Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said it was fascistic to expel ethnic identities out of the country.
For experts, Erdoğan’s speech on Saturday was a historic one, as it was the first time a high official accepted that there have been unlawful and undemocratic practices against minorities in the past. However, the speech should be supported by acts to solve minority problems, according to community members.
Erdoğan spoke in the western province of Düzce at the Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, usual provincial congress. He harshly reacted to criticism from opposition parties about a tender for a mine clearing operation along the Turkey-Syria border and said: "Capital has no religion, nationality or race." He said they made the same mistake before, referring to the reluctance of allowing foreign companies to invest in Turkey.
"This is a historical speech. The prime minister criticized history on behalf of the state," Rıdvan Akar, editor-in-chief of news program "32. Gün," told daily Vatan yesterday.
Erdoğan’s speech is seen as a reference to the Sept. 6 and 7 events in Istanbul in 1955 when many Greek shops and houses were pillaged by crowds after false news reported that Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s house in the Thessaloniki neighborhood of Greece was burnt down. After the pogrom, many Greek people who were born and lived in Istanbul had to leave the city.
Kezban Hatemi, a lawyer, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the country lost its glamour after the events of Sept. 6 and 7 adding: "The prime minister’s speech reveals that they [the government] are showing an effort in removing the obstacles in front of democracy." Hatemi said Erdoğan’s speech was not an apology but the first clear remark from a top official on the unlawful approach to minorities in Turkey.
Laki Vingas, a member of the community representative assembly at the General Directorate for Foundations, said there have been positive developments during the AKP’s term in government. Vingas said they used to think about ways to leave the country Although Greek community members in Turkey believe Erdoğan’s remark was significant, they want to see action before they believe in the speech. Words alone do not solve the current problems the communities face in Turkey, according to Mihail Vasiliadis, editor-in-chief of the Apoyevmatini, a Greek-language Istanbul newspaper. Self criticism is good, but not enough, Vasiliadis told the daily Vatan. "I have heard things like that before and have gotten excited, but now the continuation of those speeches should come," said Vasiliadis.
"I have heard things like that before and have gotten excited, but now the continuation of those speeches should come," said Vasiliadis. The current problems mentioned are assets and land taken from minority foundations and the Halki seminary on Heybeliada.
Cengiz Aktar, a columnist at the Hürrıyet Daily News & Economic Review, said it was important to mention the discrimination and assimilation committed against ethnic identities, especially during the first eras of the Turkish Republic. "However, even the laws to protect the ethnic identities are not applied in reality. .
Meanwhile, opposition parties reacted to Erdoğan’s speech. Onur Öymen, vice president of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said associating Turkey’s history with terms like fascism through hearsay information is not right, news agency NTV reported yesterday.