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The Political Writings of the Minority Press


By
Vemund Aarbakke
Introduction
The Muslims in Greek Thrace are not migrants as in Western Europe, but were left in
situ as the Ottoman Empire receded. There are different ways to describe this kind of
minority experience. Scholars have referred to them as a “beached diaspora” (Madianou
2005: 526). A minority author characterised them as people “left behind in the former
European realms of the Ottoman Empire” (Dede 1975). Consequently the minority had
much of its social and political organisation intact when the area was annexed to Greece
in 1920. The Lausanne treaty and ensuing population exchange (1923) exempted the
Muslim minority, together with the Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul. This connected
the fate of the minority to fluctuations in Greek-Turkish relations as both countries
approached the minority issue within the conceptual framework of intergovernmental
reciprocity (Akgönül 2008). To a certain degree this is just a reflection of who are the
dominant factors in minority politics. The minority members are often mobilised simply
as secondary actors in the tug of war between the two states. Much of the writings about
the minority have also been filtered through this perspective. In the following paper I take
writings by minority members who live in Greece as my point of departure. They have
certainly also been influenced strongly by the overarching framework of Greek-Turkish
relations, but they also present aspects of the minority that are less known and little
explored.
The text consists of two parts. The first part will present a historical review of the
function and development of the minority press, thus presenting the overall context it has
evolved within. The main focus is on political writings. I make no attempt to give an
exhaustive list of every publication. Admirable attempts have been made by others to
catalogue the minority press (Konortas 1985; Popovic 1986; Saglam 2000). This is no
simple task since some papers were issued just for a brief period, while others were
issued with great irregularity. Up until the 1990s it was in most cases simple publications
consisting of one or two sheets of paper. The second part concentrate on the turbulent
period 1985-1996 in order to present a more detailed view of how the minority press
coped with a period when it went through a great political and moral crisis. The idea is to
give a clear presentation of some of the issues at stake and then analyse how they were
dealt with in the context of minority politics. In this way I hope to shed more light on the
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many intricacies of minority politics. Extensive references to texts make it possible to


explore questions related to style and rhetoric. It also helps us to become acquainted with
the repertory of many people who have played a central role in minority politics.
My interest in the minority press goes back a long while. The minority first caught my
attention in the late 1980s, when I was a student at the Institute of Modern Greek and
Balkan Studies, University of Copenhagen. At this time the minority started to be
prominently featured in the Greek mainstream press. In spring 1991 I stayed in
Thessaloniki on a scholarship and became acquainted with a minority member who
studied medicine there, Mehmet Bilge. I was also able to make my first trip to Thrace
when I accompanied Bjørn Cato Funnemark of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee as his
interpreter when he collected material for a report. In this connection I picked up my first
minority newspapers. I started to work on my doctoral thesis about the minority in 1993.
During the next years I had several extended stays in Thrace. As a result I became
acquainted with all the important minority politicians who were still alive as of 1993.
Since I was working on a contemporary subject I followed the Greek and Turkish press.
Not only for factual information, but also because of an interest in how the minority issue
was presented in the Greek and Turkish public space. Of course, the minority press holds
a privileged place in this connection, but it was not an easy task to obtain a systematic
collection of the relevant newspapers. There exists no complete archive of the minority
press. The “Culture and Education Foundation of Western Thrace Minority”
(C.E.FO.M.), which started up in May 2007, is now trying to remedy this situation.1
During my own most intensive period of research in the 1990s there was no such
institution. In most cases I was able to obtain complete or partial collections from the
publishers themselves and start subscriptions. Some of the older newspapers I obtained
from Mr. Rıza Kırlıdökme, who is one of a handful of minority members who possess
extensive collections. Traditional research before the advent of Internet was of course
more arduous, but also very interesting.2 I learned to know all the newspaper owners
personally and had the opportunity to discuss the issues during repeated visits over
several years. In spite of this I must conclude that in most instances the newspaper
articles were more revealing than private conversations. Not the least since many articles
were written in the heat of the moment while facing upcoming deadlines. In conversation

1 I am using the wording as it appears on its webpage (http://www.pekem.org/). This foundation is based in
Komotini and is better known by the acronyms in Greek (ΠΕΚΕΜ) or Turkish (BAKEŞ). The foundation
endeavors to collect all written material on the minority irrespective of language and origin. Besides
published sources, it has also an extensive collection of Master and Doctoral Theses.
2 Today several of the newspapers can be read online. Relevant links can be found at:
http://www.trakyaninsesi.com.
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the editors would be more careful, particularly if I brandished a recording device, and in
some instances they would try to keep up a certain pose towards me. Nevertheless, the
personal contacts helped me to obtain a better feel for the material. Through the course of
time I could also discuss some issues more openly for the simple reason that there was no
reason to conceal things they knew I was aware of. Methodologically the challenge was
to gain the requisite familiarity with the historical, social and personal factors that shaped
minority politics in order to contextualise the various conflicts and put them into proper
perspective. Both Greek and Turkish writing on the minority is often dominated by
certain stereotypes that take time to get to grips with. Another problem is that the
presentation of the minority press is often very partisan depending on which ideological
camp or interest group is involved. It is easy for outsiders to view the minority as a single
unit. This can sometimes even influence foreign writers who have no reason to become
involved in the internal minority squabbles. A glaring example is the Helsinki Watch
report from 1991 that mentioned even the most marginal newspapers of the group that
was dependent on Turkey and excluded very prominent newspapers belonging to
opposing factions.3

Minority Press and Ethnicity


Before proceeding further it is necessary to clear up a few popular misconceptions
regarding the minority’s ethnic structure. In order to put the minority press in proper
perspective, the analytical framework should corresponds with relevant categories found
in the empirical material. One approach that can be very misleading is the current habit of
dividing the minority according to three ethnic groups, i.e. those of “Turkish origin”
(tourkogeneis), Pomaks and Gypsies. It has been a central concern of Greek policy to
differentiate the minority members from the Turks of Turkey. Traditionally this was done
by insisting on its definition as a Muslim minority following the literal wording of the
Lausanne Treaty (1923). This position was left untenable when international
developments in minority protection put emphasis on minority members’ right to declare
their ethnicity themselves as formulated in the OSCE meeting in Copenhagen June 1990
(Heraclides 1997). Greece came under further pressure with a Helsinki Watch report
titled: Destroying Ethnic Identity - The Turks of Greece (Whitman 1990). The new
dogma was formulated when the then PM, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, visited Thrace in
May 1991 to announce a change in Greek minority policy and signifies a need to make

3Whitman 1990. See the comment in: Trakya’nın Sesi 398/31.10.1991, “Conversation with Onsunoğlu part
2” [original in Turkish]
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Greek official terminology correspond better with terms in common use internationally. It
says more about the concerns of the Greek state than about actual cleavages within the
minority. By this device the Turkish influence is partially accepted, but the real aim is to
stress the heterogeneous character of the minority.
To obtain a better understanding of ethnic relations within the minority it is necessary
to recapitulate a little. In the Ottoman Empire the main administrative divisions of the
population were made according to religious adherence. Whatever language the Muslims
may have spoken was secondary to the overarching religious identity. This is also the
reason why the minorities exempted from the Greek-Turkish population exchange in
1923 were defined according to religious criteria. Within the Muslim minority in Greek
Thrace we can at various periods find several subgroups of greater or lesser importance.
Besides the aforementioned Pomaks and Gypsies the minority has also included Kurds,
Circassians, Greek speaking Muslims from Crete, Albanians, religious subgroups such as
the Alevi, etc. As a curiosity I can also mention the descendents of Negroes, who had
been brought from Egypt to work on the large estates, who are still to be found in some
villages in the Xanthi plain.
The Turkish republic sought to modernise the country and impose a new Turkish
identity on its heterogeneous population. This led to a conscious clash with the old
religious establishment that was bound to have implications for the Muslim minority in
Greece as well (See below). Consequently the most important cleavage in the minority
until 1974 was the conflict between the conservative Muslims and the adherents of the
Turkish Kemalists reforms. In this connection it is significant to see which minority
newspaper used the old Ottoman (Arabic) script while others adopted the modern Turkish
(Latin) alphabet. Since the new alphabet could not be imposed like it was in republican
Turkey, it would only be introduced gradually and was to a certain degree influenced by
the fluctuations in Greek-Turkish relations. Another important issue in the minority press
is the more recent phenomenon of featuring some articles written in Greek.
The question of a Gypsy or Pomak press, on the other hand, is very marginal. To begin
with, there is no Gypsy press and the overwhelming majority of the Gypsies have Turkish
as their mother tongue. The Gypsies exist as a separate ethnic group to the extent that
they often live in separate quarters, intermarry and have their own way of life. They often
pose as Turks, but are viewed by other minority members as Gypsies.4 This is, however,
irrelevant for a discussion of the minority press. The Pomak issue is a little trickier. The
Pomaks have been a bone of contention between Bulgarian, Greek and Turkish

4 For the issue of Pomak and Gypsy identities within a Greek political context, see Troubeta 2001.
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nationalism. Bulgarian nationalists coined the term “Bulgarian Muslims” and claim them
for the Bulgarian nation on account of their language. Greek nationalists attempt to trace
their origin back to ancient Thracian tribes that are related to the Greeks. Turkish
nationalists try to connect them to Turkish tribes that arrived in the Balkans before the
Ottomans. All these efforts are mainly an exercise on paper that has little to do with the
situation on the ground.5 Before 1974 the Pomak identity was of minor importance within
the dynamics of minority politics. An authoritative analysis of the minority’s electoral
behaviour for the period before 1967 puts correctly little emphasis on the Pomak factor,
and only in the area of Xanthi where they were most numerous and there was no
organised conservative wing (Nikolakopoulos 1990-1991: 184). One of the reasons is that
Pomak identity is found in its unadulterated form mainly in isolated mountain villages.
Social mobility has usually entailed assimilation to the dominant Turkish culture. Even
though questions related to religion and ethnicity was not included in Greek censuses
after 1951, we can from time to time encounter figures concerning the ethnic composition
of the minority. These are unofficial census figures that are not published in a regular
fashion. Figures collected in connection with the 2001 census gives a total of 111,000
Muslims with the following breakdown: 47% Turkish Origin, 32% Pomaks and 21%
Gypsies (Kostopoulos 2009: 291). It is not very clear to me what are here the criteria for
the Pomak category since it is not a unified group. There are no overarching
organisational structures to provide them with collective cohesion based on their ‘ethnic’
particularities. We can find Pomak identity in all phases of transition from the
unadulterated Pomaks in the mountain villages, to Pomaks who are fully assimilated into
a Turkish identity. The Turks harbour negative stereotypes towards the Pomaks, but
many Pomaks consider themselves Turks and furthermore Pomaks and Turks intermarry.
This development did not create concerns to Greek authorities as long as the main threat
was considered to come from Bulgaria. After 1974, however, we witness more concerted
efforts by Greek authorities to promote Pomak identity. (Troubeta 2001: 84). This
reached a peak with the various codification efforts of the language that resulted in the
appearance of several dictionaries and grammars in the period 1995-1997. These
codification efforts did not originate from within the minority.6 Most of them are
amateurish and slipshod.7 They seem to be motivated not so much by an interest in the

5 For a more thorough discussion, see Aarbakke 2010 (forthcoming).


6 The development of the Greek state’s policy towards Pomaks has been eminently covered by
Kostopoulos 2009.
7 See the philological criticism in Ioannidou, Alexandra and Christian Voss. “Kodifizierungsversuche des
pomakischen und ihre ethnopolitische Dimension.” Die Welt der Slaven XLVI, 2001.
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Pomak language and culture as by hostility to the Turkish influence. The first Pomak
newspaper Zagalisa (Love) appeared in 1997 and after being issued somewhat
infrequently over three periods it has reached 39 issues by March 2010.8 The caption of
the newspaper appears in Arabic and Greek script. While the early issues tried to
introduce articles written in the Pomak language, the current content is mainly
written in Greek and consists of anti-Turkish rhetoric reflecting opinions expressed by the
Greek nationalist right that is involved as sponsors of Pomak identity. Since we are not
dealing with an internally coherent group, the label Pomak can be misleading. If we are
interested in understanding their place within the dynamics of Greek and Turkish policies
it is more instructive to label them “half-completed Turks.” In this connection Greek
“Pomak experts” are promoting a policy of supporting their language as one of the
features that distinguish them from the Turks and prevent their complete assimilation
(Liapis 1995: 83–84). Turkey, on the other hand, tries to deny their separate features and
attempts to complete their assimilation into the Turkish national paradigm. The
appearance of Pomak newspapers should of course be welcomed to the degree that they
express a genuine interest and promote cultural diversity. At the moment,
however, they reflect the way the Pomaks are caught between the Turkish policy
of assimilation and Greek policy of differentiation. Within the context of the
minority press Pomak newspapers are a very recent and marginal phenomenon. A
completely different thing is of course that many writers in the Turkish language
press are of Pomak extraction since Turkish has been the language of minority
education.

