The Greek Foreign Ministry dismissed accusations by Turkey on Wednesday that Greece is oppressing its Muslim community in Western Thrace as “paradoxical, if not funny.”
“History will forever be the most objective witness to the way in which Turkey has systematically eliminated all minorities in its territory during the 20th century,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announcement, which referred to the Muslim minority in Western Thrace as a “Turkish minority,” was issued after Greek authorities reportedly announced they would suspend the operation of four schools in the Rodopi region due to a steep decline in the number of pupils.
“With this latest decision, the number of Turkish minority primary schools, which had been 231 until 25 years ago, dropped to 115,” the Turkish ministry said, while also slamming the European Union for allegedly tolerating the “systematic violation of human rights” in the country.
“This practice by Greece is a part of the assimilation and oppression efforts toward the Turkish minority in Western Thrace,” it said.
The Greek Foreign Ministry responded that there are 115 Muslim minority primary schools in the area, “within which the education provided fully guarantees all the rights of the students. By the way, in Istanbul in 1955 there were 54 Greek primary schools, while today there are only three. Does the Turkish leadership know why?” the ministry asked.
Greece does not recognize the Muslim population, located predominantly in Western Thrace, as an ethnically Turkish minority but as a religious one.