Turks on Greece's Dodecanese islands struggle to exist

By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet

IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – Only a small number of Turks remain on Greece’s Dodecanese islands and they are struggling to survive, an expert said Friday.

The islands are home to a Turkish-Muslim minority of around 6,000 people.

Speaking at a symposium on their problems, journalist Bahadir Selim Dilek said the Dodecanese islands have an “enormous” and “very valuable” historical heritage left by the Ottomans.

Dilek said the Muslim pious endowments, or vakifs, on the islands serve as a “glue” to keep the Turkish community together and protect their existence, culture and beliefs.

“However, the vakifs were plundered, destroyed and melted like a candle,” he said.

Dilek said Greece is “very consciously” destroying the vakifs, giving the administration of vakifs to people close to the Greek government who sell the vakif properties.

He said some of the Ottoman architectural heritage on the islands was restored by the Greek state, but the restoration changed the “original identity” of these buildings, which was done by Greece consciously.

There were around 400 vakif properties on the Dodecanese islands and now there are only 40, as 90% of the vakifs were either sold or disappeared.

“After one or two generations, we will face the risk of not being able to talk about a Turkish existence,” Dilek stressed.

Also speaking, Professor Nazif Mandaci from Yasar University’s Department of International Relations said the vakifs are symbols that help people remember who they are.

“The vakifs, actually, are part of their identity,” Mandaci said.

He added that awareness of the importance of vakifs is declining among the islands’ younger generations of Turks.

He said the younger generations have adapted to the assimilationist policies, but they are still aware of their Turkish identity.