A historical Review of the Minority Press


It can be useful to make a brief historical overview of the establishment of the
minority press in the area of Western Thrace. There was no local press tradition in
Western Thrace before the area came under Greek rule in 1920. Whatever newspapers
were read came from outside such as Yeni Asır and Salabet from Thessaloniki or Tasvir-i
Efkâr and İkbâl from Istanbul (Sağlam 2000: 6). The only known instance of a local
newspaper was Indépendant that came out with one issue in 1913 after the Second
Balkan War during the attempt to set up an Independent Republic of Western Thrace.
The local Jew Samuel Karaso published the newspaper that was written in French and
Turkish.9

8 It is currently issued monthly and can be found online: http://www.zagalisa.gr/.


9 Sağlam 2000: 7, 54. The newspaper is sometimes referred to as “İntependat” which must be a
transliteration of the way the name was rendered in the Arabic script.
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The first post-Lausanne newspaper Zaman (Times) was issued in 1923 by Tahsin Ziya
and the lawyer Hatzidakis for election propaganda. Analytically speaking, it is always
useful to ask basic questions such as: Who is the publisher and what is the target group of
a given newspaper? In this case we do not know much about the publishers, but it is fairly
safe to suppose that it was the usual attempt of joining forces on the eve of elections
without any deeper commitment from either of the sides. In recent times this kind of
collaboration has been most prominent in local elections. In order to understand the
dynamics of Minority-Majority relations we must keep in mind that the minority was not
integrated in Greek society on an individual basis. There are two communities interacting
within certain structures.10 The Christian politician who solicits the Muslim voters does
not appeal to them directly, but try to find an influential Muslim who can appeal to them
on his behalf. These middlemen owe their position to their ability to broker large sections
of the minority. Ottoman society was completely dominated by this class of local
notables (ağa-eşraf), and in Greek Thrace they kept their power much longer than was
the case in republican Turkey. The same people also acted as intermediaries towards the
Turkish consulate (Özgüç 1974: 55, 168). The minority’s lack of integration in Greek
society is exemplified by that none of the inter-war period minority newspapers
participated in local press associations (Tsioumis 1994:136). There are also other
examples of short-term collaboration for specific purposes, mostly in areas of economic
interest.
If we disregard recent times, historically the minority press has mainly been occupied
with internal oppositions. At least up until 1974 the main ideological front was between
the conservative Muslims who held on Ottoman traditions and the modernists who
adopted the Kemalist reforms. In the inter-war period both camps would claim to be the
true representatives of the minority and accuse the other of being imposed on the
minority by outside forces. There is a grain of truth in both positions, although neither of
the allegations should be taken at face value. Logically, there was some need of outside
inspiration, since there was no local press tradition. In the case of the conservative camp
this came in the form of “fugitives” who followed the retreating Greek army after the
Asia Minor front broke down or who left Turkey because of opposition to the Kemalist
regime. Among them were 13 persons from the list of “the 150” who had been declared
persona non gratae by the new regime.11 The most prominent of the exiles was the last

10 For this sense of community, see Kushner (1977: 102–103).


11 Iam here using the established terminology. “Fugitives” is in common use in international bibliography
as a translation of the Turkish Fıraliler. I should add, for those who are not in the know, that “the 150,” (in
Turkish Yüzellilikler), is a specific historical term. For a more extensive presentation of their activities in
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Şeyhülîslam (chief religious official in the Ottoman empire), Mustafa Sabri. Although
they came from outside, they must have been closer to the local tradition than the
adherents of the Kemalist reforms.
The most prominent adherents of the Kemalist reforms included the young teacher
Mehmet Hilmi (1901–1931) and Osman Nuri (1902–1990) who later had a long and
prominent political carer as MP after World War II. Mehmet Hilmi was later hailed as the
one who “kindled the light of Turkish nationalism in Western Thrace”.12 Both of them
were natives of Western Thrace, but had spent their formative years under the tutelage of
Young Turk institutions in Edirne. In this respect they represented a new and outside
influence in Thrace.
It is unlikely that any of the newspapers could cover their expenses by sales alone.
Questions surrounding the origin of regular or sporadic financial support have been a
reoccurring and sensitive issue, particularly during periods of tension in Greek-Turkish
relations. Greek writers will usually stress that Kemalist newspapers obtained support
from Turkey through the consulate in Komotini (Tsiumis 1994: 141–146). Kemalist
writers accuse routinely the conservative newspapers of being instigated and supported
by the Greek authorities. For example, Özgüç divides the minority press into the
“nationalist” (milliyetçi) press and the press “fed” (besleme) by the Greek authorities.13
Within this Turkish nationalist view this makes one group into Turkish patriots and the
other into traitors. Özgüç considers the newspaper Milliyet (Nationality – 1931-1968)
issued by Hamdi Hüseyin Fehmi (Hamdi bey) in Xanthi as a typical example of a
besleme newspaper (Özgüç 1974: 124). This is, however, a special case since Hamdi
bey’s dependence on the Greek authorities was a more important constant than his
ideological orientation. It was more usual for Greek authorities to offer discreet support

Thrace, see Dede (2009). Iordanoglou (1989:222) has correct reference to them, although he only includes
12. As a rule, however, Greek works are ignorant about the context of the 150 and, ignoring the domestic
Turkish dimension, present is as 150 persons who came to Greece. In order to clear up these common
misconceptions I quote the concise presentation of Erik Zürcher (1993: 170): «The Entente had wanted a
general amnesty to be part of the [Lausanne] treaty. Proposals for this were discussed in the sub-
commission on minorities, but the Turks did not want to grant a general amnesty to opponent of the
nationalists and, since no list of ‘undesirables’ had been prepared, they were unable to specify who should
be excluded from any amnesty. In the end, the Turkish government accepted the amnesty but reserved the
right to make 150 —as yet unnamed — exceptions. The amnesty was announced on 16 April 1924, but the
exceptions were still undetermined. A list was finally submitted to the assembly in June, and shortly
afterwards, those of ‘the 150’ who were still in the country were ordered to leave.»
12 Yıldız (1976). For another portrait by an admirer, see Trakya’nın Sesi 20/25.06.1982. The information is
taken from the minority newspaper Ülkü. No date is specified, but it must have been written by his
collaborators relatively shortly after his death.
13 Özgüç (1974: 116). Besides the primary meaning of feeding, besleme is also the term for a servant girl
brought up as a member of a household.
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to reinforce the cleavages within the minority. The inherent logic is that Turkey would
support Kemalist newspapers in order to exercise influence over the minority, while
Greece would support the conservatives in order to curtail influence by the Turkish state.
There are, however, variations. During periods of good relations, such as the early 1950s,
Greece favoured the Kemalists as a concession towards Turkey. The question of
financing has remained a sensitive issue. In recent times the journalist Hâki would often
mention that some newspapers did not base their existence on sales to the readers.14 He
would complain that when he went to a village to collect subscription money, some
villagers would remark that others left the newspapers for free. There has been great
competition for the semi-official and secret funds to minority members from Greece and
Turkey.15 In recent times some newspapers that were funded by Turkey would even point
this out to increase their prestige within the minority and simultaneously cast doubt about
the funding of their rivals.
Returning to the 1920s, the young Kemalists were based in Xanthi. Their first
newspaper of any merit was Yeni Ziya (New Light-sometimes viewed as a continuation
of the Thessaloniki newspaper with the same name that it obtained the printing press
from). It was the organ of the local Socialist Tobacco Workers Club, and came out with a
total of 104 issues over an 18-month period starting 24 June 1924.16 Eventually the
newspaper was discontinued when Mehmet Hilmi fell out with the Club, as he was more
occupied with the Turkish nationalist cause than labour issues. He subsequently
published Yeni Yol (New Road) beginning in 11 February 1926 and then Yeni Adım (New
Step) from 30 September 1926. The last newspaper is held in very high regard in
Kemalist minority circles.17 It is also one of the early newspapers with greatest longevity
as it remained in print after the death of Mehmet Hilmi until 1936. Mehmet Hilmi came
into conflict with the Greek authorities because of his writings and was exiled 3 times.
These exiles were of short duration, however, as Turkish diplomacy had the leverage to

14 İleri670/10.04.1992. For the discussion that follows, see also: İleri 652/25.10.1991, 669/03.04.1992,
691/23.10.1992, 692/30.10.1992.
15 For characteristic comments to the informal financial support to the minority press, see: İleri
(62/10.01.1977; 613/09.11.1990; 728/17.09.1993), İkibin’e Doğru 17.12.1989, Soltaridis (1993), Erdoğdu
(1993).
16 Sağlam 2000:7-8. I have not read the early newspapers in Arabic script in the original, but base my
account on the existing bibliography. In Turkish there are short references to these newspapers in Aydınlı
(1971) and Özgüç (1974), etc. Greek scholars have usually based their account on scattered translations
found in the archives of the Foreign Ministry (Tsioumis 1994; Soltaridis 1997). More recently Yannis
Bonos have written various articles based on his own reading of the original newspapers. In the
international bibliography Popovic (1986) presents an overview of the publications, but little about their
content.
17 One indication is that Aydın Ömeroğlu borrowed the name for the newspaper he issued among the
diaspora in Germany in the 1980s, as did Mehmet Müftüoğlu for his election newspaper in 1985.
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secure his return. We can consequently observe from the beginning that the minority
press became influenced by fluctuations in Greek-Turkish relations.
This was also the case with the conservative newspapers. It is probably hard to
imagine today, but the Ankara regime perceived the newspapers published in Greece as a
real threat to the new Turkish state. This is a testimony both to the prestige enjoyed by
some of those who fled to Greece and the insecurity of the new Kemalist regime. The
cabinet banned entry into Turkey of several conservative newspapers published in Xanthi
and Komotini and kept them under continuous surveillance. Western Thrace was
considered to be a haven for the anti-regime and anti-reform Turkish opposition. Ankara
reacted by accusing the Greek government of turning a blind eye to the seditious
propaganda spread by the ‘traitors’ who had fled from Turkey (Boyar 2007:119-122).
Mustafa Sabri reacted strongly to Turkish attempts to stop his writings and condemned it
as Turkish disrespect for press freedom:
The [Greek] government ought to answer officially those gentlemen who move heaven and earth
with the good relations [to Turkey] as pretext, and to teach them not to make suggestions outside their
authority. In the opposite case these faltering actions lead to the conclusion that Ankara fears the
Şeyhülîslam and that Greece fears Ankara…18

Greece would from time to time take measures to curb the activities of the conservatives
in order to please Turkey and eventually with the Greek-Turkish rapprochement in 1930,
after request by İsmet İnönü, Venizelos agreed to remove the most prominent persons
who were undesired by Turkey (Nikolakopoulos 1990-1991: 180). The conservative
camp continued to be influential, but time was on the side of the Kemalists since the
conservatives could not compete in the long term with the cultural and political weight of
republican Turkey.
The Kemalists gained new momentum in the early 1950s with the improvement of
Greek-Turkish relations. Many young minority members went to Turkey for studies and
returned imbued with the spirit of the new Turkey. The early 1950s is considered to be a
golden period for the minority, as Greece made a number of concessions to the Kemalists
in the name of Greek-Turkish friendship. The conservatives, however, were still very
influential. In 1950 they reasserted their influence with the foundation of the religious
association “Islamic Revival” (İntibah-i İslam), with Hafız Yaşar Mehmetoğlu (1920–
1992) and Molla Yusuf Hasanoğlu (1915–1969) as leading figures together with the
“fugitive” Hüsnü Yusuf. The most important conservative newspapers from this period
are Hak Yol (Righteous Road) and Sebat (perseverance). With the improvement of
Greek-Turkish relations, however, Greece cracked down on the most anti-Turkish section

18 Yarın 09.01.1928, quoted in (Soltaridis 1997: 205, n. 458).


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of the conservatives represented by some of the remaining “fugitives” from Turkey.


Hüsnü Yusuf was exiled outside Thrace. This period lasted until the pogrom against the
Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul in September 1955.19 This led to the return of
Hüsnü Yusuf and a Greek sponsored revival of the anti-Turkish section of the minority.
In the period up until 1967 the Kemalist side was represented by the newspapers Trakya
(Thrace - 1932-1941, 1946- 1965) in Xanthi and Akın (Attack - 1956-1993) in Komotini.
Trakya was the newspaper of Osman Nuri who served as MP from 1950 to 1965. He
represented the old established Kemalist ideal and was considered to be close to the
Turkish consulate. Akın was the first newspaper in Komotini issued entirely in the
modern Turkish script and was published by Asım Haliloğlu (1923-1980) and Hasan
Hatipoğlu (1923-2010). In the beginning it came as a breath of fresh air for the
modernists in Komotini, and created a following among the urban minority youth. Asım
Haliloğlu had spent most of his formative years in Turkey. He graduated from Istanbul
University, Faculty of Law. Consequently he was well acquainted with the Turkish
reality, but arrived in Thrace as an outsider with little knowledge of Greek society. Hasan
Hatipoğlu had attended a Greek secondary school in Komotini, and was one of the few in
the minority who had a good command of Greek. Although both Trakya and Akın
represented the modernist wing, this made them more into rivals than brothers in arms.
They also represented different versions of the modernist project. Osman Nuri wanted to
modernise and transform the minority on the model of the new Turkey, while Hatipoğlu
exploited Kemalism as a way of furthering his own political carer. He excelled in petty
politics acting as if he was the local representative of Turkey, and could be very
condescending and intimidating towards villagers. One of his best known exploits from
the 1960s concerns dressing up a friend to impersonate the Turkish consul and
accompany him when he drove around to the villages for election propaganda. After
saying a few words in the village coffee houses he pointed to the car on his way out and
told the villagers that the consul accompanied him.20

