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Visitors to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Visitors to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

ISTANBUL – Earlier this month, a federation of Balkan and Greek Turkic organizations held a huge Iftar dinner to end the Ramadan daily fast. Held at the Topkapi-1453 public grounds, the dinner included notables from the art, business and political worlds. Many of the guests were Turkish citizens, but with family roots in the Balkan peninsula and Greece. Others had arrived from as far away as Germany, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania. But they had one particular interest in common: how to protect the rights – both inside and outside of Turkey – of ethnic Turks who find themselves as an excluded minority.

As part of the legacy of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), there are significant long-established ethnic Turk minorities in countries around southern and eastern Europe. There has also been significant immigration from Turkey in the post-War era to Western European countries, as well as to the United States and Australia.

The Balkan and Greek Turkic federation president, Suheyl Cobanoglu, detailed the breadth of service the different organizations provide: from international symposiums and conferences, elections oversight in the Balkans, support for Turkish candidates, and support for Turks living in difficult conditions looking to move to Turkey.

Still, the list of problems that these populations face in Eastern Europe is just as long: racist attacks on Turks and Muslims, poor education, limits in Balkan countries on the public use of the Turkish language, restrictions on the building of new mosques, and inadequate access to social security and health care services across Eastern Europe.

Cobanoglu cited a famous phrase from modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. "Turks, whether they be from Diyarbakir, Van, Erzurum, Trabzon, Istanbul, Thrace or Macedonia are all veins of the same gem stone." But these words, he said, were intended for those in Turkey who have been known to discriminate against newly arrived Turks from abroad.https://worldcrunch.com/node/3602/edit?destination=admin%2Fcontent%2Fnode

"In America, people have come from all over the world. And in 150 to 200 years, they have come to dominate the world," Cobanoglu. "From that point of view, is it possible for we Turks to lose the connection that we feel with each other over a 1,000 years of history of living in Turkey and Europe?"

Read the full article in Turkish by Yalcin Bayer

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