Turkey’s election campaign will also be fought on Greek territory as the country’s main opposition candidate is set to speak at a rally in the town of Komotini, Thrace — home to many thousands of Muslims — on Thursday.
Muharrem Ince, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate for the upcoming snap presidential election on June 24, will visit the Turkish consulate in Komotini before speaking at an open-air rally in the center of the town.
According to reports, Ince may also visit the town of Xanthi, before he continues his election campaign to southern Bulgaria, also home to a large Muslim community.
Although the Muslims of Thrace, as Greek citizens, do not have the right to vote in the Turkish elections, Ince’s move is being regarded as a response to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s electioneering in Bosnia and Germany.
Erdogan, controversially, raised the issue of the region’s Muslim minority during an official visit to Greece last year.
The Turkish leader reiterated his call to revise the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, citing conditions of the Muslim minority in Thrace.
“Muslims in [Greece’s] Western Thrace are not allowed to choose a mufti by their own community, efforts to appoint a mufti are ongoing; this is not the case for the Patriarchate in Turkey,” he said.
“You cannot find any discrimination against Turkish citizens of Greek origin, while in Western Thrace, writing the word ‘Turkish’ is not allowed,” he said.
According to unofficial estimates up to 140,000 Muslims live in Greece’s Thrace.
Turkey insists that most Muslims in Western Thrace are ethnically Turkish, while Greece claims many are Pomak and others of local origin who converted to Islam and adopted the Turkish language and identity in the Ottoman period.
These arguments have territorial overtones, since the self-identification of the Muslims in Western Thrace could conceivably support territorial claims to the region by Turkey.