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Chronology for Muslims in Greece

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Muslims in Greece, 2004, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jan 26, 1990 Turkey condemns a Greek court decision to jail 2 Turkish leaders on what it calls "meaningless and inconsistent charges" and accuses the Greeks of making efforts "to prevent the election rights of the Muslim Turkish as Greek citizens holding equal rights." Ahmet Sadiq, an ethnic Turkish member of the Greek Parliament, along with an independent candidate in the upcoming elections were sentenced to 18 months in jail and barred from politics for 3 years for "disturbing the peace and inciting discord." Sadiq, Greece's first independent member of Parliament, had been elected to parliament last June but has been disqualified from running again in the upcoming elections. His major crime was describing Greece's Muslim population as Turks while Greece insists on describing them as Greek Muslims. He was also accused of spreading false rumors that Greek Muslims "live in a climate of terror and anarchy."
Jan 29, 1990 Rioting between Greek Muslims and Christians, as well as the destruction of Turkish shops, the ransacking of 2 Turkish newspaper offices and general looting, occur in the northern Town of Komotini when 1,500 Greek Muslims gather near a Mosque chanting "we are Turks" in protest of the 1982 Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of the word "Turkish" in the names of political organizations. Turkey later protests the incident to the Greek government citing "the tolerant attitude of the Greek authorities to attacks on our kinsmen." The Greeks deny the allegation and accuse the Turks of fostering a "climate of division" and accuse them of inciting the incident. They also ask Turkey to recall its council from Komotini which, of course, results in the reciprocal expulsion of a Greek diplomat from Turkey.
Mar 7, 1990 Greek Muslims in Thrace participate in a 24-hour general strike to protest the government's neglect of the region.
Mar 30, 1990 Sadiq's jail sentence is reduced by an appeals court from 18 to 15 months. Also a court in the northern town of Komotini, where he was a candidate, ruled he could stand in the upcoming elections.
Apr 8, 1990 Two independent Muslim candidates are elected to the 300 seat Parliament. Also, the New Democratic Party wins 150 seats and forms a coalition with the Democratic Renewal Party, which has 1 seat, to form an absolute majority in Parliament.
Nov 9, 1990 Parliament passes a law creating a 3% vote threshold in order to be elected to Parliament. This will prevent small parties, like those of the 2 Muslim independent members of Parliament, from being elected to Parliament.
Dec 1990 Muslims in Komotini deny the government's right to select their Mufti (religious leader) and try to elect their own Mufti using a never applied 1920 statute. The President abrogates the statute and confirms the appointment of the current Mufti. However, a new method for the appointment of future Muftis which includes consultations with community leaders is established by the government.
Feb 1, 1991 Greece protests a US human rights report which says that Muslims and Slavic speaking Macedonians in Greece are suffering from discrimination.
Mar 1991 Greece and Turkey trade charges over Greece's denial of entry to a group of Turkish preachers who wish to help the Muslim community in Thrace to celebrate the Islamic fast of Ramadan.
May 1991 The Prime Minister, during a visit to Thrace, concedes past errors in the treatment of Muslim citizens and pledges their full equality before the law.
Jun 1991 A home made bomb explodes in a Muslim owned video shop in Athens.
Aug 24, 1991 800 Muslims in the northern town of Xanthi march to protest the appointment of a new Mufti (Islamic religious leader) by the Greek state which is responsible for choosing Muslim religious leaders. They clash with 300 Christian shopkeepers who claim the protest is obstructing their businesses. Greek authorities arrest 2 Christians for inciting violence and vandalism.
Aug 24 - 29, 1991 Turkish immigrants from Greece block the entrance to Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Patriarchate building in protest of the Xanthi incident.
Aug 27, 1991 Turkey asks the EC to investigate Greece's treatment of ethnic Turks in western Thrace citing "a systematic and massive violation of the rights and freedoms of the minority by Greek authorities and fanatical elements."
Nov 18, 1991 11 members of an extreme right-wing group called the "Young Silent Commandos" are arrested for possession of arms and explosives similar to a home made bomb that exploded in a Muslim owned video shop in Athens last June. Police quote the youths as saying they intended to use their weapons to "protect the motherland against anti-national and criminal elements."