19 What is known in both Greek and Turkish as the “September Events” (Ta Septemvriana and Eylül
Olaylari, respectively), hold a special place in the history of Greek-Turkish relations. The pogrom was
organised by Turkish intelligence to put pressure on Greece during the Cyprus negotiations, and to prevent
the Greek Orthodox minority from consolidating its position in Istanbul. For a concise presentation of the
events, see (Alexandris 1983: 256–266). Lately Turkish scholars have also shown greater interest in
investigating some of these unsavoury aspects of Turkish policies. See for example, Güven (2005).
20 I know Hatipoğlu from a systematic reading of his newspaper, conversations with him over several years
from 1991 and after, and discussions of his role in minority politics with several leading minority members
from all factions. See also the portrait by İbram Onsunoğlu in Azınlıkça no. 55 March and 56 April 2010,
written shortly after his death.
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In the conservative camp there was also a differentiation between the strong anti-
Turkish position of the remaining “fugitives” and the more moderate conservative
traditionalists. The first group was represented by represented by Hüsnü Yusuf and Hafız
Ali Reşat, while the second had its most eloquent figure in Hafız Yaşar. The rivalry in the
modernist camp was very much related to the rivalry for the political representation of the
minority. Hasan Hatipoğlu represented the minority in Komotini for most of the period
before 1967, while Asım Haliloğlu challenged Osman Nuri unsuccessfully in Xanthi. The
conservatives did not have the same internal clashes as the modernist and were steadily
represented by Molla Yusuf. Molla Yusuf was not so much involved in the press, but
excelled by his ability intervene on behalf of minority members towards the Greek
authorities.
The old conservative-modernist opposition broke down during the course of the
colonels’ dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974). This was due to several factors. It was
natural that the minority could not be kept isolated from development in Turkey. Since
the minority had little contact with Greek education, the models for modern education
came from Turkey. With the passing of time and the boost in education spurred by the
Greek-Turkish rapprochement in the early 1950s the scales had tipped to the side of
Turkey. Another factor was the dwindling fortunes of the Greek Orthodox minority in
Istanbul, which influenced negatively the Muslim minority in Greek Thrace. This was
intensified during the colonel’s dictatorship when certain discriminatory measures
became institutionalised. As a result there was a general dissatisfaction in the minority
and the internal oppositions took on a secondary role. The dictatorship also laid a curb on
the minority press.
The post-1974 Minority Press
What was then the situation of the minority’s political press after the return of
democracy in 1974? Trakya had folded in 1965 when Osman Nuri ended his
parliamentary career. His younger cousin Selahattin Galip had been involved with the
publishing of Trakya and would go on to issue his own newspapers Azınlık Postası
(Minority Post 1967-1981), which continued the rivalry with Akın in the modernist camp.
Azınlık Postası was considered to be closer to Turkish diplomacy and had the most vocal
criticism of the discrimination against the minority during the dictatorship (İleri
380/29.03.1985). As a result Selahattin Galip served a prison sentence and was
eventually expelled from Greece and settled in Turkey.21 But there were also new

21 Galip would challenge the expulsion to no avail (Kourtovik 1997). He later published a selection of
writings from his newspaper in book form (Galip 1998).
- 13 –

newspapers on the scene. The newspapers were more or less one-man enterprises, and
very much coloured by the personality of the owners. A presentation of the newspapers
can give us an impression about the general situation of the minority press as well as the
particularities of the publishers. The most prominent for following the political situation
of the minority were:
İleri (Forward) Komotini (1975–2004?) founded by Salih Halil (Hâki) (1939–). Hâki was
the first person outside the urban elite to start a newspaper. He grew up in a village
(Rizoma), and after completing the medrese in Komotini he went to Turkey where he
graduated from an İmam-Hatip school. While others used their newspapers as vehicles
for their political ambitions, Hâki’s ambition was to be the chronicler of the minority. On
one hand this provides a greater variety than other newspapers, on the other he was rarely
able to see beyond the narrow world of minority politics. It was the first minority
newspaper to work systematically on distribution, since the newspaper was his main
source of income. He gets easily exited and has written many articles in anger where
other people would weigh their words more carefully. It is the newspaper that came out
with the greatest regularity in the period under discussion averaging more than 40 issues
a year.
Gerçek (Truth) Komotini (1977–1994) founded by İsmail Molla (Rodoplu) (1938–).
After completing the medrese in Komotini he went to Egypt for higher education. In the
1980s his newspaper was considered to be closest to the Turkish Consulate in Komotini.
It was consequently often expressing the “official” Turkish position. He was known to
make a point of that the Turkish Consulate funded him to increase his prestige and also
used this to throw suspicion on other newspapers’ sources of income. In the period under
discussion he was politically in an uneasy alliance with Akın. He was elected independent
MP for Rodopi in November 1989, when Sadık Ahmet was prevented from running.
Trakya'nın Sesi (Voice of Thrace) Xanthi/Komotini (1981–) founded by Abdülhalim
Dede (1956–). This newspaper represents an unusual mixture within the minority context.
It has a certain religious profile, and has reprinted various articles with religious content.
On the other hand, Dede is far from being a backward conservative and keeps in better
touch with general developments in Greek society than the other newspapers. He is very
outspoken and has often been in conflict with the group that enjoys Turkish patronage.
The psychiatrist İbrahim Onsunoğlu (1948–), who is the most articulate voice among
those who try to redefine the minority’s position towards a modern European orientation,
has also written extensively in this newspaper. In addition, Onsunoğlu has written in
several other newspapers and had for a short while his own paper called Denge (Balance)
- 14 –

in Komotini (1989). His good command of Greek has enabled him to present eloquently
the minority issue to a Greek audience.22
Yeni Adım/Diyalog (New Step/Dialogue) Hamburg-Komotini (1983–). Aydın Ömeroğlu
(1948–) has his secondary education from Turkey, where he was strongly influenced by
left wing currents. He later studied economics at the University of Hamburg. During the
early 1980s he was instrumental in organising the minority workers who lived in
Germany. He issued rather irregularly first the newspaper Yeni Adım, and later Diyalog.
He has also written several books about minority related issues. His academic training
enables him to write more scholarly about many issues, but he was never able to fulfil his
ambition of playing a role in minority politics.
Aile Birlik (Family Unity), Komotini (1989–2000). Refika Nazım (1947–2003) had her
teacher education from Turkey and like many others with this background she could not
find work in a minority school. She was the first woman publisher from the minority. The
newspaper was issued somewhat irregularly. She was close to Dede, and her newspaper
has also featured several articles by the younger politicians with left wing leanings. In the
beginning she was part of the opposition against Sadık Ahmet and the independent ticket,
but concentrated later on literary subjects.
Balkan Komotini (1992–1994).23 The newspaper was owned by Sadık Ahmet, but
mainly written by Mustafa Hafız Mustafa (1945–1996). Mustafa was born and raised in
Komotini and had obtained his higher education from a Turkish teacher college. He was
considered one of the best pens in the minority, but had no political ambition himself and
preferred to work for others. Mustafa had a long apprenticeship from several minority
newspapers and his abilities as a writer were widely acknowledged. He was the first
choice among Christian candidates who wanted someone to write a newspaper that could
attract the Muslim vote in local elections.
The death of Sadık in summer 1995 changed the internal balances in the minority. It
can also be seen as a new period for the minority press. He had already been able to use
his influence in Turkey to close down his rival newspapers Akın and Gerçek in 1993 and
1994 respectively.24 His own newspaper Balkan folded in 1994 because of quarrels with
his collaborators. As a result we see a change in the minority press. Among the old
newspaper İleri and Trakya’nın Sesi continued their existence, but there were also several

22 For a good example see Onsunoğlu 1997.


23 The first issues of the newspapers appeared under the name of Sadık’s D.E.B party.
24 Trakya’nın Sesi 516/09.08.1995, “Will we miss Sadık?” by İbram Onsunoğlu. This is a further indication
of these newspapers’ direct dependence on Turkey. Sadık also tried to close İleri and Trakya’nın Sesi by
asking minority members to terminate their subscriptions. In spite of the serious repercussions on their
economy, these newspapers remained in circulation.
- 15 –

newcomers. The first important newcomer was Gündem (Agenda) Komotini (1996–)
founded by Hülya Emin (1968-) after a previous abortive attempt with Ortam
(Surroundings - 1992–1993). She has a degree in journalism from Turkey, and represents
a more professional approach. From a technical point of view it is by far the most
advanced minority newspaper with its modern lay-out and several pages (In the
beginning 10 and lately 20 or more). She has been able to gather a team of writers around
her, who contribute with regular columns about a variety of subjects. It was for a long
time considered to be the newspaper closest to the Turkish consulate and therefore
expressing orthodox Turkish opinions. There are still some newspapers that operate on a
smaller scale such as Olay (Event) Komotini (1999-2008), Bülten (Bulletin) Komotini
(2000–), Rodop Rüzgarı (Rhodope winds) Komotini (2001–2008), Cumhuriyet
(Republic) Komotini (2003-) and Birlik (Unity) Komotini (2007–). In later years Millet
(Nation) Xanthi (2005–) has sailed up as a new ambitious alternative with a team of
writers. It is also considered to express closely the political preferences of Turkey. A new
an interesting initiative has been the monthly periodical Azınlıkça (Minority Matters)
(2004–). It has been able to gather writers from both inside and outside the minority who
write on a number of subjects, including articles by Greek scholars and others who are
interested in minority issues. In this way the minority is opening up to the world around
it, and is transcending its traditional introspective character. On the other hand, its more
elitist approach probably appeals to a more limited segment of the minority.

Part 2. The Most Turbulent Decade of the Minority Press.


In the following I would like to have a closer look at the content and style of the
minority press. In particular, I would look at questions related to the identity of the
minority and the way is handled its delicate position within Greek Turkish relations. The
main emphasis will be on the period 1985-1995, when the minority went through an
internal crisis. Many of the articles I refer to were written as reactions to current events,
but there are also many that were written retrospectively as new information put old
events in a new light and since it took time for the writers to “digest” what had happened.
Before I continue with a more chronological presentation of events, it is necessary to
obtain a basic grasp of some central features of Turkish nationalism. Turkish nationalism
was a “late bloomer” in the European context, but when it finally picked up momentum it
arrived with a vengeance. One part of the project was to create a common Turkish
identity in a society where identity previously had been primarily religious. This meant
the linguistic assimilation of non-Turkish speaking groups when possible, such as
Albanians, Pomaks, Kurds etc. The other part of the project was to modernise Turkey in
- 16 –

order to bring the country on par with Europe on a cultural and material level. Sometimes
these two projects went hand in hand. In the Turkish context to be a nationalist also
means to be a modernist, idealist etc., and is generally a very positively laden word. On
the other hand, it has also inspired a virulent nationalism that is highly bigoted and self-
centred as can be seen in the Turkish extreme right parties (Ağaoğulları 1987). The ideas
and policies known as “Kemalism” (Atatürkçülük) were during the first years of the
republic presented under certain slogans such as “Republicanism” (Cumhuriyetçilik),
“Nationalism” (Milliyetçilik), “Populism” (Halkçılık), “Revolutionism”
(Inkılâpçılık/Devrimcilik), “Secularism” (Layiklik), and “Statism” (Devletçilik).25 The
connection between modernism and nationalism is often evident in the minority press.
There was no other model available, and the road to a modern education went hand in
hand with nationalist ideology. The break with the past was clearly expressed by Kemal’s
choice to change from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet. In a Turkish context the Latin
alphabet is often called the Turkish alphabet, as opposed to the Arabic, and represents
one of the symbols of Turkish nationalism.
In the 1950s the modernising project had its most prominent proponent in the Xanthi
MP Osman Nuri Fettahoğlu who wrote:
Our chief principle as a National minority, is to try to be on the same economic and cultural level as
the majority without sacrificing our national integrity [bütünlük] and protecting our integrity in every
respect (Trakya 877/18.03.1964).

In the context of elections he considered it to be the “national and religious duty of both
groups that the Turks vote for the Turks while the Greek Orthodox [rum] vote for the
Greek Orthodox” (Trakya 654/14.02.1956).26 In the case of his rival Hasan Hatipoğlu the
Turkish nationalism degenerated into bigotry, where he would try to extort the vote by
playing on the minority members’ national sentiment. Hatipoğlu wrote in his newspaper
Akın that those who wanted to prove that they had Turkish blood in their veins must vote
for him. This caused Osman Nuri to accuse him of nazi ideology and trying to make the
voting ballots into a blood test (Trakya 733/26.05.1958). Another aspect of Hatipoğlu’s
early career was his condescending and manipulative attitudes towards his voters. We
must remember that during this period only a handful of minority members were able to
read a Greek newspaper and this provided unscrupulous leaders with enormous leverage

25 For a presentation of these principles, see (Shaw and Shaw 1977: 373–395). The book gives a good
insight into the Turkish discourse, as it is reproduced with little critical distance. In the context of Western
Thrace, the teacher Enver Kasapoğlu has a very similar presentation in an article written on the occasion of
the anniversary of Atatürk’s death (Yankı (Echo) 39/11.11.1988). He went to school in Turkey during the
late 1950s and represents the second wave of Kemalist influence in Western Thrace.
26 This idea of separate political existence was also evident in the two most recent general elections (2007
and 2009) where the slogan was Türk’ün Oyu Türk’e, that is “The Turk should vote for the Turk.”
- 17 –

to manipulate them. One glaring example concerns the 1958 elections when the owners
of Akın ran for different parties. Since they could not both promote their party as the best
choice for the minority, they solved this problem by printing separate editions of Akın in
Komotini and Xanthi (Trakya 731/21.04.1958). The conservative leaders would play on
the religious sentiment to keep the minority voters united and accuse those who did not
vote for them of not being Muslims. Thus both the conservatives and the modernists were
essentially treating the minority as a separate community that should live a parallel
existence to the Greek Orthodox majority. This should be seen in connection with the
Ottoman version of “multiculturalism” where people lived side by side in “closed
communities” and the contact between people of different faith was restricted. Marriages
across the religious divide were for example unthinkable under normal circumstances. In
Greece the minority continued to view itself first and foremost as a separate community.
The discrimination
The single most important factor influencing the minority’s political behaviour after
1974 was the effects of the systematic discrimination against it initiated during the
Military Dictatorship (1967-1974). When I first started to take an interest in the minority
Greece was still trying to deny accusations of discrimination, but this position was left
untenable after a Helsinki Watch report pointed out many of the gravest measures
(Whitman 1990). In recent times scholars who write about the minority mention almost
routinely the previous discrimination regime.27 Within the minority, İbram Onsunoğlu
refers to the period 1967-1991 as the “Great Expulsion policy” (Büyük Kovma siyaseti).28
I will briefly explain the basic tenets of this policy. It is first of all connected to the
minority’s position in Greek-Turkish relations. After the drastic reduction of the Greek
Orthodox minority in Turkey, Greece sought to find ways to induce a similar reduction of
its Muslim minority. Since many of the measures were introduced during the military
dictatorship the minority first perceived them to be specific to this regime. The
discrimination continued, however, also after 1974. Since Greece was better integrated in
European structures than Turkey, and cared more about its outward image, the
discrimination had to take place in a covert fashion. It has later been referred to as
“administrative harassment.” Much of it was based on secret directives and administered
locally. These administrative practices prevented systematically most Muslims from
acquiring property and performing even routine matters such as obtaining bank loans or
driving licenses. Many minority members were stripped of their Greek citizenship by the

