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OSCE 2002 - Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Statements by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights


September 19, 2002


The following are excerpts from IHF's report at the 2002 OSCE meeting.

TOLERANCE AND NON-DISCRIMINATION:
National Minorities


Greece continues its policy not to recognize any national or ethnic minority in its territory despite the presence of large Turkish and Macedonian minorities. The word “Turkish” still creates difficulties for those who used it. For example, on 25 January 2002, the Komotini Court of Appeals once again confirmed the dissolution of the Turkish Union of Xanthi.

Macedonian activists are repressed, amidst almost complete silence and even outright hostility towards that minority in Greek political life, media and society. Even the use of Macedonian first names is discouraged. In the rare cases when, despite the prevailing hostility, parents try to give their children Macedonian names, the civil servants who are Orthodox priests refuse to do so and equivalent Greek names are arbitrarily imposed on the children. At the same time the recovery of Macedonian and Bulgarian last names forcefully converted into their Greek equivalents in the 1920s and 1930s, has been made virtually impossible by the Greek authorities: The Greek Ombudsman asserted in 2001 that during the first attempt to recover a Bulgarian name, the request was rejected and the individual was harassed.

Despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights on 10 July 1998 found that Greece was found in violation of Article 11 of the European Convention protecting the freedom of association, the Florina Bar Association has failed for two years to appoint a lawyer to register the “Home of Macedonian Civilization” (Stegi Makedonikou Politismou). The Greek Ombudsman’s efforts to this end have not helped. The Bar Association’s refusal to appoint a lawyer has been used as a pretext by the local courts for acting in the same manner.

     
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