Feb 1992 The US Department of State Human Rights Report for 1991 reports that there were no complaints in 1991 that the Greeks withheld permission for the construction and repair of mosques. It also reports that official harassment of the Muslim community in Thrace dropped in 1991 including a significant easing of impediments to obtaining various licenses and permits.
Mar 13, 1993 After investigating possible arson after a fire at a Mosque in the northern town of Alexanderopolis, police determine that the fire was started by an untended wood-burning stove. Muslim leaders, however, say that the fire was started deliberately. Regardless, the Greek government says it will pay for the costs of repairs. The incident causes a rise in tensions between Thrace's Christian and Muslim communities.
Mar 19, 1993 A Greek Muslim is sentenced to 5 years in jail for burning 2 Greek flags.
Apr 7, 1993 Despite government efforts to make it voluntary, Parliament votes to maintain the mandatory listing of religion on state identity cards.
Sep 9, 1993 The government loses its absolute majority in Parliament and chooses to plunge the country into elections rather than seek the support of 2 independent Muslim deputies.
Oct 1993 Although there were 10 Muslims standing for election on the tickets of major parties, none are elected to Parliament. The independent candidates that had previously been elected to parliament are unable to overcome the 3% margin necessary for election to Parliament. Also, a Muslim candidate running on the PASOK ticket resigns from the party when it demands that he stop identifying himself as an ethnic Turk.
Feb 1, 1994 A Greek appeals court reduces the sentence of former independent Parliament deputy Ahmet Sadiq to from 30 to 16 months and says he can pay off his jail term for the equivalent of two dollars a day. He was charged with "spreading false information and forgery" during the 1993 election campaign for calling himself a Turk. The court also approved the confiscation of material on Greece's Islamic community from Sadiq.
Mar 30, 1994 Turkey accuses Greece of violating the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the rights of ethnic Turks by replacing the community appointed teachers in Turkish language schools.
Jul 1994 The Greek government denies entry to 6 religious leaders form Turkey on the grounds that they intend to engage in political, not religious, religious activities.
Jul 4, 1994 The European Commission on Human Rights agrees to consider a free speech complaint by former Parliament deputy Sadiq who was sentenced to jail for using the words "Turk" and "Moslem Turks" in political broadcasts.
Aug 16, 1994 An anonymous caller claiming to speak for a new Moslem group called the Turks of West Thrace claims responsibility for an attempted bombing at Alexanderopolis airport in northern Greece.
Sep 1994 Parliament redraws electoral districts in Athens and Thrace in such a manner that it becomes virtually impossible for a Moslem to be elected to local office.
Dec 31, 1994 No Greek Moslems passed the entrance examinations to attend Greek Universities this year.
Jan 25, 1995 Mohmet Emin Aga, a Moslem clergyman, is jailed for 10 months for assuming the title of Mufti (religious leader) of a Moslem community in Northeast Greece. Under Greek law, the state has the right to choose the Moslem minority's 2 Muftis. This action provokes international criticism.
Jan 31, 1995 A second Moslem clergyman is sentenced to a year in jail after refusing to sign documents which the Greek police would have used to strip minority members of their citizenship on the grounds that they had left the country permanently. He is later released after paying a fine. The incident provokes international criticism.
May 3, 1995 Greece accuses a visiting Turkish official of provocative behavior by describing Greece's Moslem minority as "Turks" during an unofficial visit to northern Greece. The official is later pelted by rocks, lighters, lemons, and other objects by angry Greek protesters.
Jul 27, 1995 Thousands of Greek Moslems attend the funeral of former Greek Moslem parliament Deputy Ahmet Sadiq who died in a car crash.
Aug 9, 1995 Mohmet Emin Aga, a Moslem Cleric who had been jailed for claiming the title of Mufti without the government's permission (see January 25, 1995) is freed after paying a fine. He faces a new trial on similar charges in September.
Jan 28, 1996 Turkey began to challenge the Greek occupation of an uninhabited island lying between the two countries. The dispute raged for a month, and eventually required the intervention of the United States to prevent military conflict. Tensions between Turkey and Greece remained high for years afterward. It will not be further discussed in this chronology.
