World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Western Thrace Turks

Article Id: WHEBN0021489902
Reproduction Date:

Title: Western Thrace Turks  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Turkish people, Turkish diaspora, Turks in the United Kingdom
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Western Thrace Turks

Turks of Western Thrace (Turkish: ) are ethnic Turks who live in Western Thrace, in the north-eastern part of Greece.

According to the Greek census of 1991, there were approximately 50,000 Turks in Western Thrace, out of the approximately 98,000 strong Muslim minority of Greece.[1] Other sources estimate the size of the Turkish community between 120,000 and 130,000.[2][3] The Turks of Western Thrace are not to be confused with Pomaks or Muslim Roma people of the same region, counting 35% and 15% of the Muslim minority respectfully.[4][5]

In response to the declaration of independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, the Greek government adopted a policy of referring to the Turkish community as Greek Muslims or Hellene Muslims, and does not recognise a separate Turkish minority in Western Thrace.[2] Nevertheless, the fundamental rights of this community are enshrined in the Greek constitution and the Treaty of Lausanne.


Western Thrace became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1354 and remained in Ottoman control until 1913. At this year, the Turkish community outnumbered the Greek community four to one and owned close to 84% of the land. By August 31, 1913 the Turks of Western Thrace had formed the first 'Turkish republic', the Provisional Government of Western Thrace.[6] However, it was taken over by the Kingdom of Bulgaria on October 25, 1913, which had been victorious in the First Balkan War. France occupied the area at the end of the First World War, following the defeat of Bulgaria, and it passed into Greek hands under the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920.[7] Under a protocol of the same year, the Turks of Western Thrace were exempted from the 1922-1923 exchange of populations agreement between Greece and Turkey and were granted rights within the framework of the Lausanne Treaty. However, since 1923, between 300,000 to 400,000 Turks have left Western Thrace most of which have immigrated to Turkey.[8][9]

A number of estimates and censuses during the 1912-1920 period gave the following results about the ethnic distribution of the area that would became known as Western Thrace:[10]

General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace (1912-1920)
Census/Estimate Muslims Pomaks Bulgarians Greeks Others Total
1912 estimate 120,000 - 40,000 60,000 4,000 224,000
1919 Bulgarian 79,539 17,369 87,941 28,647 10,922 224,418
1919 Bulgarian 77,726 20,309 81,457 32,553 8,435 220,480
1920 French 74,730 11,848 54,092 56,114 7,906 204,690
1920 Greek 93,273 - 25,677 74,416 6,038 201,404

The Pomak population depending on the source was sometimes counted together with the Turks according to the Ottoman system of classifying people depending on religion, while in other occasions was specified separately. On the other hand, according to the Bulgarian view, they are considered "Bulgarian Muslims" and an integral part of the Bulgarian nation.[10]

According to the Turkish thesis, as it was presented at Lausanne Peace Conference (1920), the general distribution of population in Western Thrace was as follows:[11]

Turkish thesis on the General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace in 1920 (before the population exchange)[11]
Cities Turks Greeks Bulgarians Jews Armenians Total
Komotini 59,967 (74,8%) 8,834 (11%) 9,997 (12,5%) 1,007 (1,3%) 360 (0,4%) 80,165 (100%)
Alexandroupolis 11,744 (42,7%) 4,800 (17,5%) 10,227 (37,2%) 253 (0,9%) 449 (1,6%) 27,473 (100%)
Soufli 14,736 (46,4%) 11,542 (36,3%) 5,490 (17,3%) - - 31,768 (100%)
Xanthi 42,671 (81,7%) 8,728 (16,7%) 522 (1%) 220 (0,4%) 114 (0,2%) 52,255 (100%)
Total 129,120 (67,4%) 33,910 (17,7%) 26,266 (13,7%) 1,480 (0,8%) 923 (0,5%) 191,699 (100%)