27 See for example Dragonas (2006: 23-24) and Anagnostou (2005: 8-9).
28 İbram Onsunoğlu, “Salahaddin Galip'in ardından – I”, Azınlıkça – Sayı 40 Ekim 2008.
- 18 –

infamous article 19 of the citizenship code.29 The minority schools were in such a state
that many parents sent their children to Turkey for education when they were still in
primary school. These restrictions on the minority’s socioeconomic rights were meant to
induce the minority to leave and resulted in its estrangement from Greek society.
The Post-Junta Political Scene
After 1974 the political landscape of the minority had changed significantly. The old
opposition between progressives and conservatives had abated and there was no great
polemic between the two sides in the 1974 elections. The discrimination affected the
minority as a whole and contributed to its unification independently of ideological
orientation. When there was no progress in lifting the discrimination, the minority reacted
by rejecting the old leadership and rallied behind young candidates with university
education in the 1977 election. It can be instructive to take a closer look at the example of
Hasan İmamoğlu (1942–) in Rodopi. He was a graduate of the Thessaloniki law faculty
and became appointed lawyer by the Rodopi bar organisation in 1972. His main problem
was to find a party to run for. In the tense atmosphere after the Cyprus invasion in 1974,
there was a local campaign to restrict the minority’s political representation. The minority
perceived that the parties were looking for people they could control instead of someone
who could represent the minority effectively. İmamoğlu would clearly have preferred to
run for the conservative New Democracy party (ND), but a local campaign by the
Christian population closed this door to him. As a consequence he and Hasan Hatipoğlu
ran for the ultra-right Ethnikí Parátaksis (National Camp - EP) led by Stefanos
Stefanopulos. As has often been the case, the nationalist right has not had problems with
accepting minority candidates in order to gain some votes. The combined votes of
Hatipoğlu and İmamoğlu secured the election of the latter in the first distribution of seats.
Hatipoğlu based as usually his campaign on an extreme Turkish nationalism. İmamoğlu,
on the other hand, was framing the minority issue as a question of equal citizen rights
(Gerçek 3/10.01.1978). The election of İmamoğlu in 1977 tells us that the minority was
still trying to solve its problem within the Greek political system, while the major partys’
reluctance to accept him indicates their preference for dealing with the minority issue
within Greek-Turkish relations. As an MP İmamoğlu had no more luck in lifting the
discriminations against the minority than his predecessors. In the 1981 elections he could
not find a party to run for and the minority MPs on the socialist PASOK party and ND
ballot tickets were considered to owe their position to their party loyalty.

29 Besides the aforementioned bibliography see Kostopoulos (2003), who has the most thorough
presentation of Greek administrative practices. I have treated many of these issues in more detail before
(Aarbakke 2000), where I also present the minority’s reactions.
- 19 –

Some other factors that contributed towards creating a highly abnormal political
climate in the minority came to the forefront in the next elections in 1985. The main
problem was the continued discrimination. This was compounded by the decision to
outlaw old established minority associations that had the epithet “Turk-Turkish” in their
name in 1983, such as the Turkish Teachers Association, allegedly as retaliation against
the declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.30 This move, which was
primarily directed against Turkey, created other problems for Greece. First of all, it
estranged the minority and gave new ammunition to demagogues who fed on Turkish
nationalism. Secondly, it later turned into an embarrassment for Greece, when the cases
were brought before the European Court of Human Rights (Tsitselikis 2008). A further
factor that Greece had probably not taken into consideration was the psychological effect
on its minority created by the brutal Bulgarian campaign to change the names of its
Muslim population.31 Greece had excellent diplomatic relations with Bulgaria at the time
and demagogues within the minority exploited the anxiety to hint at probable Bulgarian-
Greek collusion in their minority policies.32
The 1985 Elections
The system used for the 1985 elections had the candidates in the order of preference
on the ballot decided beforehand by the party, instead of using a mark of preference by
the voters. Such a procedure gave new ammunition to those who claimed that the parties
did not accept the strongest minority candidates on their tickets. This was compounded
by the arrogant behaviour of a local ND party candidate. Hinting to that ND did not need
a minority candidate with a strong following he said: “Even if ND presents a dunce
[koútsouro] as candidate he will be elected.”33 Such a statement was of course offensive
to the minority, and remained in their consciousness. In order to evaluate the election
rhetoric, however, it is first necessary to understand properly the political situation. The
minority’s primary concern was to secure its representation through the established
parties. The minority politicians’ first concern was also to secure a place for themselves
on the ticket of the major parties. The emergence of the independent ballot ticket Bariş
(Peace) in Xanthi was initially related to that the major parties had put the minority

30 See the paper by Antigoni Papanikolaou in this volume.


31 For the Bulgarian campaign consult any standard work on Bulgarian Muslims, such as Eminov (1997).
The repercussions on Muslim minority in Greece is less known, but I know it both from the press and
personal communications.
32 For one characteristic example see Akın 926/14.11.1987. It goes without saying that Greece could not
adopt the same authoritarian measures as Bulgaria in 1985.
33 Akın 857/19.05.1985 and 987/19.04.1990; İleri 893/03.10.1997. This episode has been referred to
repeatedly in the minority press. Here, as in many other instances, articles in the minority press look back
on past events.
- 20 –

candidates in third place on their ballots, and consequently with no chance of election.
The initiative to an independent ticket was an attempt to put pressure on the parties to
include minority candidates in an electable position. In Rodopi ND included the lawyer
Mehmet Müftüoğlu (1939–1999), who was well liked and a strong candidate, in second
position on the ballot. When minority candidates were included in second place in Xanthi
too, the initial rationale behind the initiative for an independent ticket was no longer
valid. Adülhalim Dede pointed this out in his newspaper:
The [Greek] authorities attempt to portray us as Turkey’s agents and promote the image that the
Western Thrace questions have been “created” as a result of instigation by Turkey. This is completely
to the disadvantage of the [human rights] struggle we carry out on the European level.
The Western Thrace issue is run as a “defence.”
We have no possibility to “attack”.
We had the possibility to attack, to make our voice heard, in the 1984 European Parliament
elections. However, at that time these persons said the following to us: –Our struggle must be within the
parties. To oppose the parties means to oppose the state.
If this is the case what reasoning makes them now create a front against the parties?34

Dede draws attention to the inconsistent behaviour of minority politicians. In the


European elections they assisted the Greek parties for petty benefits, hiding behind the
rationale quoted above. In the 1985 elections they insisted on supporting an independent
ticket that was harmful to minority interests in a Greek context, ignoring their previous
arguments. When minority politicians decided to run independently of the Greek parties,
the reasons are first of all related to the rivalry for leadership within the minority.
Normally a MP would be respected as the natural political leader of the minority, but the
discrimination and attitudes towards minority politicians presented the opposition with
the possibility of presenting themselves as the “natural” leaders of the minority. A further
factor was PASOK’s clandestine support to the independent candidates. This is an
example of majority petty politics. PASOK had lost prestige in the minority because of
the continued discrimination and had little hope of attracting minority voters. Some local
PASOK members thus decided to provide covert support to the independent candidates as
a way of hurting ND by proxy.35 To a certain degree the adversaries to the party
candidates within the minority could be seen within the framework of opposition politics,
but the special conditions coupled with the leanings of some of those involved give a
foreboding of the political crisis evolving within the minority.
Hatipoğlu applied all his rhetorical skill to promote the independent ticket. He argued
that the minority should support the independent ticket to create unity within the

34 Trakya’nınSesi 159/31.05.1985 (original in Turkish).


35 Fora more thorough discussion with extensive references to the minority press see Aarbakke (2000:
285-286).
- 21 –

minority. The minority had allegedly reached this conclusion as a reaction to the
disgraceful way the parties tried to impose unacceptable candidates on the minority.
Besides, the party MPs were under very strict control. They could not give declarations to
newspapers without asking the party, see representatives of other countries, etc. The
independent candidates would be outside the party discipline, and have much more room
for taking initiatives (Akın 857/19.05.1985). He alleged that ND both threatened and
promised money to Sabahaddin Galip if he would refrain from running as independent
candidate (Akın 858/24.05.1985). Hatipoğlu attempted to present himself as someone
who conveyed public opinion instead of someone who tried to manipulate it.
Suffering Western Thrace Muslim Turk, we believe with all our heart that the HOLY UNION AND
SOLIDARITY MONUMENT which has been erected by virtue of the decision by the great majority of
our Minority for the first time in its 60-year history will not crumble. This is the parole of Our Minority
in the historical elections: NO to the parties which do not extend their hand of compassion to our
Community, which insult it, which belittle it! (Akın 859/29.05.1985-original in Turkish).
Hatipoğlu’s played as usual on Turkish nationalism and would attack other candidates
who at various times had referred to the minority as Muslim, using the terminology
preferred by the Greek authorities. The independent candidate Sabahaddin Galip also
flied the banner of Turkish nationalism in his appeal to the voters and said inter alia.
The time has come to prove once more after Lausanne that you are not an ignorant community, but the
esteemed Western Thrace Turkish Minority.
The result of your votes will simultaneously make clear your personality.
The mentality that belittles you, regarding you as a heap of religious people without personality, is
insisted on.
Show to those who regard you in this way that you are from the Exalted Turkish Race, posses the
faith and knowledge of the great religion of Islam, and that you are an honourable and strong
Community. (Akın 860/31.05.1985-original in Turkish).

While the emphasis above is on the Kemalist version of Turkish identity, Islam is another
reference. Both principles are used as rallying points to pool the minority votes to the
independent candidates. On the other hand, it was easy for Müftüoğlu (the ND candidate)
to point out that the independent candidates who now criticised ND had done everything
to enter its ticket (İleri 388/24.05.1985).
In Xanthi the independents blamed the parties for various intrigues against the
minority and promoted themselves as the minority’s own party. In its propaganda it
played strongly on the religious and national sentiment of the minority (Barış
19.05.1985). In the village Oreo the imam made the following statement the visit of the
independent candidates:
Honoured congregation [cemaat], villagers, those who do not vote for the independent candidates are not
Turks, and not Muslims. May the hands of those who vote for other than the independents wither up. Act
according to this…(Trakya’nın Sesi 160/01.06.1985-original in Turkish).
- 22 –

Hundreds of minority members were worried because they were threatened with
retaliation by adherents of the independents if they did not vote for Barış, such as “Your
son who studies in Turkey, will not get visa any longer” (Trakya’nın Sesi
163/05.07.1985). In reality there was not a concerted effort by Turkey to support the
independent candidates at this point. Turkish newspapers and television displayed a
preference for ND because of its more conciliatory foreign policy compared to PASOK,
and this worked against the independent ticket in Xanthi (İleri 392/21.06.1985).
In addition to Müftüoğlu in Rodopi the minority also elected an MP in Xanthi, Ahmet
Faikoğlu (1947-). Faikoğlu had earlier worked in the Xanthi mufti office and was close to
Mehmet Emin Aga who headed the Bariş ticket. He is an interesting figure because of his
total political reorientation in 1989 when he crossed over to the independent ticket.
During his tenure as PASOK MP, however, he appeared as a loyal and dedicated party
cadre. He did not only flatter PASOK when he was interviewed in the Greek press (Ta
Nea 21.06.1985), he would also deny allegations of oppression against the minority when
interviewed by an emigre periodical in Turkey (Batı Trakya’nın Sesi 4/ May-June 1988).
His exaggerated praise of PASOK was referred to with disdain in the minority press:

On the third day of the holiday [bayram], after the Muslims of Kimmeria (Koyunköy) had ended
their Friday prayer which enveloped them in endless recitals of God’s greatness, they were addressed
by Mr. Ahmet [Faikoğlu] with these words:
…… I am here to bring you Prime minister Andreas Papandreu’s warm greetings and
congratulations for our holy holidays.
It is an honour for us Muslims to live here as Greek citizens. We live in a civilised country WHICH
TEACHES civilisation, freedom, and democracy.
The Government respects us and embraces you who live in this remote area of ours. You are the
objects of the Government’s and our Prime minister’s personal love.”
Mr. Ahmet used several similar sentences. Especially when he spoke about the Prime minister’s
particular love (!) for us, there were people who curled their lips [in disdain] and gave a cold-shoulder
of course (Gerçek 177/31.08.1987-original in Turkish).