May 3, 1996 Turkish and Bulgarian-speaking citizens of Thrace and Eastern Macedonia demonstrated during the first visit of Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the area, and presented him with a list of demands, including an independent education system and the right to choose their own religious leaders. The Bulgarian speakers also demanded economic equality with Greeks, who could buy trade licenses which were denied to the Bulgarians. Both the Turks and the Bulgarians were Muslim. (Agence France Presse 5/3/96)
Dec 25, 1996 Violence broke out after police stopped the repair of a Turkish mosque which they said did not have a valid construction permit. Police arrested twenty people, including an imam, and injured a man who protested the arrests. The Turkish government lodged a protest against the action with the Greek embassy. (Agence France Presse 12/25/96)
Jan 4, 1997 A Greek Orthodox Christian bishop urged Christians to protest the construction of a new mosque whose minaret will be 16 meters (53 feet) high. The bishop did not want mosque minarets to be higher than church steeples, which usually stand under 12 meters (40 feet). (Agence France Presse 1/4/97)
Jan 23, 1998 The Greek government abolished article 19 of the nationality code, which had contained a provision to take away the Greek citizenship of those who were not ethnic Greeks. According to official figures, some 7,000 Greek Moslems of Turkish origin were stripped of their Greek nationality between 1981 and 1996. However, the elimination of the article was not retroactive, and Greek foreign minister Georges Papandreou said he would "not allow the Moslem population to be integrated into Greek society." (Agence France Presse 1/23/98)
Feb 9, 1998 A government official confirmed that Greece had quietly filed a complaint with NATO accusing Turkey of "feeding a secessionist movement in Western Thrace," as well as starting fires in Greek forests, facilitating illegal immigrant transfer to Greece and encouraging drug trafficking in Greece. (Agence France Presse 2/9/98)
Feb 25, 1998 A Greek court sentenced a Muslim cleric of Turkish origin to fourteen months of jail for filling the seat of mufti even though he was not appointed to the position under Greek law. Mehmet Emin Aga had been elected as the leader by the Muslim community. He had been convicted of this crime seven times since 1994, and opted to pay a fine rather than go to jail. Amnesty International had appealed on Aga's behalf and threatened to treat him as a political prisoner if jailed. Turkey also protested the decision. (Agence France Presse 2/26/98)
May 3, 1998 Sixty Greek intellectuals, MPs, professors and entertainers petitioned for the separation of church and state and an end to the mandatory mention of religion on national identity cards. (Agence France Presse 5/6/98)
Jan 27, 1999 Mehmet Emin Aga, the mufti (religious Moslem leader) of Xanthi, was sentenced by a Greek appeals court in Lamia on January 27 on charges of illegal behavior by issuing religious messages in 1996. The Turkish government again filed protest, saying the Greeks had violated the Lausanne Agreement and were trying to "suppress" the Turkish minority. (Agence France Presse 1/29/99)
Feb 8, 1999 A Greek policeman was injured while defusing a bomb placed outside the Turkish consulate in Thrace. While the consulate had often been targeted by anti-Turkish nationalists, it had never been attacked before. (Agence France Presse 2/8/99)
Oct 5, 1999 Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis declared an "unprecedented friendliness" between Turkey and Greece, the result of meetings with leaders and a gradual thaw of relations. Greeks greatly helped Turkey after a devastating earthquake on August 17. (Agence France Presse 10/5/99)
Oct 20, 1999 An appeals court in Patras has adjourned the case against 12 ethnic Turkish Muslim teachers who were charged with membership in an illegal association, "a union of Turkish teachers in Western Thrace." The group had been sentenced to eight months in prison in 1997 for using the word "Turkish" to define the association, which had protested in 1994 against the use of Greek schoolbooks to teach Muslim children. On the 19th, the Greek foreign ministry announced that ethnic Turkish Muslim primary school children in the northeastern Thrace region would be allowed to study from Turkish schoolbooks, which would be distributed imminently. (Agence France Presse 10/20/99)

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