During Ottoman rule before 1912, Greeks constituted a minority in the region of Western Thrace.[12] After the Balkan Wars and World War I the demography of the region was changed. While groups such as the Turks and Bulgarians decreased, the Greek population increased by the resettlement of ten thousands of Greek refugees from other areas of the Ottoman Empire, after the flight of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor, as a result of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and the subsequent population exchange between Greece and Turkey.[13] Of all Greek Asia Minor refugees (578,824 individuals), 31% of them were resettled in Western Thrace.[14] The Greek government's reason to settle the refugees in this region was to strengthen the Greek presence in the newly acquired provinces and the homogenization of the population.[15] The Greek government especially resettled the refugees in Komotini, Xanthi and Sapes regions where the majority of Muslim Turks lived.[16]

General Distribution of Population in Western Thrace in 1923, presented by the Greek delegation in Laussane (after the relocation of Asia Minor refugees)[17]
Districts Total Total Greeks Local Greeks Relocated Greek refugees Turks Bulgarians Jews Armenians
Komotini 104,108 45,516 11,386 33,770 50,081 6,609 1,112 1,183
Alexandroupolis 38,553 26,856 9,228 17,518 2,705 9,102 -
Soufli 32,299 25,758 11,517 14,211 5,454 1,117 - -
Xanthi 64,744 36,859 18,249 18,613 27,882 - -
Didymoteicho 34,621 31,408 21,759 9,649 3,213 - - -
Orestiada 39,386 33,764 22,087 11,677 6,072 - - -
Total 314,235 199,664 (63,5%) 94,226 (30,0%) 105,438 (33,6%) 95,407 (30,4%) 16,828 (5,4%) 1,112 (0,4%) 1,183 (0,4%)


The Turkish community has a strong presence in Komotini (Turkish: Gümülcine) and Xanthi (Turkish: İskeçe) departments, while it is scarcely present in the Evros prefecture, the closest to the international boundary with Turkey. According to estimates, Muslims as a whole, represented 36-38% of the Rhodopi Department population, 12-24% in the Xanthi Department and less than 5% in the Evros Department.[18]



According to Ethnologue, in 1976 the Turkish language was spoken by 128,000 people in Greece, the majority of which are located in Western Thrace.[19] However, the Greek language is also widely used.

The Muslims of Western Thrace between 1919-1995[20]
Census/ statistics Total Turkish speaking Pomaks Roma Others
Bulgarian 1919 (A) 96,908 79,539 17,369 - -
Bulgarian 1919 (B) 98.035 77,726 20,309 - -
French 1920 86,578 74,730 11,848 - -
Greek 1920 3rd version 100,491 93,522 6,969 - -
Greek official 1928 102,621 84,585 16,740 <1,023  ?
Greek official 1951 105,092 85,945 18,664 303 180
Turkish MFA (1995) 150,000  ? ?  ?  ?
Greek MFA (1995) 120,000 ~60,000 ~42,000 ~18,000 -

Obligations of the Treaty of Lausanne

Article 37 through 45 of the Lausanne Treaty set forth the obligations of the Greek and Turkish governments to protect the Turkish and Greek minorities in their territories. Each country agreed to provide the following:[21]

  • Protection of life and liberty without regard to birth, nationality, language, race or religion
  • Free exercise of religion
  • Freedom of movement and of emigration
  • Equality before the law
  • The same civil and political rights enjoyed by the majority
  • Free use of language in private, in commerce, in religion, the press and publications, at public meetings and in the courts
  • The right to establish and control charitable, religious and social institutions and schools
  • Primary schools in which instruction is given in both languages
  • Full protection for religious establishments and pious foundation