In spite of this, Faikoğlu was rarely the target of criticism in the minority press.36 They
directed their fire towards Müftüoğlu who worked sincerely and conscientiously to solve
the problems of the minority. This is a further indication of that personal rivalries were
often more important than political principles, and it is also an indication of the tougher
rivalry in the Komotini area.
The New Interest Group
It should be noted that after 1974 gradually a new interest group had been created that
was independent of the old progressive-conservative division. In its initial stages Hasan

36 Here I am referring to my own experience since I am very well acquainted with minority newspapers for
this period.
- 23 –

Hatipoğlu played a key role in Komotini and Mehmet Emin Aga in Xanthi. The latter was
son of the mufti and had earlier belonged to the conservative camp collaborating with the
Greek authorities. Both had long experience in broking minority affairs towards both
Greek and Turkish authorities. Those who opposed the interests of these people and
distanced themselves from them were routinely accused of being traitors, anti minority,
anti Turkish, etc. (İleri 400/20.09.1985). The emergence of this new interest group is
amply documented in the minority press, which presented it under various names. Among
the more common are the “Clique” (klika), “gang” (kumpanya) and “freeloaders”
(haziryiyiciler).37 Onsunoğlu, who was one of its foremost critics, would later refer to it
as the “minority mafia” (azınlık mafyası). He regarded the first minority conflict
influenced by mafia methods to have taken place in 1980 in connection with the new law
for the minority pious foundations (Vakıf). In a meeting at the Komotini mufti office the
two “mafia godfathers” Hasan Hatipoğlu and Mehmet Emin Aga tried without success to
declare the two minority MPs Hasan ‹mamoğlu and Celal Zeybek to be traitors in their
absence (Trakya’nın Sesi 414/19.03.1992). There had been an attempt to create a
minority umbrella organisation to confront various initiatives by the Greek authorities
that targeted the minority, such as large-scale expropriations. With the benefit of
hindsight it has become clear that this development did not only disturb the Greek
authorities, but also the Turkish consulate since some minority members took initiatives
without previous “authorisation” from it. In order to keep control over the minority and
its function as a bargaining chip in Greek-Turkish relations the consulate chose to
sabotage the minority’s attempt to create a democratic organisation. This was done
through people under its influence, who in turn increased their power by enjoying the
favour of the consulate.38 After sabotaging the attempts at organising the minority, this
same group would later present itself as the Executive Committee of the Supreme
Minority Council (Azınlık Yüksek Kurulu -Yürütme Komitesi). This was a euphemism for
the group most often referred to as the “Clique” by other than themselves. When it
referred to decisions by the Executive Committee, more often than not there had been no
actual meeting of it or any clear procedure for selecting its members. This interest group
stood behind the independent alternative in the 1985 elections and supported indirectly
PASOK.39 In the local elections one year later the same group that previously supported

37 In the 1980s the newspapers Akın and Gerçek were part of this interest group, while criticism against it
appeared mainly in İleri and Trakya’nın Sesi. I will mainly refer to it in the following as the Clique, since
this was the word most commonly in use for them.
38 A detailed presentation of the relevant events can be found in Aarbakke (2000: 299-355).
39 This group that drew its power from Turkey included some central and some more peripheral figures.
Onsunoğlu names some of the more central figures specifically in one of his articles: “Who said that I am
- 24 –

PASOK rallied behind the ND mayor candidate in Komotini, Andreas Stoyannidis. This
is another example of the minority’s lack of integration into Greek political structures,
which made their participation a matter of ephemeral deals on the eve of elections. It
became clear from the election results, however, that the Clique did not as yet have a
decisive grip on the voters (Trakya’nın Sesi 219/31.10.1986).
The New Power Relations Within the Minority
In order to evaluate properly the developments in the minority press, we have to keep
in mind how the overall framework of minority politics was changing. These changes
became only gradually apparent for the minority, while it is much easier to pinpoint now
on the background of subsequent events. The minority had always had cultural and
emotional ties to Turkey, but the bonds had become more tangible because of its
precarious position in Greece. Ultra-nationalist circles in Turkey that had infiltrated the
state apparatus, the so-called “deep state,” were now bent on exploiting this in order to
take control of the minority leadership.40 Hatipoğlu had always posed as the
representative of Turkey—not always with authorisation—but it became a whole
different matter when Turkey threatened to impose sanctions on those who did not accept
the leaders it imposed on the minority. This included measures such as sequestering
property owned by minority members in Turkey, preventing their children to complete
their education or simply denying their entry to Turkey. The last measure became known
as the “Black List” and would occupy a prominent position in the minority press. At first
it was just alluded to, but as exasperation grew within the minority it became a central
issue.
One important milestone is the demonstrations 28-29 January 1988 organised to
protest against the Greek authorities final decision by the Supreme Court to prohibit the
continued existence of minority association with the epithet “Turkish” in their name. The
Clique did not play such a prominent role in organising the protest, but it took the credit
for it afterwards when the Greek authorities cracked down on it. The Xanthi mufti gave
ample space to the protest march in his message on the occasion of the religious holiday
Regaip Kandili (commemoration of the conception of the Prophet Muhammad) and wrote
inter alia:
The people who poured out into the streets excitingly claiming their legal rights, humiliated by the
bad treatment they received from the state’s security forces, these people who were claiming their rights
are elevated, crowned with honour, and made heroes. I wish with my most sincere feelings that my

not afraid of the mafia? Of Hafız Aga, Hasan Hatipoğlu, Rodoplu, Sadık Ahmet, Ahmet Faikoğlu,
Sabahaddin Emin, İbrahim Şerif, Aydın M. Arif?” (Trakya’nın Sesi 407/16.01.1992-original in Turkish).
40 Those who are unfamiliar with Turkish politics can find a basic presentation of the “Deep State” at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state, see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergenekon_(organization).
- 25 –

religious brothers who were exposed to bad treatment will soon be well. I CONGRATULATE THE
HOLY WARRIORS, AND SEND MY LOVE TO EACH ONE OF THEM.
Those of our kinsmen who did not take part in the march, who for some reason could not leave their
house Friday 29 January, took part in this historical march with their hearts, they screamed with their
hearts their OATH OF ALLEGIANCE TO OUR ISLAMISM AND TURKISM. May God reward them
all!

Characteristically the message was printed in both (Akın 938/17.02.1988-origional in


Turksh) and (Gerçek 197/20.02.1988). The double reference to religion and nationalism
does not involve any clear ideological programme, but is essentially an exercise in
bigotry. In other instances it becomes even clearer that these people are not any longer
operating within the Greek political system, but are appealing exclusively to a Turkish
nationalist agenda. Hatipoğlu and Rodoplu painted a bleak picture of the situation in
Greece in an interview to a major Turkish newspaper and glorified their own role:
The newspaper owners remind us that security for life, property, and education is gone, the word
Turk can definitely not be mentioned, the Turkish secondary schools and associations have been closed,
unfair fines for over 30 millions have broken the back of the shop owners, the expropriations of fields ready
to be sown have condemned the farmer to hunger, and their newspapers can be closed any moment. […]
they hold their last hopes in the National Struggle Committee founded under the leadership of the mufti of
Xanthi. […] “Whatever happens it cannot be worse, it cannot be more oppressive. If the next stop is death,
we will die defending our rights.” (Milliyet 28.01.1988-original in Turkish).

Besides the highly distorted portrayal of the situation in Thrace, it is hard to imagine what
kind of struggle to death was going to take place under the leadership of the bed ridden
old mufti of Xanthi, but the tone was set. More seriously, the sanctions against those who
did not confirm with Turkish policy had become increasingly perceptible. When the
minority MP Müftüoğlu tried to raise the issue as an illegitimate intervention to chasten
the minority, Hatipoğlu was quick to counter him:
Honourable Müftüoğlu, in your Press Announcement you mention that some people have been
prohibited from entering Turkey. Please be clear? Who are these people? Our Minority insists that you
make clear this matter.
The Turkish State accepts some and refuses others to enter its borders. As foreigners we have no
rights to say anything in this matter. However, the great sensitivity you showed in this matter, did you
show that when our fatherland Greece stripped the citizenship arbitrarily from thousands of our
kinsmen? (Akın 960/05.10.1988-original in Turkish).

In this statement Hatipoğlu is playing on the fears and sensitivities of the minority. He
is not asking for clarification because he lacks information about what is going on. The
idea is to brandish his power and promote the legitimacy of the measures by stigmatising
these people as traitors. Rodoplu countered denouncements of the Black List in a similar
manner: “Since we did not know such a thing, we expect from this newspaper
[Trakya’nın Sesi] that first made such a revelation to write openly the names of those
who need to have visa to enter Turkey. Let us see what you are made of my young lion?”
(Gerçek 213/22.07.1988-original in Turkish). It is also worth to notice that while
- 26 –

Hatipoğlu usually referred to Turkey as the mother country, he suddenly calls it a foreign
power that the minority has no right to interfere with. Basic categories of allegiance such
as citizenship, nationality, ethnicity and religion are appealed to selectively according to
circumstances. Hatipoğlu is as usual exploiting the minority’s emotional attachment to
Turkey, but with the Black List looming in the background there is also a tangible threat
of sanctions against those who oppose him. The Greek discrimination had increased the
minority’s dependence on Turkey and forces in Turkey were no ready to exploit this.
Those who were refused entry to Turkey came in a very awkward situation that they
were unprepared to deal with. The people who supposedly wanted “clarification” started
rumours as to who had been refused entry to Turkey in order to reprove them to the
minority, and make any contact with them suspicious. Very few had the strength to stand
up and criticise the application of the Black List. Hâki reacted emotionally and put up a
sign outside his office announcing he went on hunger strike after he had been turned back
at the border for the second time. The hunger strike lasted just a couple of hours before he
got a phone call from the president of the Western Thrace Solidarity Association in
Istanbul who among other things threatened with retaliations against his children who
lived in Turkey at the time. This made Hâki step down, but he would later reveal the
incident in his newspaper (İleri 540/20.1.1989). A more sober evaluation of the
phenomenon was made by İbram Onsunoğlu who attempted to analyse the mechanisms
involved. He pointed out that “mud slinging” had always been a part of minority politics,
but it became a whole different matter when Turkey put its “seal of approval” on the
“traitor” accusations. He mentioned by name many leading minority politicians who were
on the Black List. None of them would admit it and tried to pretend that nothing was
wrong, although the “mafia” would make sure that it reached the ears of everybody.
During the last years I know the adventures of dozens of people who have been the object of the anger of
the Özal-Yılmaz regime and their Shrew within the Minority the mafia. From the point of view of the
minority community’s national and social values they admit to have suffered the greatest insults. A feeling
of shame and anger […] One move from the mafia, and suddenly you are not allowed to enter Turkey.
They say that on the other side [i.e. in Turkey] they will get your legs broken, and they are broken.
Suddenly, the social benefits [from the consulate to unemployed teachers etc.] you receive are stopped.
Suddenly, you see that you have been declared pro-infidel. And suddenly, you see that your friends start to
look at you in a different way. Suddenly, the customers of your shop are halved… And what did not happen
afterwards? (Trakya’nın Sesi 407/16.01.1992-original in Turkish).

With the advent of the Black List the ground rules of minority politics had changed
completely and this would become abundantly clear in the 1989 parliamentary elections.
The picture is not complete, however, without saying a few words about Sadık Ahmet
(1947-1995). In the late 1980s Greek-Turkish relations were at a low point. Greece had
tried to embarrass Turkey by raising questions of human rights violations and
- 27 –

discrimination of Kurds in various international forums. This had angered Turkey and the
situation in Greek Thrace provided it with the ammunition to return the favour. In order
to start a human rights campaign against Greece, however, it needed a front figure from
Thrace under its control. For various reasons, and probably by a premature decision, the
choice fell on Sadık. He had studied medicine in Thessaloniki and had been occupied
with his professional career until his plans to obtain a position in a public hospital proved
futile. He was an educated person, energetic and unlike many other minority members—
because his lack of previous involvement—he did not have an embarrassing political
past.
The 1989-1990 General Elections
In the 18 June 1989 elections Sadık teamed up with Rodoplu and the lawyer
Sabahaddin Emin to form the independent ticket Güven (Trust). It was only in the course
of the election campaign that it became clear for everybody—to the dismay of the other
two on the ticket who had their own ambitions—that Turkey had selected Sadık. It should
be noted that before the election many still thought that an independent ticket was only a
last resort for those who were not accepted on a party ticket, but its early appearance two
months before the election shows that it was no longer an ad hoc arrangement.
The Güven ticket had two main lines of argument in their election propaganda. The
first was related to that the minority had not been able to solve its problems through the
parties, because the MPs were controlled by the party discipline. The second was related
to the question of the minority’s identity. We can look at these two themes in more
detail. One of the alleged consequences of the party discipline was that the minority MPs
had not been able to present the discrimination of the minority to human rights
organisations. Incidentally, it was also a recurrent theme in the Athenian press before the
election that it would not be possible to control an independent MP. The question of
internationalisation was presented in a rather simplistic manner:
The strong voice which the “TRUST” ticket will bring to parliament, will scream out the rights
which the Greek Constitution and the Lausanne Treaty recognise to us, and attract the attention of
the free world to Thrace. The clear goal of the Independent “TRUST” ticket is to display the
Western Thrace reality in all openness to the international organisations that are against human
discrimination and know that right is right and a human being is a human being (Gerçek
241/04.05.1989-original in Turkish).

