Turkey on minority in Western Thrace, Greece (1990)

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636)

This case study examines Turkey’s responses to perceived Greek mistreatment of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace. In February 1990, clashes take place in northeastern Greece between Christian Greeks and ethnic Turkish Muslims, which leave one Greek dead and several wounded on both sides.[i] For the period 2/1/1990 – 3/1/1990, Lexis/Nexis provides 29 results for the terms “Greece” and “Turkey” and “crisis” (full text search under European News Sources).

Case Study Features:

Indistinguishability of Offensive vs. Defensive Action: 1

Minority issues are often characterized by this indistinguishability. On the one hand, Turkey invokes principles of human rights, and in reality, the Turkish community finds it almost impossible to buy or rent land, build their own houses, replace the leaking roof, get a loan from a Greek bank, or a job in the public sector.[ii] On the other, Greece invokes the principle of reciprocity (Istanbul Greeks were forced to abandon Turkey decades ago) and the fear of creating a second Cyprus (cited also in international press).[iii]

Effectiveness of offense versus the defense :  0

Turkey does not have a military advantage over Greece in the Thrace area. Unlike Cyprus and the Aegean region, the river dividing the two countries favors defensive strategies. Geography makes any offensive expedition for either of the two countries almost impossible. Moreover, Turkey has more to gain by raising the issue internationally, indirectly masking its own human rights violations in Cyprus, Western Thrace, and Kurdistan. 

Domestic Challenge: 0

The country does not face new elections or other equally important challenges to incumbent authority.

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries: 1

There are enduring rivalries with Greece resulting from crises in Cyprus, Thrace, and the Aegean, as well as the support that Turkey claims Greece and Cyprus have yielded to PKK.

Confrontational Policies: 0

Turkey does not introduce any confrontational policy.


[i] Paul Anastasi, “Greece and Bulgaria Plan Anti-Turkey Strategies”, February 7, 1990, New York Times, p. 9.

[ii] David Hearst, “Europe: Driven down the dirt track - In three weeks, Greece deprived 500 ethnic Turks of citizenship. For the majority who remain in Thrace, life is a constant battle with bureaucracy:,  The Guardian, July 5, 1991 

[iii] “Race in Thrace”, Economist, March 2, 1991, p.50.