Turkey reacted to the Greek Parliament’s decision to constitute an expanded electoral body, comprising 33 Islamic clerics from the Muslim minority of Thrace, who will form an advisory board that will scrutinize the candidates for the role of muftis.
The Turkish side (Ankara and the deep state) rejected the reform and insisted direct elections should be held within the region’s mosques. Whereby with raising their hand, the faithful will merely confirm the choice imposed on them by the consulate, with supposed “democratic” procedures. Naturally, these procedures do not apply in Turkey itself, where muftis are appointed to key institutions.
This was no surprise to anyone who has been following the developments. Any reform so far by the Greek side that has attempted to modernize the Muslim community and harmonize it with Europe has met with strong reactions from Turkey, which through the parallel structures it has established within Greece is attempting to control and manipulate the community. Anyone who tries to challenge the power of the consulate and its system is ostracized as a traitor, a Christian, an “instrument” of the Greeks, and others.
The expulsion of Rodopi MP Achmet Ilchan from the so-called “Advisory Committee for the Turkish Minority in Western Thrace” for publicly questioning the interventionist approach of Turkish Consul General Murat Omeroglu is the most obvious case. The clash between Ilchan and the mechanisms of the consulate, and the consul general himself, did not come as a bolt from the blue. It was the culmination of his political autonomy and the dynamism that he draws from the community’s electorate that has voted for him twice in recent years with tens of thousands of votes each time.
His dismissal and targeting by the “Advisory Committee,” which in its announcement even conducted a political “funeral,” can only be seen as a challenge to our democracy. At the same time, it was also a message to the members of the community who look to Europe and hope to break free as to who is truly in charge of their future and fates.
Under other circumstances, the re-election of Ilchan, whenever the next elections are held, would potentially not be particularly important. There is now a different side to this election that our political class, as evidenced by the rather mild reactions, seems not to have grasped, primarily his own party (PASOK-KINAL). It will be a contest between the right and obligation of a member of the Greek Parliament to decide and express himself freely and the mechanisms set up by a foreign consulate that seeks to politically eradicate him. When it comes down to it, it is about the quality of our democracy itself.
This article was originally published in Kathimerini and republished here with permission.