In particular Sadık displayed no understanding for procedures, but presented it as if it


was a simple question of him explaining the problems to international leaders:
Dr. Sadık Ahmet, a candidate from the Western Thrace independent Turkish list bellows: “I will
give the Greek government three days respite from the 19th of the month. The Human Rights
conference in Paris will last until the 23th of the month. If the Greek government does not put the
- 28 –

situation in order in Western Thrace I will go to Paris… I will explain the situation in Western
Thrace to Mitterand in French.”41

The independent candidates engaged in a fierce polemics against the minority


candidates on Greek party tickets. In their election speeches they routinely referred to
them as collaborators, sold out, traitors, etc. This created an atmosphere of polarisation,
in which the independent ticket was presented as the only legitimate choice. The party
candidates had of course a legitimacy problem because of the discrimination regime, but
they were also guided by the sound principle that the minority’s problems had first of all
to be addressed through the Greek political system. Hatipoğlu joined the chorus with his
formidable rhetoric skill. He was particularly venomous towards İmamoğlu, against
whom he had a personal grudge since loosing out to him when they ran on the same
ticket in the 1977 elections. Hatipoğlu found ammunition for mud-slinging by digging
deep in his archive after episodes where İmamoğlu had expressed his loyalty to Greece
(Akın 984/12.06.1989). When some of the minority party candidates warned that the
fierce propaganda of the independents could harm the minority’s cause, this was
immediately brushed off as threats by the “party collaborators” and answered in the
following manner:
Those who regard it an insult to them when they are called TURKS,
Those who say I feel myself to be a GREEK,
Those who permit one of the greatest insults to our Minority by saying “We the Greek Muslims” in
the documents they submitted to the Greek Parliament when they were MPs,
Those who dispersed threats towards our Minority as the voice of the party they are collaborating
with,
Those who find the spiritual tie of our Minority members with the Motherland Turkey senseless,
Those who say with the voice of the Greek authorities that if the Independent Tickets are supported,
great pain will be inflicted on our people,
Those who regard the defence of our minority’s rights outside the country perfidious towards Greece
and those collaborators who know very well whom they serve should bear this in mind:
NEITHER YOU NOR YOUR CHRISTIAN MASTERS CAN ANY LONGER FRIGHTEN THE
WESTERN THRACE MUSLIM TURKS!
IN THESE ELECTIONS THE WESTERN THRACE TURKS ARE STRUGGLING FOR
TURKISM. NEITHER THE GREEK MASTERS NOR THEIR COLLABORATORS CAN PREVENT
THE VICTORY OF THIS STRUGGLE.42

These arguments are a combination of accumulated grudges against the Greek


administration and Turkish nationalist rhetoric. The person who appealed most to the
villagers was Sadık Ahmet. He had visited many of the villages as a doctor and since he
grew up in a village himself he was closer to the village mentality than politicians from

41 Hürriyet 15.06.1989(Istanbul-original in Turkish). Dede remarked wryly that Sadık did not know
enough French to explain anything (Trakya’nın Sesi 323/06.07.1989).
42 Bağımsız Güven 7/15.06.1989-original in Turkish. Hatipoğlu employed similar arguments in Akın
984/12.06.1989.
- 29 –

the urban elite. Besides his promises to bring Greece on its knees, he also had some
curious statements such as: “Those we made coffee for until today are now going to make
our coffee” (Trakya’nın Sesi 321/23.06.1989), or “-The Greek women will work in the
cotton fields! They will become our workers!” (İleri 712/09.04.1993). When the police
came to monitor his election meeting he would cry out “Look, the donkeys are coming”
to the astonishment of the villagers who were used to fear and respect the authorities. In
spite of the fierce rhetoric above it should be stressed that there was no real disagreement
about the minority’s identity between the independent and the party candidates, all of
them would in common parlance refer to the minority as Turkish. The real “battleground”
had always between Greece and Turkey and the minority members would have to adjust
their terminology according to the framework they were operating in. There was of
course no possibility for the minority to impose the terminology of its choice. When
Sadık Ahmet submitted a memorandum in parliament about minority education it was
returned to him the next day so that he could correct his wording “Turkish-Muslim
minority” and write “Muslim minority”, which was the officially accepted terminology
(Güven 4/05.09.1989).
Last but not least we have the question of coercion. Greece and Turkey had always
tried to influence the political organisation of the minority by a combination of stick and
carrot measures. In connection with the 1974 elections, for example, Hâki mentioned the
following message from a Greek official to the minority members:
If they voted for the Turkish candidates he threatened that he would make minced meat of them—
this was the phrase used—and take away their tobacco growing permits, and by realising the second
threat he left hundreds of people without a permit (İleri 107/03.03.1978-original in Turkish).

Another well-proven method was the temporary slackening of the discriminatory


measures. The Christian candidates would promise a couple of driving licences or other
permits for a specified number of votes, without always keeping their promises. As long
as the minority candidates ran for the established parties there was also the question of
party discipline. In the 18 June 1989 elections, however, the combination of exasperation
with the discrimination, growing dependence on Turkey and Turkish pressure, meant that
Greece could no longer control the minority with traditional authoritarian measures.
The most vocal critic of the new political landscape was İbram Onsunoğlu who ran on
the ND ticket. His position was founded on the basic perception that the minority is the
weaker part in the relation with the Greek majority, and that the solutions had to be
worked out in understanding with the majority. He would state in the aftermath of the
elections:
- 30 –

The Greek authorities have during the last ten days of these elections once again trampled on the
human rights of the Minority because of the ‘independent’ candidates. But this time it was others
who came first in not respecting human rights. It was the ‘independents’ and their company. The
authorities came in second place (Denge 4/05.07.1989-original in Turkish).

He was clearly concerned about the reckless behaviour of the independent candidates,
which would supply ammunition to anti-minority powers at a time when the just
complaints of the minority had started to gain acceptance among democratically minded
forces in the majority population.
The lack of a stable government alternative led to three subsequent elections (18 June,
5 November 1989 and 10 April 1990). During this period the Greek authorities tried to
regain control over the minority with traditional authoritarian measures. Sadık had toned
down his rhetoric considerable since his election, but he now became the target of legal
persecution. He was unable to run in the 5 November election because of a small formal
mistake in his registration. As a result Rodoplu was elected on the independent ticket, and
Sadık lost his parliamentary immunity.
Sadık was now subjected to a series of trials, beginning 29 November. This led to a
new mobilisation of the minority. Human rights lawyers arrived from abroad to attend the
trial, after Turkey had mobilised the solidarity associations of Western Thracians in
Germany and Turkey. Turkish diplomacy remained very active during this period, and
Turkish MPs also arrived to witness the trials. A Turkish journalist hailed Sadık as “The
symbol of the Western Thrace Turkish minority.” It was claimed that his only crime was
that he had called the minority Turkish.43 This echoes the arguments used by the press
organ of the Güven ticket, which claimed that its only crime was to call the minority
Turkish and inform the public about the discrimination (Güven 19/16.01.1990). The
prosecution was based on two ambiguous clauses in the Greek Penal Code (§101 and
§192) concerning “spreading false information” and “disrupting the public peace.”
(Kourtovik 1997: 250-252). Sadık was first sentenced to 18 months and spent the
beginning of 1990 in prison until the sentence was reduced to 15 months and converted to
a fine in the appeal of 30 March. He was released just in time for the 10 April elections.
The trials of Sadık did not stand up to international scrutiny and became an
embarrassment for Greece. A Helsinki Watch report termed the trial in January 1990 as
“perhaps the most egregious Greek action denying the ethnic identity of the Turkish
minority” […] “When the defendants told the court that they were of Turkish origin, the
judges shouted back, ‘Then why don’t you go to Turkey’.” (Whitman 1990: 17-19). In
this case, Helsinki Watch has picked up a Turkish misrepresentation. The judge asked

43 Milliyet 08.01.1990 (Istanbul-original in Turkish), “Plaintiff from Athens”, by Sema Emiroğlu.


- 31 –

Sadık Ahmet if he was a Greek citizen (éllinas polítis), with Greek citizenship/nationality
(ellenikí ithayénia). Sadık must have been confused about the implications of the terms,
so he answered no.44 There is a problem with terminology since some of the terms used
in human right reports do not correspond with the Greek and Turkish conceptual
framework. There is, for example, traditionally no corresponding term to “ethnic Turk” in
Greek, and the term “ethnic” has not really become common parlance. Many of the
arguments are really unintelligible for those who are not acquainted with Greek and
Turkish nationalism. There is no commonly accepted terminology. One and the same
term may be deemed acceptable or unacceptable depending on when it is used and by
whom. When Sadık was in prison, the chairman of the Greek-Turkish friendship
committee in Athens, Andreas Politakis, came to the rescue and helped him to issue a
statement where he said that he was “a Greek citizen, of Muslim faith, and Turkish
descent.”45 This should be a fairly uncontroversial statement by usual standards, but not
so in Thrace. In the minority the guardians of Turkish nationalism accused Sadık of
selling out by saying he was of “Turkish descent” and not a “Turk.” Dede asked
ironically whether Sadık had become a traitor now that he said that he was of “Turkish
descent.” (Trakya’nın Sesi 349/30.03.1990). On the other hand, when the PASOK MP for
Xanthi, Panayiotis Sguridis, was asked to comment upon Sadık’s statement, he responded
that it was incorrect and that the minority members were “Greek Muslims” thus echoing
the official Greek position (Eksormisi 25.02.1990). It goes without saying that many
minority politicians were not really interested in resolving the terminology problem, but
used it for demagogic purposes. A recent article displays clearly how the Christian
population struggles with reconciling contradictory concepts of identity. Interestingly,
“although the interviewer used the term ‘Muslim minority’ respondents often used
spontaneously the label ‘Turks’ and would then correct themselves afterwards.” (Figgou
2007: 446). I can add that when some journalists interviewed the local Metropolitan
Damaskinos, who is renowned for his anti-Turkish and anti-minority attitude, they
pointed out that he referred to the minority members as Turks in their conversation. The
Metropolitan replied: “Yes, ordinarily they are Turks. However, they want to call
themselves Turks to ask for autonomy tomorrow.” (Eleftherotipia 15.02.1998).

44 Hronos 25.01.1990. It should be noted that Erik Siesby too mentions in his report that the defendants had
called themselves “Turkish nationals” in court (Siesby 1990).
45 For a facsimile of the hand written declaration see Thessaloniki 17.02.1990, Trakya’nın Sesi
349/30.03.1990, or (Soltaridis 1990: 187). See also (Siesby 1990). For the position of Andreas Politakis see
his “open letter to the Turkish people” in Avyi 15.03.1990 and (Politakis 1988?).
- 32 –

The 10 April elections were very low-key compared to the two previous ones. An
election campaign was not deemed necessary since it was already clear that Sadık would
prevail, which he did with an unprecedented margin. Indeed, the minority candidates for
the Greek parties found it futile to run under the reigning conditions. The ground rules of
minority politics had been turned on its head. While in previous elections minority
politicians struggled to become accepted on the party tickets, it had now become an
exercise in futility to run for the parties. Two new candidates, who were clearly included
only as extras, joined Sadık on the Güven ticket. The journalist Mustafa Hafız Mustafa
(1945-1996) and the preacher Ahmet Hacıosman (1958-) made a declaration that they did
not want any votes for themselves, everybody should vote for Sadık.46 His previous
fellow candidates had resigned for “personal reasons” in an unspoken protest against
Turkey’s favouritism of Sadık. The other development was the transformation of Ahmet
Faikoğlu from a loyal PASOK cadre to a flaming Turkish nationalist. He became elected
in Xanthi with the backing of the same forces that were behind Sadık.
In the following years minority politics revolved to a large degree around Sadık
Ahmet. In short, he was presented as a hero in Turkey while he was vilified in the Greek
press. He became a larger than life figure in both countries, and this makes it difficult to
make a levelheaded presentation of his work. Although Sadık was not bound by party
discipline, he found it much harder to further the minority’s cause in the Greek
parliament than he had envisaged. Gradually his work as parliamentarian took a second
place to his other activities. He was often in Turkey where he was welcomed as the great
champion of Turkish nationalism and received honorary doctorates. He also became a
front figure for presenting the case of a discriminated Turkish minority in international
human rights forums. Sadık’s many travels abroad received conspicuous attention in the
part of the minority press that was behind him, and it certainly helped to increase his
prestige within the minority. The discrimination of the minority was of course a pressing
problem that had been on the agenda for a long time. It was, however, little he could do
on in his own and in practice the human rights issue was often a tug of war by proxies
between Greek and Turkish diplomacy. This also meant that the efforts would be
contingent on Turkish foreign policy priorities, rather than the interests of minority
members as Greek citizens.
Greek Counter Measures
Two initiatives by the Greek authorities had an important bearing on the minority
issue. First, a new election law was passed in parliament 23.10.1990 that had a 3% cut-

46 Milliyet 05.04.1990, “The votes to Sadık Ahmet”, by Hülya Emin.


- 33 –

off point on a national basis. This closed effectively the door for future election of
independent minority MPs. The measure was not comparable to cut-off points in other
European countries, since in these countries they were not valid for the first distribution
of votes or for single constituencies.47 Protests from Turkish diplomacy were quickly
brushed off by pointing to the many idiosyncratic features of the Turkish election law
(Kathimerini 28.11.1990). The other initiative was the aforementioned announcement of
a new minority policy and admission of past “mistakes” by Konstantinos Mitsotakis
during his visit to Thrace in May 1991. The Greek minority policy had become untenable
since it did not stand up to international scrutiny, and a change had been imminent for a
while. Since the “minority regime” of active discrimination had been in force for several
decades, however, it was natural that the change would provoke reactions from those who
had an interest in its continuation. This was not only the case for the majority, but also for
many people in the minority leadership. Part of the minority leadership had enhanced its
position as brokers of the minority because of the Greek-Turkish controversy (İleri
578/22.01.1990).
One interesting point in Mitsotakis’ speech was his redefinition of the Greek
terminology for the minority’s identity. The previous practice had been to insist that it
was a religious minority and avoid any characterisation other than “Muslim.” Now he
mentioned that the Muslim minority included people of various ethnic backgrounds:
those of Turkish origin, the Pomaks, and the Gypsies (Eleftherotipia 14.05.1991). The
Turkish identity was at last acknowledged, but only for a part of the minority that was
characterised to be of Turkish origin (Turkoyenís). This terminology brought the Greek
position more in line with the international terminology commonly in use that is mainly
derived from western concepts of ethnicity. As seen before, this terminology did not
necessarily sit comfortably with a Greek audience and it was definitely in conflict with
basic tenets of Turkish nationalism.
Minority Reactions to Greek Policies
The political manoeuvring of the Clique in connection with Mitsotakis’s visit is most
clearly revealed in the Turkish and the minority press. In this connection the great
discrepancy between the minority politicians’ behaviour towards the Greek and the
Turkish press should be noticed. They criticised Mitsotakis for not having scheduled a
meeting with Sadık, who was the “minority’s official representative” (Gerçek
285/08.05.1991). They also condemned the fact that Mitsotakis would see people who

