Turkey yesterday accused Greece of “systematically closing Turkish minority schools” in the country’s Western Thrace region.
“Athens’ practice of temporary suspending minority schools in Western Thrace – a region where around 150,000 Muslim Turkish minority have resided for the past 25 years is a part of Greece’s assimilation and oppression efforts against Muslims,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, said in a statement.
Such oppressive policies, Aksoy added, “have been carried out for decades against the Turkish minority in Western Thrace.”
“For 25 years, Greece has been systematically shutting down schools belonging to the Turkish minority on the pretext of austerity measures and insufficient enrollment,” Askoy pointed out.
The Turkish official noted that Greece had “recently closed eight schools belonging to the Turkish minority in Western Thrace,” explaining that the number of minority schools had declined over the past few decades from 231 to 115.
Criticising the European Union (EU)’s stance, Askoy described the group as “a mere spectator to the systematic violation of human rights in a member country.”
He called on Athens to cease what he described “using pretexts to violate the education rights of minority children,” pointing to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Greece and Turkey have had strained relations for decades, with occasional flare-ups. There was a sharp exchange of words earlier this year when thousands of migrants tried to force their way into Greece from Turkey.
They also disagree over ethnically partitioned Cyprus, and Greece is angry over a Turkish-Libyan deal carving out maritime boundaries that skim the southern Greek island of Crete an area in which Turkey has begun hydrocarbon exploration.