the case today.

He also said the Turkish youth in Greece should integrate into Greek society, and the Cyprus problem should be “solved according to international law.”

Zeybek, meanwhile, said better neighborly relations between Greece and Turkey were needed in order to help improve the former’s crisis-ridden economy.

“Greece needs Turkey,” he said, recalling that they had recently presented a motion to the Greek parliament to allow Turkish tourists to receive 72-hour visas on the bord