OPINION

Ankara exploiting minority in Thrace

There are more and more indications that Ankara is trying to use the Muslim minority in Thrace as a way to pressure Athens into doing what Turkey wants. The fact that Greece has long abandoned discriminatory practices and has implemented bold measures to safeguard equality before the law are certainly stabilizing influences but it would be a mistake to underestimate the attempts being made by the Turkish Consulate to cultivate separatist trends. Basically, it is Ankara’s goal to counterbalance pressures from the European Union. Ankara believes that by creating a climate of controlled tension, it is boosting its campaign against Greece. The image of two rival neighboring countries, one of which is oppressing the minority of the other on its territory, would be extremely convenient for Turkey’s foreign policy. This plan is already being applied. To counterbalance documented complaints about the illegal confiscation of Christian assets in Istanbul and the appeal by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios to the European Court of Justice, Ankara has started documenting Muslim institutions and assets in Greece (both existing and non-existent) with the aim of making claims. In the past 15 months, more than 20 Turkish ministers have visited Thrace, most recently ex-foreign minister Yasar Yakis. The chief proposal made by Yakis during his visit was that the Muslim minority in Thrace consult with Ankara and appeal to international courts to solve its problems. All these visits would not have been so significant if they had not been exploited to create the impression that Thrace’s Muslim minority is being repressed by the Greek state.