Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of the GNAT, Engin Altay, Republican People’s Party Group Deputy Chairman, Meral Akşener, Leader of Good Party, Temel Karamollaoğlu, Leader of Felicity Party, Mustafa Destici, Leader of Grand Unity Party, Burak Özügergin, Ambassador of Turkish Republic to Athens, Recep Gürkan, Metropolitan Municipality Mayor of Edirne, Lütfü Mestan, Friendship Party Leader (Bulgaria), Martha Bainka, Deputy Leader of European Free Alliance Party, Emrullah Üzüm, Mufti of Edirne, Erhan Tabakoğlu, Rector of Trakya University, representatives of Western Thrace Turkish Minority Solidarity Association, Murat Ömeroğlu, Consul General of Turkey to Komotini and deputies from political parties in Turkey attended the commemorative ceremony held by Friendship Equality Peace Party beside Dr. Sadık Ahmet’s grave at Kahveci Cemetery in Komotini.
Besides Işık Ahmet, the late Sadık Ahmet’s wife, his son Levent Ahmet and his daughter Funda Ahmet, İbrahim Şerif, Chairman of Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board and Elected Mufti of Komotini, Ahmet Mete, Elected Mufti of Xanthi, representatives of minorities’ institutions and organizations and many Turkish people from Western Thrace attended the ceremony where Koran was recited and prayers were said. Speeches were given on his lifetime struggles.
Speaker Şentop stated in his speech at the ceremony that Dr. Sadık Ahmet’s struggle which is full of courage and determination through his lifetime sets an example, “Sadık Ahmet has become the symbol of unity and solidarity of Western Thrace Turkish minority. We are here today, beside a hero’s grave.”
Şentop stated, “I’d like to convey our President’s greetings and warm regards” and emphasized the fact that Turkey has always been by Western Thrace Turkish minority’s side and will continue to do so.
Şentop explained that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Western Thrace in 2017 is a clear indicator of solidarity between Turkey and Western Thrace Turkish minority and added, “I want you to know that our hearts and thoughts are always with you. Protecting our cognates’ rights is the priority of Turkish foreign policy. Our President has expressed our strong support on various occasions. As he has already mentioned, neither time nor distance can affect our fondness.”
Şentop emphasized the fact that Turkey has been trying to bring up the issues regarding Western Thrace Turkish minority’s rights and remedies and betterment of its situation to the agenda in international platforms and do the follow-up; and stated that the minority society must bring forward their own issues both on political level and in international platforms.
In this context, Şentop pointed out the significance of close cooperation with Turkish parliamentarians who are minority members, “Keep on demanding justice within the scope of legitimacy. As the Presidency of GNAT, we have brought up our expectations from the international society in international parliamentary platforms and will continue to do so. Hence, we wish to maintain close contact with cognate parliamentarians and we are continuing our work on this matter.”
Speaker Şentop mentioned that Western Thrace Muslim Turkish minority is currently facing a series of problems based on violation of its rights which had been guaranteed by agreements and Turkey has been showing an effort to find a solution to the issues of Turkish minority.
Şentop stated the following:
“There are agreements dating back 100 years which specify the rights of Turkish minorities. There is a treaty dated 1913 regarding designation of religious leaders. This treaty includes provisions stating that Muslims can designate their leaders through elections. Besides, with Lausanne Peace Treaty which was signed both by Turkey and Greece, minorities’ rights in both countries had been guaranteed. A century has passed, there has been many developments in the world especially concerning human rights and in the field of education and religious freedom. We would have expected more privileges to be given to our cognates residing here, namely the Turkish minority other than minimum requirements of Lausanne Peace Treaty. However, we are observing issues regarding implementation of rights which have been specified 100 years ago through agreements. Today, our Muslim Turkish brothers who live here have difficulties in expressing their belongingness. There are administrative decisions of non governmental organizations banning the use of the word ‘Turkish’. There are resolutions of the European Human Rights Court regarding the state of Greece’s violation of rights within the scope of European Convention on Human Rights. Provisions on designation of religious leaders and muftis through an election process by Turkish minorities residing here are violated. There are recent developments revealing new regulations diminishing the rights and authorities of muftiates. There are issues regarding implementation of minorities’ rights which have been guaranteed by Lausanne Peace Treaty. We are witnessing disobedience to agreements and human rights, creation of barriers in terms of passing their own religious culture to future generations, disallowing opening of new schools and satisfaction of their needs. Muslims residing here also have serious issues about foundation assets.”
