Turkiye reiterated support Tuesday for the Turkish minority community in Greece as a recent probe continues into the Xanthi Turkish Union (Iskece Turk Birligi-ITB) because of a right march last July.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry asserted on Twitter the probe is part of Greece’s plan of intimidating and punishing minority members who seek to reclaim their rights which were guaranteed by various bilateral and international treaties, including the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. The ministry highlighted that Greece did not implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the registration of the ITB, because it contained “Turkish” in its title.

“Against the discrimination, we stand by the Western Thrace Turkish minority,” the ministry added.

The march by the Xanthi Turkish Union, one of the oldest and most influential associations of the Turkish minority in Greece, had been attended by thousands and prominent figures who protested that Greece had not applied decisions of the ECHR which favored the minority.

Decades-long struggle for rights

Under a 2008 ECHR ruling, the right of Turks in Western Thrace to use “Turkish” in the name of associations was guaranteed but Athens has failed to carry out the ruling, effectively banning the Turkish group’s identity.

The Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish community of around 150,000. In 1983, the nameplate of the Xanthi Turkish Union (Iskece Turk Birligi) was removed and the group was completely banned in 1986, on the pretext that “Turkish” was in its name.

To apply the ECHR decision, in 2017, parliament passed a law banning associations from applying for re-registration but the legislation included major exceptions that complicated applications.

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