Turkey says Greek move to shut down Turkish schools is ‘assimilation’

Turkey said on Wednesday that Greece’s moves to shut down schools for its Turkish minority was part of assimilation efforts.

Greece's Education Ministry recently shut down eight Turkish primary schools in western Thrace where the Turkish minority is concentrated, citing low attendance. 

"This practice by Greece is a part of the assimilation and oppression efforts towards the Turkish minority in Western Thrace," Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

With the latest closures, the number of Turkish minority primary schools - of which there had been 231 until 25 years ago - had dropped to 115, he said.

"In this regard, we support the reactions of the institutions and the establishments of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, and bring this issue to the consideration of the international human rights organisations," Aksoy said. 

Western Thrace’s Muslim-Turkish minority of around 150,000 people has long been an issue of contention between Ankara and Athens with Turkey calling out Greece for what it calls a failure to grant full rights to the minority, including state denial of ethnic identity and restrictions on freedom of religion.

Greece stepped up shutting down schools attended by Turkish minority students in 2011 as part of a drive to cut costs.