The Lausanne Treaty defined the rights of the Muslim communities in Western Thrace, on the basis of religion, not ethnicity, as well as maintained a balance between the minority communities of both countries (Turks in Greece and Greeks in Turkey) on reciprocal obligations toward each of those minorities. The Treaty contained specific obligations for their cultural and religious rights. However, at no time since 1923 did Greek officials instigate, support, or undertake measures against the Muslims of Western Thrace similar to those undertaken by successive Turkish Governments against the Greek minority in Turkey (like forced labor battalions, the Istanbul pogrom), a minority that is nearly eliminated today (70,000 in 1923 to 3,000 in 2000).[22]


Members of the Greek Parliament

In 1990 a new electoral law was introduced in Greece, which set a threshold of at least 3% of the nationwide vote for a party to be represented in the parliament, independent Turkish MPs were thus barred from election at the 1993 elections. The participation of members of the minority in the Hellenic Parliament is since then assured by Turkish candidats from nationwide political parties, and the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace, which succeeded the Independent Muslim List in 1991, practically disappeared from the electoral scene.[23]

Turkish MPs from Rhodopi and Xanthi[23]
election elected Turkish MPs
1989 (June) Sadık Ahmet (Independent Muslim List)
1989 (November) Ismail Molla (Independent Muslim List)
1990 Sadık Ahmet, Ahmet Faikoğlu (Independent Muslim List)
1993 none
1996 Mustafa Mustafa (Synaspismós), Galip Galip (PASOK, architect),[24] Birol Akifoglu (ND)
2000 Galip Galip (PASOK), Mehmet Ahmet (PASOK; Mehmet Ahmet, already elected in 1981, was not directly elected in 2000, but he acted so that the elected MP, Hrissa Manolia, was forced to abandon her seat because she had not relinquished her other political mandate at the local level)[23]
2004 İlhan Ahmet (New Democracy, lawyer)
2007 Çetin Mandacı (PASOK), Ahmet Hacıosman (PASOK)
2009 Çetin Mandacı (PASOK), Ahmet Hacıosman (PASOK)
2012 Ayhan Karayusuf (Syriza, dentist), Hüseyin Zeybek (Syriza, pharmacist), Ahmet Hacıosman (PASOK)[25]

Greek legislative election, 2009

There are presently two Turkish MPs from Western Thrace, both affiliated to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Çetin Mandacı (Xanthi) and Ahmet Hacıosman (Rhodope), former president (1999–2007) of the Party of Friendship, Equality and Peace created by former (1989) MP Sadık Ahmet in 1991.[26]

At least 14 candidates from the Turkish minority have been nominated, mainly in Rhodope and Xanthi.[27]

For New Democracy, former MP (2004–2007) İlhan Ahmet and Ahmet Ahmet are candidates in Rhodope,[28] and in Xanthi Aysel Zeybek and Ahmet Budur.[29] Zeybek had lost her Greek citizenship under Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which allowed of its revocation for non-ethnic Greeks who left the country.[30] After a lengthy legal battle, she finally won her case with a second appeal before the European Court of Human Rights and re-secured her Greek citizenship in 2001.

For PASOK, Çetin Mandacı and Seval Osmanoğlu are among the 5 candidates in Xanthi, Rıdvan Kocamümin and Ahmet Hacıosman among the 5 in Rhodope.[31]

For the KKE (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Faik Faik in Rhodope and Hasan Efendi in Xanthi.

For SYRIZA (which presently has no MP in Xanthi or Rhodope), Hasan Malkoç and Hüseyin Zeybek are candidates in Xanthi,[32] and in Rhodope[33] Dr. Mustafa Mustafa (former MP) and Celalettin Yurtçu.[34]

Human rights issues


According to the former Article 19 of the 1955 Citizenship Law (No. 3370), a person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality. According to the Greek government, between 1955 and 1998, approximately 60,000 Greek Muslim individuals, predominantly Turkish, were deprived of their citizenship under Article 19. Of these 60,000, approximately 7,182 lost their citizenship between 1981 and 1997.[35] The application of this law to the Turks of Western Thrace was a retaliatory measure in response to the devastating state-sponsored pogrom which targeted the Greeks of Istanbul in September 1955.[36] The pogrom precipitated an exodus of ethnic Greeks from Turkey. Article 19 was repealed in 1998, though not retroactively.[35]