47 See TaNea 29.10.1990, “How the new elections law steals seats in parliament”, by Ilias Nikolakopoulos
and (Dodos 1994: 61–62).
- 34 –

were “not accepted by the minority” (Milliyet 13.05.1991), alluding to the appointed
mufti Meço Cemali. The Clique’s response was related to its attempts to monopolise the
representation of the minority towards both the Greek authorities and Turkey. Mitsotakis
was in particular criticised for his statement that the minority was made up of three
groups. The independent MPs stressed that the minority was one and Turkish (Akın
1030/17.05.1991; Gerçek 286/21.05.1991). In addition the Clique tried to cultivate a
climate of suspicion towards Mitsotakis’s intentions. This was sometimes done in a
subtle manner such as pointing to the fact that the Greek administration had also
maintained earlier that there was no discrimination.48 A year later the mufti of Komotini,
Meço Cemali, declared that the fruits of Mitsotakis’ promises were showing
(Eleftherotipia 25.07.1992). By now the dismantling of the old discrimination regime had
indeed picked up momentum, although the process was not without friction. In spite of
this, the Clique tried to keep up its former rhetoric. Hatipoğlu claimed that some
inexperienced politicians had created great damage to the minority’s struggle by saying
that the minority had started to obtain its rights after the promises of Mitsotakis, and this
had been written in the international press (Akın 1062/16.06.1992).
Many of the conflicts in the early 1990s were related to the internal rivalry within the
leadership that supported itself on Turkey. It became gradually clear that this was a
reflection of power relations between different centres in Turkey. On the one side the
group known as the Clique was closest to official Turkish diplomacy and on the other
Sadık Ahmet and his entourage supported himself on the ultranationalist circles known as
the Deep State.49 Sadık wanted to use the power behind him to become the undisputed
leader of the minority, while the others reacted against his attempt to take complete
control. In many of the conflicts that were seemingly with the Greek authorities, such as
the election of mufti, issuing of new schoolbooks etc., the most important aspect was in
fact the internal power struggle. This led to an unprecedented amount of mud slinging
and Turkish nationalism peddling in this segment of the minority press. Onsunoğlu would
remark that: “The minority mafia is at each other’s throats exactly by using mafia
methods.” (Trakya’nın Sesi 414/19.3.1992).

48 For a good example of this approach, see the article by Mustafa Hafız Mustafa in Akın 1031/23.05.1991.
This is followed up in Gerçek 287/31.05.1991 and Akın 1032/07.06.1991.
49 When I did research in Thrace in 1993-1994 both the Clique and Sadık would make regular visits to
Turkey and have their photos taken in company with important politicians in order to display the support
they enjoyed. Onsunoğlu has repeatedly tried to deal critically with what he perceived as the illegitimate
Turkish interference with the minority. See, for example his articles in Azınlıkça no. 44 February, 46 April
and 49 July 2009.
- 35 –

At this time Sadık founded the first political party of the minority, the Friendship,
Equality and Peace party (Dostluk, Eşitlik ve Bariş partisi-DEB). A team was built
around Sadık consisting of the preacher and politician Ahmet Hacıosman (today’s MP for
PASOK), and the experienced journalist Mustafa Hafız Mustafa, who had both joined his
ticket in the April 1990 elections.50 The people of his team had little in common and
must have joined forces because of external incentives or pressure. Mustafa Hafız
Mustafa played a very important role, and was considered to be the brain of the team. He
wrote nearly all the articles of the newspaper, also those signed by Sadık. The first issue
of the DEB Partisi Gazetesi appeared in 11.02.1992. This newspaper changed its name to
Balkan after the sixth issue. The Balkan newspaper was first of all a propaganda vehicle
for Sadık. Mustafa was well aware of his role, and in a conversation with other minority
members present he referred jokingly to himself as the Goebbels of the party. He would
soon claim that the party had 10,000 members (DEB Partisi Gazetesi 4/10.03.1992). This
would later be increased to claims that tens of thousands, or the whole minority, had
embraced the party (Balkan 28/08.09.1992). The first party conference was set for 11–12
April 1992. In the conference Sadık said: “All my struggles will be directed towards the
return of the civil, minority, and human rights of the Western Thrace Muslim Turkish
Community; from now on the only official voice of our community is the DEB party.”51
In the last sentence the keyword is “only,” which indicates his conflict with the Clique.
Mustafa promoted unabashedly Sadık as the great leader and compared his efforts with
the National struggle of Atatürk. The many congratulation messages from Solidarity
Associations in Turkey, Germany, and England give an indication of his support outside
Thrace (ibid.). Onsunoğlu wrote in his obituary over Sadık: “He let M. Bacaksız [that is
Mustafa Hafız Mustafa], whom he had earlier referred to as agent of the Greek Secret
Services in front of everybody, flatter him in the most repulsive way in the newspaper
Balkan and became enraptured by it. One leader, one newspaper, one voice… A “base”
fascism was established in the minority.”52
Balkan was dominated by a limited set of themes. Besides promoting the “great
leader,” there were polemics against the Clique, complaints about Greek discrimination
against the minority, and complaints about the “undemocratic 3% cut-off point” in the
election law. Mustafa did not really take political initiatives directed towards the Greek

50 For more information about Mustafa Hafız Mustafa, also known as Bacaksız, see the obituaries in İleri
840/12.04.1996 and Batı Trakya’nın Sesi 76–77 March–August 1996.
51 Balkan 9/14.04.1992. For the Statutes of the DEB Party, see the series which begins in İleri
672/24.04.1992. For an overview of the internal organisation, see Balkan 13/19.05.1992. See also Sadık’s
article series about the goals and purposes of the DEB party, which starts in Balkan 53/09.03.1993.
52 Trakya’nın Sesi 516/09.08.1995, “Will we miss Sadık?” by İbram Onsunoğlu [original in Turkish]
- 36 –

authorities. He tried rather to cultivate the minority’s suspicion against the authorities and
the “Greeks” in general, in an effort to keep up the stereotypes and rally the minority
more effectively around Sadık. Onsunoğlu would later sue Mustafa Hafız Mustafa for
one of his articles, and accuse him of being among the chief responsible for cultivating
fascism in the minority (Aile Birlik 93/17.02.1994).
There was soon a full-blown conflict between the Clique and Sadık. Hatipoğlu would
as usual play on Turkish nationalism, and found an opportunity later when the ultra-right
Turkish political leader Alpaslan Türkeş visited Macedonia:
Türkeş did very well by congratulating the MACEDONIAN TURKISH PARTY. Because it is a
Turkish party. On the other hand, to whom does the FRIENDSHIP-EQUALITY-PEACE Party belong? It is
nothing else than the unconscious product of hysterical ambition. If it had been called a Turkish party,
Türkeş would have sent a congratulation message here, too. Why is not the name Turkish used in this
party? Our political strength that we developed by great efforts was “squandered.”53

The mutual accusations between Sadık and the Clique/Executive Committee took on ever
more extreme forms. Mustafa Hafız Mustafa engaged in polemics against Faikoğlu who
had said that most DEB members were police informers, and Hatipoğlu who insinuated
that DEB was doing the job of the Greek authorities since it was against the Executive
Committee (Balkan 10/21.04.1992). When Sadık participated in a conference in Kütahya-
Turkey, he accused Faikoğlu publicly of collaborating with the Greek government and
the secret services.54 The Executive Committee had also visited Turkey at this time, and
the members distinguished themselves by accusing each other in front of state authorities
of being traitors, collaborators, sold, Greek agents, etc. (Trakya’nın Sesi 419/14.05.1992).
In his religious message on the occasion of the Festival of Sacrifices (kurban bayramı),
the “elected mufti” of Xanthi, Mehmet Emin Aga, referred to Sadık as “brainless”
(beyinsiz).55 Hatipoğlu would refer covertly to Sadık as “mentally ill” (ruh hastası) (Akın
1063/28. 07.1992). The relationship to Turkey was put on display in all its glory for
reasons of prestige. Hatipoğlu presented a trip to Turkey under the title: “The second
Ankara visit of our Executive Committee, our minority’s sole Decision Organ, was very
successful” (Akın 1061/06.07.1992). When external pressure caused a temporary
reconciliation between the two camps Dede remarked that Sadık, who now posed side by
side with the Executive Committee, had called “Bacaksız” [Mustafa Hafız Mustafa] an

53 Akın 1062/16.06.1992 (original in Turkish), “They still try to milk a billy-goat”. See also the polemical
answer in Balkan 22/21.07.1992. The comparison is of course pointless, because the Yugoslav concept of
nationality had no problems with the words Turk/Turkish.
54 Günaydın 03.05.1992, “Sadık accuses Faikoğlu of collaboration with the Greeks”, by İhsan Tunçoğlu.
Facsimile in Trakya’nın Sesi 419/14.05.1992. It was also referred to in Günaydın 02.05.1992.
55 “Message of the virtuous Xanthi mufti on occasion of the religious feast”, Xanthi mufti office, 5 June
1992. Reprinted in Akın 1059/10.06.1992.
- 37 –

informer, Aga the enemy of Turkism, Faikoğlu a Greek secret service agent, Hatipoğlu
the main enemy of the minority, Rodoplu a freeloader, and Şerif a scatterbrain mufti
(Trakya’nın Sesi 440/10.12.1992).
The 10 October 1993 General Elections
The confrontation came to a head before the general elections of 10 October 1993. The
adherents of Sadık would present as legitimate any action that could make him an MP.
He was ready to become candidate for whatever Greek party would accept him. Hâki
commented dryly: “Sadık is going through a crisis because he is afraid he will not be able
to become candidate for ND… The clique is going through a crisis because it is afraid
that Sadık will become candidate for ND…” (İleri 727/10.09.1993). In spite of his vote
potential in Rodopi, no Greek party could take him on because of his general reputation
in Greece. The Executive Committee now took the initiative and made a declaration that
it would participate in the elections with a revived Güven ticket (Gerçek 369/17.09.1993).
After it became clear that he would not be accepted on a party ticket Sadık joined
Rodoplu, probably after pressure from Ankara.56 In Xanthi Ahmet Faikoğlu and Rasim
Murcaoğlu were joined by Niyazi Avcı, who represented Sadık’s DEB party. It was clear
that Sadık had teemed up with Rodoplu and Faikoğlu only for the elections, and that he
saw the elections as a contest where the marks of preference would show who was the
leader of the minority. In other words, the scene was set for a showdown between Sadık’s
DEB party and the Clique.
With these developments, the only minority candidates with a realistic chance of being
elected would be those who ran on the party tickets. Now they became the main targets of
both the independent candidates and Greek nationalist circles. In some cases they came
under fire by the adherents of Christian candidates, who could only be elected if the
minority failed to elect representatives from its own ranks. In practice, this led to an
unholy alliance between the independent candidates and Christian nationalists. By now
minority politics had gone through a total transformation. While earlier on the explicit
goal was to elect as many minority MPs as possible, now every effort was made to rally
the minority behind the independent candidates who had no possibility of being elected
according to the new election law. The independent candidates succeeded in obtaining
almost all the minority votes and for the first time in its history the minority remained
without parliamentary representation. Another important aspect of the election result was

56 See Eleftherotipia 22.09.1993, “Ankara pressures the vote of the Muslims”, by Simeon Soltaridis, which
reflects credible information circulating in the minority at the time. For a more in depth account of the
relationship between Sadık and Rodoplu during this period, see İleri 731/08.10.1993.
- 38 –

that Sadık prevailed completely in Rodopi and even made significant inroads into Xanthi
with the candidate from his party.
The Independents Reach a Dead End
There were signs that many people within the minority started to become concerned
about these developments. The propaganda machine behind Sadık had the difficult task
of convincing people that it had been wise to vote for a candidate that had no hope of
being elected and thus leave the minority without parliamentary representation. When it
became clear that no Greek party would accept Sadık as their candidate the new slogan
was: “If the parties do not want us in the Greek parliament, we will elect our deputy and
send him to the WORLD PARLIAMENT” (Balkan 78/21.09.1993). He claimed that
although this time the minority would not elect an MP, the only thing it would lose was
the salary of an MP. Apart from this it was impossible to enumerate all the things the
minority would gain. As a leader he would allegedly be more respected throughout the
world than as a simple MP. The minority should rise above looking for petty interests
such as being represented in the Greek parliament and rather send a representative to the
World Parliaments (ibid.). In this connection Sadık was presented as a new Arafat who
would go all over the world and continue the struggle until the minority had obtained all
its rights. Other times he was likened to Mandela. Onsunoğlu, on the other hand, opted
for a sober approach in his election propaganda. He would try to remind people that it
was an election for parliamentary representation in Greece, not for the “World
Parliament.” He was strongly critical of the anomalies in the minority culture that had
developed after the election of the independent MPs in 1989, and stressed the need for
greater internal democracy (İleri 730/01.10.1993). In face of the criticism, the
organisation around Sadık found it necessary to reiterate the benefits of his new “status.”
We said before the election that: If the Parliament in Athens does not want us, we will send a
representative to the World Parliaments!” Some people, who did not even have the ability to satirise
this slogan, presented questions such as “So what is the World Parliament?”
Now the time has come for us to explain to these poor people with a few examples what the World
Parliaments are… Even though not even two months have passed since the 10 October election, the
elected representative of Western Thrace Turkism Dr. Sadık Ahmet has represented our community
with the power he obtained from his voters first in parliaments or state organs of Germany, afterwards
Turkey, and lastly USA. In addition, the various results of Dr. Sadık’s initiatives in institutions such as
the European Parliament, Helsinki Watch, and the Turkish parliament could also be mentioned in this
connection. Is it now understood what was meant by the expression “World Parliaments”?57

