08/04/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Turkey claims that the closure of 12 minority primary schools in Thrace, a region geographically located across Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria, violated the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 regarding Greece’s Muslim minority. Athens responded that Ankara was spreading “fake news” and “distorting reality” with their recent allegations.
Greece clarified the closures saying that an additional 24 public schools were closed along with the 12 minority schools. All 36 schools were closed due to low enrollment, less than the minimum of nine students, and all students were transferred to schools around 1 kilometer away.
In response, Greece further highlighted the size disparity between the Muslim minority in Thrace and the Greek minority in Turkey. Though both groups were around the same size at the time of the agreement in 1923, only 3,000 Greeks remain in Turkey while more than 120,000 Muslims live in Thrace.
Similarly, access to education for each minority group varies widely based on the country. Turkey has enforced the closure of Halki Seminary since 1971 after the seminary operated for 127 years serving the Greek Orthodox community and training clergy. The seminary shut its doors after Turkey issued a new law that required higher education institutions to nationalize or close.
“In 2010 Erdoğan gave an interview during which he made reopening conditional on improvements which benefit the ethnic Turkish community in Greece’s Thrace. Both goals are laudable, but by connecting them, Erdoğan pursued a policy of reciprocity with foreign entities and failed to uphold the religious liberty of Turkish citizens. This policy exploits Christians in Turkey, and promotes the view that Christians are ‘indigenous foreigners’,” as stated in ICC’s joint report on Turkey.
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