Greece’s Education Ministry recently shut down eight Turkish primary schools in Western Thrace where the Turkish minority is concentrated, citing low attendance.
The move has been slammed by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry overnight as an attempt at “assimilation” and depriving the minority of the education of their choosing.
“This practice by Greece is a part of the assimilation and oppression efforts towards the Turkish minority in Western Thrace,” Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said.
With the latest closures, the number of Turkish minority primary schools, of which there had been 231 until 25 years ago, had dropped to 115, he said.
In response, Greece’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early this morning which said: “the educational choices of the Greek state… are made equally and without discrimination for all Greek citizens, always based solely on the quality of education provided and the interest of students.”
“It is at least paradoxical, if not funny, that Turkey indicates to Greece the need to respect minority rights,” the statement added.
“History will forever be the most objective witness to the systematic way in which Turkey has systematically eliminated all minorities in its territory during the twentieth century.”
Western Thrace’s Muslim-Turkish minority of around 150,000 people has long been an issue of contention between Ankara and Athens, with Turkey calling out Greece for what it calls a failure to grant full rights to the minority, including state denial of ethnic identity and restrictions on freedom of religion.