Turkey urges Greece to end pressure against elected muftis in Western Thrace
Greece must put an end to its interventionist practices and policies of pressure against Muslim religious leaders elected by the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, Turkey's foreign minister said on Sept. 4.
Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's statement came on Twitter after İbrahim Şerif, the chairman of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board and elected mufti of Komotini, shared a post on Twitter saying that he would be put on trial for alleged "usurpation of office" over a religious ceremony he attended five years ago.
Decrying the recent decision by the Greek court, Çavuşoğlu said: "We stand by our kin in the protection of their rights arising from the Treaty of Lausanne and religious freedoms."
Dating back centuries, a population of 150,000 Muslim Turks lives in the Xanthi (Iskece) area in Greece's Western Thrace region.
The election of muftis, or Islamic clerics, by Muslims in Greece is regulated by the 1913 Treaty of Athens, a Greek-Ottoman Empire pact that was implemented by Athens in 1920.
But in 1991, in violation of international law, Greece annulled its law regarding the 1913 treaty and unlawfully started to appoint muftis.
The muftis appointed by the Greek state have since usurped local Muslims' rights of jurisdiction on family and inheritance matters.
Most Muslim Turks in Western Thrace do not recognize muftis appointed by the Greek state and instead rightfully elect their own muftis.
However, since 1991, the Greek state has refused to recognize the elected muftis, and authorities have even put clerics on trial.
Turkey has long decried Greek violations of the rights of its Muslim and Turkish minority, from the closing down of mosques and letting historic mosques fall into disrepair to refusing to allow local groups to use "Turkish" in their name.
These measures violate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, as well as European Court of Human Rights verdicts, making Greece a state that flouts the law, say Turkish officials.