“You represent so much of what EFA works for across Europe”: EFA visits the Turkish minority in Western Thrace

The European political party visited Xanthi and Komotini for a series of meetings with their member party DEB Partisi and local organisations in the region representing the Turkish minority in Western Thrace. EFA heard of their struggles and the repression the community faces from the Greek government despite multiple ECHR rulings in favour of their rights.

The delegation, consisting of EFA president Lorena López de Lacalle, Vice-President Frank de Boer and staff started their visit to the region by holding a meeting with the Xanthi Turkish Union, an organisation which Greece has repeatedly refused to legally recognise and has faced numerous violations of their right of assembly – all because its name includes the word ‘Turkish’.


The EFA delegation meeting with the Xanthi Turkish Union

During the meeting, the EFA president expressed her solidarity with the Turkish minority community, with DEB Partisi and the Xanthi Turkish Union:

“You represent so much of what we in EFA work for across Europe: minority rights, language equality and recognition”.

During the meeting, several DEB Partisi and the Xanthi Turkish Union members informed EFA of their repeated failed attempts to seek peaceful negotiations with the Greek state to guarantee their freedoms and comply with the ECHR rulings in favour of their rights. The state refuses to recognise the Turkish minority’s identity, demonising those who openly describe their ethnic identity or speak out for their rights. The community is even facing a lawsuit against an association for fans of the Istanbul football team Fenerbahçe, encouraged by prominent state figures.

Poor conditions for school pupils

After the meeting, the delegation visited a school for the minority community and saw first-hand the poor conditions the children of the minority must face whilst trying to receive an education. A significant number of minority schools have been shut down on flimsy contexts in the last 10 years.

A series of photos of the minority school in Xanthi, many classrooms have poor ventilation and poor levels of natural light, the playground is a fraction of the accepted size and the school poses huge challenges in terms of fire safety and ease of emergency exit.

Strong Election Results

The visit to Western Thrace continued with a series of meetings between EFA and the board of DEB Partisi in the build-up to the crucial 2024 European elections. The EFA president took the opportunity to congratulate the party on their energetic campaigns and strong results in the 2014 and 2019 European elections.

siThe EFA delegation meets with the board of DEB Partisi

During the meeting, the issue of electoral thresholds arose, with the 3% national threshold effectively banning the party from ever winning representation in the Greek state or in the European parliament. This undemocratic situation is a matter of concern for many EFA parties facing similar situations, and EFA reiterates that European democracy cannot be considered complete until minority voices are granted equality.

Meeting community organisations

The delegation then met with several delegations from the community, all of which have faced repression from the state. The organisations comprising graduate fraternities, religious groups and community associations spoke of the serious repression they’ve faced against even their most basic rights of registration and assembly.

The EFA delegation with the leader of DEB Partisi and leaders of many organisations representing the Turkish minority

Paying tribute

The visit ended with a collective tribute to DEB Partisi’s founder Dr Sadik Ahmet beside his gravestone near Komotini. Along the way, EFA made visits to several villages to see the conditions in which the minority lives.

The EFA Delegation joined members of DEB Partisi to pay tribute at the grave of Dr Sadik Ahmet

Watch: EFA President Lorena López de Lacalle and DEB Partisi leader Çiğdem Asafoğlu summarise the visit to Western Thrace and speak of the party’s struggle for minority rights and true democracy.