BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL SEP 12, 2022 –
Mustafa Trampa, who was elected as the mufti of Xanthi (Iskeçe) in Greece’s Western Thrace, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday about the discriminatory practices that the Turkish minority in the region is exposed to.
Trampa, who was elected as a mufti after the Friday prayer at 83 mosques in Xanthi on Sept. 9, said in his statements that the legal basis of the institution of the mufti arises from the Athens Treaty of 1913 and the Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1923, but Greece violated the fundamental rights of the Turkish minority enshrined in these treaties.
Stating that the rights of the Turkish minority have been violated by new laws and decrees, Trampa said: “Our people clearly showed their reaction against the Western Thrace Turkish Minority mufti, who was appointed without discussing with our advisory board, our highest institution. The process started when our muftis wanted to be removed from their posts illegally.”
‘Attitude of Greek media is immoral and unlawful’
Noting that the Greek media took an immoral and unlawful attitude toward them with the announcement of the mufti’s candidacy, Trampa stated that what was done was open discrimination and an attitude that harmed human dignity.
Trampa stated that the Greek press also slandered him and he condemns these approaches that contradict the principles of journalism.
Underlining that the muftis appointed by the Greek government do not have acceptance among the Turks of Western Thrace, Trampa said: “We have various ceremonies such as funerals, hatims and mevlids. It is impossible for the appointed muftis to wear their robes and conduct those ceremonies. They face a great reaction.”
Trampa noted that even though they can pray freely in Greece, their freedom of religion has been seriously violated. “The approach that if you can pray, then you have freedom is wrong. Because the Greek government has issued decrees with the force of law to minimize your institution and turn it into a state office,” he explained.
“The Greek policies toward the religion of minorities are a great example of unlawfulness. It is nothing more than that,” he added.
‘They aim to place Christians in minority foundations and religious institutions’
Stating that the aim of the Greek authorities is to place Christians in minority foundations and non-Christian religious institutions, Trampa said, “For example, Christians lead the (Muslim) foundation committee in Rhodes. Christians are among the delegations here, including secretaries or in different positions. The latest law states that Christians or people from different religions can also be employed in mufti offices. Is something like this possible?”
Trampa stressed that it is very difficult to obtain the necessary permits for the maintenance and repair of mosques in Western Thrace and that the bureaucratic procedures that can be completed in two to three months for the construction of a new village mosque have been delayed for up to 20 years. “They are doing their best to alienate you from these works,” he said.
The mufti election, in which Mustafa Trampa and Mustafa Kamo were candidates, was held in mosques in Xanthi on Sept. 9. In the election, in which 7,320 people participated, 2,570 people voted for Mustafa Kamo and 4,750 people voted for Mustafa Trampa.
Trampa won the election held after Ahmet Mete, the elected mufti of Xanthi, passed away on July 14, becoming the third elected mufti of Xanthi.
Earlier, Türkiye called on Greece to “respect the religious rights and freedoms of the Turkish minority, guaranteed by international agreements,” in particular the Lausanne Peace Treaty, and human rights standards, as well as the will of the Turkish minority.
Greece’s Western Thrace region in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border, is home to a substantial, centuries-long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.
The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated.
After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace started to face harsher persecution and rights abuses by the Greek state, often in blatant violation of European court rulings made against Greece.
The Turkish minority in Greece continues to face problems exercising its collective and civil rights and education rights, including Greek authorities banning the word “Turkish” in the names of associations, shuttering Turkish schools and trying to block the Turkish community from electing its muftis.
In addition to violating longstanding treaties, these policies are also often in blatant violation of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings.
In Western Thrace, muftis have legal jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters for the local Turkish Muslim community.
The mufti elections have been an issue since 1991.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens with the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek law.
However, Greece annulled this law in 1991 and started appointing muftis itself.
Most Muslim Turks in the Western Thracian cities of Komotini (Gümülcine) and Xanthi do not recognize the appointed muftis and instead elect their own, who are not recognized by the Greek state.