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La minorité musulmane de Grèce

Muslims with Greek citizenship residing in Greece (in total about 120,000) are mainly concentrated in Thrace (about 100,000) and in the Dodecanese Islands (Rodhes and Kos), with about 2,000 on each island). Another 15,000 have emigrated from Thrace for economic reasons to Athens or other Greek cities. For political and economic reasons in the context of Greek-Turkish confrontations of the 1960s and 1970s, a wave of Muslims emigrated from Thrace to Turkey and Germany or elsewhere.
The Muslims of Greek citizenship of Thrace are the only recognised minority in Greece, governed by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). They are mostly Turkish speakers and express Turkish national feelings. About 20,000 of them have Pomak (a Bulgarian dialect) as their mother tongue, partly expressing an ethnic Pomak identity, often along with a Turkish (national) identity, and about 5,000 speak Roma (partly expressing an ethnic Roma identity), although most of the Muslim Roma are monolingual Turkish speakers. As religion and mother tongue ceased to be a question in the national census after 1951, all the above figures are rough estimates. Minority Muslims are all Sunni except of 2,500 who are Bektashi/Alevi. The identity issue in Thrace has remained controversial insofar as Greek and Turkish nationalism confront in order to keep control over the minority. The respective judgements of the Greek courts and the European Court of Human Rights are indicative of a really astonishing and persistent ideological use of law by the Greek courts, regarding the right of associations to use the term “Turk/Turkish” in their title.

Minority Muslims of Thrace work mostly in agriculture, construction or industries. They are mainly field workers, peasants and farmers, owners of shops, merchants, and employees in the private sector. Only very recently have Muslim employees –although in very small numbers- been hired in the public sector in Thrace or the Dodecanese islands. In the minority, the elite is found among university graduates : pharmacists, dentists, lawyers, physicians, engineers, as well as the Muslim teachers working for the minority schools.

Since 1923, the minority of Thrace is governed by the chapter of the Treaty of Lausanne on minority protection (art. 37-45) which creates mirror obligation for Turkey and Greece regarding non-Muslims and Muslims respectively. This legal protection system stems from the millet system of the Ottoman empire, as the attribution of religious and linguistic rights depended on religion. Since early times, and especially after 1964 and 1974, minority protection suffered from Greek-Turkish antagonisms through the notorious principle of (negative) reciprocity. However, the ‘Lausanne system’ survived unchanged since the new era that the United Nations system introduced in minority protection and the new multilateral minority protection system established in Europe after 1991. Thus the status of the Turkish/Muslim minority of Thrace encompasses specific minority rights regarding religious freedom and linguistic rights in parallel to the general human rights.

Source : TSITSELIKIS, Konstantinos, Old and New Islam in Greece. Boston/Leiden : Martinus Nijhoff, 2012.

D 9 février 2023    AKonstantinos Tsitselikis

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