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Turkish minority in Greece's Western Thrace region marks resistance day

Turkish minority in Greece's Western Thrace region on Tuesday marked the anniversary of a huge rally made against the government's oppression and denial of the Turkish identity.

On Jan. 29, 1988, thousands of people of the Turkish minority rallied in Komotini city to protest the oppression and denial of their identity by Greece.

Speaking at an event to remember the resistance day, Turkish Minority of Western Thrace Advisory Board (BTTADK) Chairman Ibrahim Serif said the rally in 1988 was "a peaceful resistance movement" against the increasing oppression.

In a statement, elected Mufti of Xanthi Ahmet Mete also said on Jan. 29, 1988, the Turkish minority protested the oppression and denial of Turkish identity by the Greek state.

In 1988, the Greek judiciary had shut down several associations in the Western Thrace which had the word "Turkish" in their names, by saying "there are no Turks in Greece". The Jan. 29 march was made to protest this decision.

However, this was the final straw, as the Turkish minority lived through years of oppression, which were tightened after Turkey's intervention in Cyprus in 1974.

In those years, Turks in Western Thrace had significant difficulties in obtaining driving licences and repairing or building new houses, which were only two examples of the oppression.

On the second anniversary of the rally in 1990, far-right Greeks, in a spirit of revenge, attacked more than 500 shops belonging to the Turks in Komotini and Xanthi and injured many of the people.

The event is described as a "mini-pogrom" by some academics.

Today, the associations having the word "Turkish" in their names are still banned in Western Thrace, although the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Greece on the issue in 2008.

Western Thrace region of Greece is home to around 150,000 Muslim Turks.

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