ANKARA

Turkey slammed Greece on Wednesday over systematically closing down Turkish minority schools in the country’s Western Thrace region, depriving the minority of the education of their choosing.

Athens’ practice of “temporary suspension” of minority schools in Western Thrace – a region boasting a Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000 – for the past 25 years is a part of Greece’s “assimilation and oppression” policy, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.

Such oppressive policies “have been carried out for decades against the Turkish minority in Western Thrace,” read the statement.

For 25 years, Greece has been systematically shutting down schools belonging to the Turkish minority on the pretext of austerity measures and insufficient enrollment, said the ministry.

Telling how eight more schools belonging to the Turkish minority in Western Thrace were recently shuttered, Aksoy said over the last quarter-century the number of schools belonging to the Turkish minority was cut in half from 231 to 115.

“The European Union is watching the systematic violation of human rights in a member state,” Aksoy added.

Underscoring that Athens’s policy violates the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Aksoy called on Greece to end its policy of using pretexts to violate the education rights of minority children and to instead reopen these schools.

Aksoy also expressed support to statements made by Turkish minority institutions and organizations in Western Thrace, urging the international community and human rights groups to recognize and press on the issue.

“Our initiatives with Greek authorities to solve the educational problems of the Western Thrace Turkish minority will be resolutely continued on the basis of reciprocity established by the Lausanne Peace Treaty,” the statement added.

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