The relationship within the camp that was connected to Turkey continued to
deteriorate. Sadık’s efforts to dominate the minority’s political scene had left all the
others with a grudge against him. There was, however, little they could do as long as

57 Balkan 95/07.12.1993, “‘World Parliaments’”, by Mustafa Hafız Mustafa. (original in Turkish)


- 39 –

Sadıe had the greatest support from powerful circles in Turkey. Soon, however, an
opportunity would arise where they saw a chance of getting back on Sadık. When the
Turkish consul in Komotini followed the trial of the “elected” mufti Mehmet Emin Aga,
Sadık became jealous of the attention given to him and sought to prevent the Turkish
MPs who arrived for the trial to accompany Aga to his house. The Turkish consul refused
to comply and Sadık gave him a scolding in the middle of the street. This provided
Sadık’s rivals with an opportunity to get back on him that they jumped on immediately.
Rodoplu was first to report:
In the seventy years of the Minority’s history no man [Allahın kulu, that is slave of God] has made
openly such a great insult to a representative of the sixty million strong Motherland Turkish Republic,
and in front of Security and press personnel in the court room. A minority member who carries just a
mote of Turkism feeling [Türklük duygusu] in his soul cannot keep himself from screaming out against
your behaviour.
In these our most difficult days did we not expect help first from God, and then from the MOTHER
COUNTRY which is the sole guarantee of our existence?58

The approach is the familiar one of outbidding each other in Turkish nationalism.
Mehmet Emin Aga soon followed him up in his message to the believers in connection
with the religious holiday Kurban Bayramı.
The famous (!) leader Dr. Sadık Ahmet who for four years has tried to introduce every kind of
disorder and intrigue to damage our unity and solidarity, wanting the Western Thrace Turkish
Community to break each other, provided the last drop which made the cup overflow with his action
on 12 April 1994 and displayed in all nakedness whom he serves. That day I was sentenced to 23
months because of the messages I signed (as Mufti of Xanthi). When I went to the second floor of
the court building to appeal the sentence, however, the circumcision doctor showered insults on our
Mother Country’s Western Thrace representative T.[urkish] R.[epublic] Komotini General Consul
Honourable Hakan Okçal in front of many civil and uniformed policemen, most of whom know
Turkish, and in the presence of the parliamentarians from the T.[urkish] G.[rand] N.[ational]
A.[ssembly] Human Rights Examination Commission who came to follow the trial, many local and
foreign journalists […].59

We can see the tone is deliberately chosen to be disrespectful. It is a fact that Sadık
was a trained surgeon, and helped by his fame he would have a blooming business
carrying out most of the circumcisions in Thrace. The epithet “circumcision doctor,”
however, is not particularly flattering. Their hopes of getting back on Sadık, however,
proved to be premature.
It became, however, increasingly difficult to keep up appearances. By now Sadık’s
influence in Komotini town was clearly on the wane. Leading minority politicians
claimed that the minority was left without parliamentary representation because of

58 Gerçek 387/16.05.1994, “No reason can justify you! —Mr. Sadık you should not have brought the
matter this far,” by İsmail Molla (Rodoplu). (original in Turkish)
59 The KURBAN BAYRAMI MESSAGE of the Xanthi Elected Mufti Mehmet Emin Aga, printed in
Gerçek 388/20.05.1994 (original in Turkish).
- 40 –

Sadık’s egoism, and they were afraid of a repetition on the local level. In Komotini the
minority had better possibilities to elect representatives for the town council through the
party tickets, than through an independent ticket sponsored by Sadık. Attempts to
organise the minority in front of the local elections in September 1994 proved more
difficult than expected. It was feared that attempts by Sadık and the Consulate to put on a
display of strength could backfire and result in embarrassment.60 Dede concluded that
Sadık vanished in the local elections, and even abandoned his close collaborators
(Trakya’nın Sesi 492/27.10. 1994). Since the adherents of the independent ticket had to
approach the parties, Abdülhalim Dede remarked sarcastically:
We are happy that the people who called us TRAITOR-PRO INFIDEL-MINORITY ENEMY-
SOLD—because we for six years have advocated a policy we believed to be in the interest of the
minority—TURNED TO OUR POLICY, EVEN IF IT HAPPENED AFTER SIX YEARS.
AND OUR HAPPINESS IS TWOFOLD SINCE THESE PEOPLE HAD TO EAT THEIR OWN
WORDS. (Trakya’nın Sesi 491/22.09.1994 – Original in Turkish).

Sadık was by now beginning to fall out with his patrons in Turkey and his behaviour
became more and more erratic. It had reached a point where his patrons in Turkey were
confronted with the delicate issue of how to dethrone the Turkish hero they had created.61
Finally the issue resolved itself with Sadık’s untimely death in a car accident in July
1995. High officials from Turkey attended his funeral and he secured a stellar place in the
pantheon of Turkish nationalism. Among the honours heaped on him, I can mention the
street named after him that runs in front of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. There
was of course no reason to tarnish the Sadık myth after his death. In addition, the interest
in his funeral and support to his family was a signal to the minority that Turkey was
standing by. The Greek government also expressed its condolences.
The 1996 General Elections
This opened up the political landscape in Thrace again for the 1996 parliamentary
elections, but there were naturally questions about how to proceed. The minority was
now faced with several dilemmas. It was clear that the independent tickets had outplayed
their role, and had no other function than to exclude the minority from parliamentary
representation. On the other hand, several minority politicians had painted themselves
into a corner with their fierce Turkish nationalist rhetoric and demagogy against the
Greek political parties. There was also the question of who the Greek parties would
accept as candidates, and on what conditions. The leader of Politiki Aniksi, Andonis

60 See Eleftherotipia20.09.1994, “They turn their backs to Sadık”, by Simeon Soltaridis; To Vima
02.10.1994, “The Consul in Komotini behave as party leader”.
61 İbram Onsunoğlu mention this in his obituary “Will we miss Sadık?” by Trakya’nın Sesi
516/09.08.1995. I also know about it from discussions with Sadık’s close collaborator Mustafa Hafız
Mustafa and other minority members.
- 41 –

Samaras, announced in a press conference in Athens 30 August, that he would not have
Muslims on his ticket pointing to the experiences with Sadık and Faikoğlu. Some
minority members had been in contact with the “Macedonian minority” activists for the
possibly of a joint ticket, and this seems to have paved the way for certain new candidates
in Xanthi and Rodopi, who became subsequently accepted by the two large parties.62 In
other words, the major parties preferred to handle the minority as a Greek-Turkish issue,
rather than risk that “uncontrollable” domestic left-wing forces would take the lead. The
candidates were decided upon after secret negotiations between Greek and Turkish
authorities.63 As a consequence Ankara could exclude some of the previous party
candidates who had opposed her opportunistic politic with the independent ticket, and
influence the parties’ choice of candidates. Athens could count on Ankara to exclude
some of the most stigmatised “independent” politicians, and channel the minority votes to
the two large parties. In the agreement Turkey made the concession that the party
candidates would not only abstain from “Turkism demagogy” in their election propa-
ganda, but from using the words “Turk” or “Turkish minority”. This was accepted in
order not to provoke the nationalists in Thrace, because the ultimate goal was to elect
MPs.64 I followed the election campaign in Thrace and it was very interesting to see the
total transformation from previous elections. The only candidate to keep a high
“Turkism” profile was a previous collaborator of Sadık Ahmet, Nazif Şakir.65 However,
this was clearly a solo initiative, and since he did not have any real force behind him it
hardly surpassed the level of the colourful. As a result of the agreement the minority vote
was pooled to Galip Galip (PASOK) in Rodopi and Birol Akifoğlu (ND) in Xanthi (İleri
855/13.09.1996). To the surprise of many, Mustafa Mustafa (Synaspismos) was also
elected in Rodopi by a segment of minority voters who supported him partly in protest
against the Turkish excesses in previous years. These elections also signified the end of
the period when the minority press was dominated by the most brazen Turkish nationalist
rhetoric in its recent history. Onsunoğlu was pleased to notice that there had been very
little of the mud slinging and Black List threats, which had marred the previous elections

62 This was “revealed” later in Trakya’nın Sesi 562/21.09.1996, which also printed the joint election
statement of the “Rainbow” party and OAKKE. See also the comments in Pontiki 05.09.1996 and
Eleftherotipia 05.09.1996.
63 I know about this from minority sources, but it was also revealed in the ultra-right newspaper Stohos
638/11.09.1996.
64 Trakya’nın Sesi 560/09.09.1996. If nothing else is mentioned, this is also the source for my discussion
about the candidates. This time, too, I was able to follow the campaign the week before the election. This
gave me the opportunity to visit the candidates’ election offices, and attend their election speeches.
65 See his election newspaper Eşitlik (Equality) 1/08.09.1996; 2/10.09.1996.
- 42 –

and created deep “national, social, and psychological wounds” (Trakya’nın Sesi
565/10.10.1996).

Conclusions
A careful reading of the minority press provides us with a unique insight into the
peculiarities of its social and political life. In order to understand its behaviour, however,
it is not sufficient to look at the minority’s actions in isolation. We also need to have a
grasp of basic tenets of both Greek and Turkish society as well as important events that
have influenced its living conditions throughout its minority existence.
The minority’s lack of integration into Greek society and its idiosyncratic political
behaviour are striking. This can partly be explained by that the minority remained in situ
during its passage from majority to minority and consequently kept its social structure
intact. Another explanation is that Ottoman social organisation was familiar to Greeks
and Turks alike and this facilitated the continuation of old role patterns. Consequently the
minority members functioned in Greek society primarily as a community and not as
individual citizens. The elite that brokered the minority’s fortune reflects the basic power
structures influencing the minority. In order to keep up its role as middlemen it has been
in the interest of this group to maintain the minority’s existence as a separate community.
Members of the minority elite positioned themselves in relation to the internal cleavages
within the minority, which for a long time followed the conservative-modernist divide,
and the overarching framework of Greek-Turkish relations. Greece has also preferred to
deal with the minority indirectly either through its leaders or as a bargaining chip with
Turkey in connection with the Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul.
The two main ideological structures that sustain the separate identity of the community
are the Muslim religion and Turkish nationalism. In the period before 1974 these two
ideologies were often in opposition, but later fused and reinforced each other. To some
degree this reflects developments in the Turkish Republic since the 1950s. Of greater
importance, however, was the effect of the Greek discriminatory practices established
after 1967. The minority’s precarious position in Greek society, influenced by the
deteriorating Greek-Turkish relations, made the identity issue into a rallying point to be
exploited by the minority elite. The elite’s exploitation of the identity issue to rally the
minority does not represent something new in itself. The new factor was that the added
pressure brought on by external developments. The closure by Greek authorities of well
established minority associations with the epithet “Turkish” in their name together with
the general anti-minority policy created anxiety. In this climate Turkey remained the
moral and material reference point for the minority. The Turkish ultra-nationalist circles’
- 43 –

decision to exploit this dependence resulted in an unprecedented Turkish nationalism


peddling by part of the minority press. The slogan “Unity and Solidarity” (birlik ve
beraberlik) is reflecting both Islamic and Turkish ideals. It is striking how the attempts to
impose a totalitarian leadership centred on Sadık Ahmet led to mutual attacks within the
faction that had supporters in Turkey, each accusing the opponent of destroying the unity
and solidarity of the minority. Simply put, these calls for unity were more related to
personal ambitions than to any ideological commitment. It should be kept in mind that
this happened after this faction had been able to neutralise most of the others voices
within the minority elite, and their internal conflicts took on the character of each posing
as the most authentic voice of Turkey.
Sadık Ahmet had undeniably a lot of adherents within the minority, in particular
among the rural population. He had, however, also many adversaries among the urban
elite. It is interesting to notice that those of his adversaries who could not count on
Turkish support were to a large degree silenced although they were clearly uncomfortable
with the development of minority politics. One explanation is their indirect dependence
on Turkey because of the minority’s social structure. The vocal criticism of the “minority
mafia” by İbram Onsunoğlu was not only a reflection of his concern for the damage done
to the minority cause within the Greek political system. It was also a reflection of that he
was in a position to criticise the abnormalities in minority politics without risking
immediate retaliation from centres in Turkey, since by the early 1990s he held a position
in a public hospital outside Thrace.
The unprecedented Turkish interference in Greek domestic politics in the late 1980s
could only take place because of the minority’s precarious position. The champions of
Turkish nationalism in the minority could count on the protection of Turkey or in some
instances human rights organisations mobilised indirectly by Turkey. The burst of
Turkish nationalist rhetoric in the minority press was not necessarily representative for
the minority at large, since at this time many of the minority newspapers were in fact first
of all addressing their patrons in Turkey. There were, however, limits to the possibilities
of Turkish interference in Greek politics. The 1993 general elections must be considered
a low point in the minority’s political life. Attempts to portray the failure of electing
minority representatives for parliament as a great victory could not conceal the growing
discomfort within the minority. The return of the minority to the Greek parties in the
1996 general elections, however, took place because of a Greek-Turkish understanding
about candidates. Minority politics thus remained firmly within the framework of Greek-
Turkish relations.
- 44 –

If we look at the period after 1996 the minority press has gradually changed. The
strong polarisation of the previous period has receded. Other factors that have influenced
the press are advances in education and increased knowledge of Greek. There is
consequently greater diversity to be found today, although much of the old framework is
intact. Contact with the mainstream Greek press is in most cases limited and there is a
clear minority angle to the writings.

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