Şentop emphasized the fact that Turkey is a state who acts with legal perspective and respects its constitution, international agreements where it is a party and conventions on human rights and continued his words:
“States who do not protect its own citizens’ rights which have been guaranteed by international agreements and international law are not among prestigious states. Republic of Turkey is a great state. Turkey will stand beside its cognates residing here with determination in terms of protecting Western Thrace Turkish minority’s rights and remedies which are based on international conventions and bilateral agreements and monitoring their implementation which is an issue that is among the priorities of Turkish diplomacy. On this occasion, we express our gratitude to Doctor Sadık Ahmet and to all the valuable members of the minority mainly his family who stood by him in his just fight for minorities’ rights.”
Engin Altay, Republican People’s Party Group Deputy Chairman stated that Western Thrace Turks are equal with the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul within the scope of Lausanne, bilateral agreements and settlements between Greece and Turkey, “We are only asking for reciprocity. If we do not designate a patriarch in Istanbul, then we don’t want a mufti to be designated here.”
Altay explained that the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul and Western Thrace Turks are not refugees but rather they are identified as minorities with special statute, “We are expecting the Greek government and our Greek brothers to not be afraid of or refrain from calling Muslims in Western Thrace ‘Turkish and Muslim’ as a courtesy to reciprocity just as we freely call the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul ‘Greek Orthodox’.”
Akşener, Leader of Good Party stated that the Republic of Turkey has not been efficient in fulfilling its responsibilities regarding Western Thrace Turkish minority.
Akşener expressed that she is also the child of a refugee family with a Balkan-origin, “Republic of Turkey needs and owes Western Thrace Turkish minority. Including myself, i apologize on behalf of all our leaders as I have apologized before. We haven’t been able to fulfil our responsibilities in terms of your welfare. We are talking about the same things that we talked about many years ago beside this grave. I hope you accept our apologies and give us your blessings.”
Karamollaoğlu, Leader of Felicity Party stated that he founded a party in the name of Sadık Ahmet which means peace and that he lit a torch, “We believe that executives of his party, his family and loved ones will be determined to carry this torch.”
Karamollaoğlu indicated that the government and political parties must provide a lot more support to Western Thrace, “On the other hand, we would like to remind the Greek government that it is a necessity of international norms to provide rights to our Turkish and Muslim brothers here just as we provide rights to minorities in Turkey.”
Destici, Leader of Grand Unity Party stated that Western Thrace Turks, whom the late Sadık Ahmet fought for are heroes who confronted various challenges throughout history, “People who live here are true heroes. History of heroism was made in these lands since the Balkan Wars and it is still being made.”
Destici indicated that, “Our cognates and fellow Muslim brothers were slaughtered here and there was genocide. This genocide still continues today in a different manner, culturally. Our state impinges all the places where Turks and Muslims live including the Balkans, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia, Crimea and Türkmeneli. It shows a great effort to provide support. We are pleased about this, however we all agree that there is more to be done.”
After the ceremony, lunch was served to guests from Turkey and all the participants by Sadık Ahmet’s family at Friendship Equality Peace Party’s main headquarters in Komotini.
Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of the GNAT visited İbrahim Şerif, Elected Mufti of Komotini at his office and visited the headquarters of Friendship Equality Peace Party in Komotini and also attended the lunch hosted by Sadık Ahmet’s family in honor of guests from Turkey and all the participants.