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Do You Speak Corona? Western Thrace Turk organizations manufactured masks for those in need

The Turkish Minority of Western Thrace coped with the pandemic situation quite well, the representatives of the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association and the Friendship, Equality and Peace Party told FUEN. According to them, this is mainly related to the very effective and efficient measures that the Greek state took all over the country. That is why Greece is one of the most successful countries in the world in coping with the coronavirus. As of 27 May 2020 the numbers in Greece are only 2892 cases and 173 deaths.

In Western Thrace, in the Rhodope province, the region most densely populated by the Turkish minority, there are only a couple of cases and 1 death in total. “These past 2 months with the pandemic situation, our Minority members implemented all the necessary measures and precautions that the Greek state took and also took care of themselves. There were no significant differences in the situation between the minority and the majority, we can even state that members of the minority were more careful and more obedient to the measures and sensitivities of the corona risks” – say the organizations.

An issue concerning the call to prayer occurred during the period of Easter. All churches and also mosques were already closed and praying was not permitted inside them.But the mosques that were subjected to the appointed muftis were closed even for the reciting of azan, the calling to prayer from the microphones of the mosques. The mosques that were subjected to the elected muftis who are accepted by the minority members operated normally with the reciting of azan five times a day every day, because this had nothing to do with the corona situation, it was only a call for people to pray at home and there was no health risk on that since the mosques remained closed.

A notable good practice can be highlightedin the municipality of Komotini, where the population of minority and majority is balanced. The public authorities made announcements and warnings with their vehicles in Turkish language whenever they passed the Turkish neighbourhoods of the city. Unfortunately this good example did not take place in Xanthi, another city with a large minority population.

In Greece, all the public and minority schools were closed together. As of 1 June 2020, the Greek state opened the primary schools together with the minority schools all over the country. Cafeterias and restaurants were also opened, but with some precautions. However, these openings started to cause corona cases and the number of cases started to increase all over the country. The Western Thrace Turks are concerned with these openings.

The minoritycommunity implemented the production and distribution of many thousands of protective masks to people and to associations. Because of the high demand for masks, their prices went very high and there was also a shortage of supply, people could not even find masks. “In many minority villages the women sewed and prepared masks at home. We believe that this practice helped people not only economically but also in terms of availability problems.As BTAYTD, DEB Party and also other Minority NGOs like Xanthi Turkish Union and Komotini Turkish Youth Union we organized the distribution of the masks. Some masks were also given to minority municipalities and medical associations” – the representatives of BTAYTD and DEB Party told us.

Another good practice was that the elected muftis (religious leaders) closed the mosques for praying and made warnings to the people all the time to obey the measures, especially in the month of Ramadan where there were high risks.The elected muftis of Komotini and Xanthi also organized a help campaign for coronavirus and made donations.

The BTAYTD and DEB Party made joint announcements to its members for the corona measures, and BTAYTD made a donation to a regional medical association.

The Xanthi Turkish Union organized a quarantine paintings activity among their young students in their painting courses and also did a song about staying at home.

During April 2020 FUEN has conducted a survey entitled Do You Speak Corona? on the situation of European minorities during the pandemic. The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in minority language. The short report on the results is here and you can download the whole report in PDF format by clicking here.

This series of case studies is the continuation of the Do You Speak Corona? project.

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