'Erdogan views Greek minority as equal citizens’

By Metin Mutanoglu

ATHENS (AA) – Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first prime minister after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who counted Turkey's Greek (Rum) minority as equal citizens of the country, senior journalists from the minority community said.

Stelyo Berberakis, a journalist who was born in the minority family and later migrated to Greece, spoke exclusively to Anadolu Agency.

Berberakis said the community began to feel that they are equal citizens in Turkey after Erdogan became prime minister in the country.

"Why? Because Erdogan is the first prime minister who acknowledged Rums as citizens after Ataturk, in the 90-year history of the republic," Berberakis stressed.

He said they are both Turkish citizens and members of the Greek (Rum) minority and any minority member cannot defame Erdogan as it would be "ungratefulness".

"Until today, no prime minister did what Erdogan has done regarding equal citizenship," he added.

Berberakis recalled that when Erdogan, as Turkish prime minister, spoke in Athens, some leaders of Greek (Rum) minority associations in Greece said they would not have migrated to Greece if they had a prime minister like Erdogan back then.

Yorgo Kirbaki, another journalist from the Rum community, said previous prime ministers never mentioned about the events that happened on Sept. 6-7, 1955.

However, Erdogan mentioned those events and acknowledged that a mistake was made and a number of the members of Turkey's Greek (Rum) minority was sent to Greece.

– 'We exist'

"He said this many times. It had a very positive effect. We felt that we exist," Kirbaki said.

Kirbaki noted they have a patriarchate in Istanbul, referring to the Fener-Rum Orthodox Patriarchate.

In the recent years, he said, the Patriarchate enjoys more rights than ever before since the Ottoman times.

"Minority means color. People have to understand that," Kirbaki added.

Manolis Kostidis, a journalist, said a minority school in Turkey's Gokceada island, which had been closed, was opened in 2013 as part of an initiative taken by Erdogan.

Kostidis said the school was opened with only four students but the number has now risen to 47.

He added that some members of the Greek (Rum) community are returning to Gokceada island.

There is an approximately 50,000-strong Greek (Rum) community living in Greece, who was born in Turkey but migrated to Greece.

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