Ethnic identity

Since the Treaty of Lausanne used the criterion of religion to refer to the ethnic communities, Greek Government spokesmen have usually insisted that the basis of identification is religious and not ethnic (or national).[37] Thus Greek officials refer to the Muslim minority in Greece, but deny the existence of a Turkish minority.[38][39][40] This policy was introduced immediately after the illegal[41] "declaration of independence" of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 on lands that once had an 82% Greek majority before becoming refugees during the Turkish invasion in 1974. The Greek government declared that it was a measure to avert the possibility of Greek Thrace becoming a "second Cyprus" sometime in the future[42]

Greek courts have also outlawed the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe the Turkish community. In 1988, the Greek High Court affirmed a 1986 decision of the Court of Appeals of Thrace in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed. The court held that the use of the word 'Turkish' referred to citizens of Turkey, and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece; the use of the word 'Turkish' to describe Greek Muslims was held to endanger public order.[43] This led to about 10,000 people demonstrating against the decision in Western Thrace. According to members of the Turkish minority, it was the first time ethnic Turks had taken to the streets.[44]

Freedom of expression

More than 10 newspapers are issued in the Turkish language. According to some sources, newspapers, magazines and books published in Turkey are not allowed entry into Western Thrace,[45] and Turkish television and radio stations are sometimes jammed.[46] According to other sources the minority has full and independent access to its own newspapers radio, television, and other written media coming from Turkey, regardless of their content.[47]

Religious freedom

According to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish minority is entitled to freedom of religion and to the right to control charitable and religious institutions. However, the Turkish community believes that these international law guarantees have been violated by the Greek government[48] by denying permission to repair or rebuild old mosques or to build new mosques, by denying the right to choose the muftis (this chief religious officers), and by efforts to control the Turkish communities charitable foundations.[49] According to another source, more than 5 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Xanthi alone and 19 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Rhodope alone, while in the same prefecture the number of mosques exceeds 160.[50]


According to a report by a local organization there have been frequent (six in 2010 and three in the first months of 2011) attacks against the private and public property of Turks in Western Thrace. Among the recent incidents are three in 2010 (in Kahveci, Kırmahalle, Popos and Ifestos at Komotini) where attackers desecrated Turkish cemeteries and broke tombstones. There were also attacks against mosques, Turkish associations and Turkish consulates, attackers used methods like throwing stones, molotov bombs and damaging buildings.[51][52][53][54][55]



Between 300,000 to 400,000 Turks have left Western Thrace since 1923; most of them immigrated to Turkey.[8][9] Western Thrace Turks have also immigrated to Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria and Italy. Thus, overall there are an estimated 1 million Turks whose roots are from Western Thrace.[56]


It is estimated that there is between 25,000 and 40,000 Western Thrace Turks living in Western Europe.[57][58]


There are some members of the Greek Muslim community among the some 350,000 Greeks living in Germany who are Turks or who espouse a Turkish identity.[59] The majority of Turks immigrated from Western Thrace.[60] In the 1960s and 1970s, the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a severe crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income. This resulted in many Turks leaving their homes and immigrating to Germany with estimates suggesting that today there are now between 12,000[61] and 25,000[62] residing in Germany.


A minority of Western Thrace Turks can be found in the Netherlands, especially in the Randstad region; after Germany, the Netherlands is the most popular destination for Turkish immigrants.[63]

United Kingdom

There is an estimated 600-700 Western Thrace Turks living in London although this does not include those who are British born. The total number living outside of London is unknown.[63] However even their small number, Western Thrace Turks in the UK have their own community (Association of Western Thrace Turks UK)[64]

Notable people

See also



  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .

External links

  • , August 1990
  • , April 1992
  • , January 1999

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.