SOME POINTS ON THE FORMULATION OF A CORRECT POLICY FOR THRACE
By:The Hellenic Academic FORUM
His Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic
Honorable Prime Minister
Honorable Leaders of the Political Parties
Honorable Members of Parliament
The Hellenic Academic FORUM has as members Greek university professors and scientists, Ph.D. holders, from Greece, Cyprus, the USA and from 19 other countries. It is a branch of the Hellenic Electronic Center ( www.greece.org) a nonprofit Organization established in the US to promote Greek interests and having close to 40,000 members.
We have recently been recipients of messages of distress from colleagues in Thrace and of alarming information about the results of an education policy which has been pursued for years in the minority areas in Thrace. We have also monitored the relevant news reports and television broadcasts on the matter of the heroic teacher, Ms. Hara Nikopoulou, and the actions of some individuals whose intention is to Turkify the region. As ordinary Greeks who love our homeland, and many of us as teaching scholars, we would like to express our profound concern and alarm with the Greek government’s handling of a national problem of critical importance.
It came to our attention from various sources that the educational policy implemented in Thrace is largely based on proposals by a research group at the University of Athens, funded from EPEAEK programs (Operational Program for Education and Primary Vocational Training) with sums totaling 20 million Euros. We do not wish to enter into any criticism of thesε proposals, as this was done by others who have more information about their relative merit. However, we want to stress that we consider it inconceivable and very dangerous that a national policy on such a crucial and sensitive issue, a policy forcing the Pomaks and Roma of Thrace to be taught Turkish as their mother language, with obvious consequences on their social and national assimilation, to be based on the ambiguous views of a certain academic research group, regardless of the academic credentials of the people involved.
We regard that a national policy on such an issue should be based on the recommendations of a National Policy Council (for Thrace), staffed not just by academics but by highly acknowledged experts, diversely experienced and by reputable scientists, some of whom are now living in Thrace and have direct knowledge of the pertinent problems. Such a Council should consider the views not only of a certain group with direct access to the centers of power, but other views as well; it should examine in depth the impact of any relevant item always within the framework of existing treaties which govern the status of minorities, international practices, local experience, and relevant Turkish policies towards the Greeks of Constantinople, Imbros and Tenedos. Only after such a thorough investigation, the Council should recommend an appropriate national policy and actions necessary to achieve our national objectives.
The manner in which such issues of vital interest have been addressed by the leaders of our country over the past decades, indicates a lack of professionalism or seriousness of purpose at best. Unfortunately, it is this type of not thoroughly examined actions that have led Greece, in many areas, to its current plight which hurts us all and provokes our citizens to cynicism and loss of pride.
We believe that within the framework of the reorganization of the country that the present government has announced, priority should be placed on the creation, without fanfare, of a National,( i.e. above partisan lines), Council for addressing the problems of Thrace, and which will urgently examine the problems related to education in the Greek Muslim schools and the attempted Turkification of the region. This Council must be staffed and supported by the best resources Hellenism can provide, independent of partisan considerations and interventions, and all political parties must guarantee its continuity. Obviously, the council will act as a think tank, in an advisory capacity for strategic planning and formulation of policy alternatives, while the responsibility for the decisions will always be with the government.
Let us take heed of the cries of agony and pay attention to the anxieties of those Greeks, Christian Pomaks and Roma, who have remained in our Thrace. Let us start as a nation doing what is needed, without ideological prejudices or preconceptions but rather with criteria based on national interest and common sense. At the same time, let us make sure at least that the Law is fully applied in every city and village of Thrace, so that no Greek citizen of the region, Christian or Muslim, feels that he/she belongs to an oppressed minority in his/her own country. This way we may prevent future, and as many of us fear upcoming, national calamities.
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