Local authorities demolish Ottoman-era Muslim cemetery for football field

The Muslim minority in northeast Greece is outraged and unanimously condemned the destruction of the Ottoman-era Muslim cemetery of Horozlu in the village of Peteinos, in the prefecture of Xanthi.

The local municipality of Avdira wants to turn the field containing the 17th-century cemetery into an amusement park with a football field, other sports fields and a playground for children.

Photographs from the area and videos posted on local news sites show a bulldozer clearing the ground, with destroyed or smashed tombstones on the ground.

As expected, the action angered Muslim communitywhich condemned the destruction of their cultural heritage.

Rodopi MP from the Movement for Change KINAL Ilhan Ahmet tweeted: “Today, when the municipality of Bulustra has turned the Horozlu cemetery into a football field, we strongly condemn this disrespect for our history and cultural heritage, and demand that this illegal decision be revoked by the municipality immediately.”

This move was also condemned Mufti Xanthi. In a statement, he said that “such actions are not consistent with the good climate that Christians and Muslims have been creating in our area for so many years.”

“We will take all the necessary steps for the state to intervene and correct the mistake of the local authorities,” he added.

Turkey’s reaction was also expected, with a press release condemning the destruction of the historic cemetery. “The necessary demarches were made in front of Greece in connection with this inhuman act, since, as it turned out, it is being carried out with the directives of the mayor of Bulustra (Avdir),” the statement reads, in particular. We expect that the Greek authorities, having responded positively to our demarches, will show the necessary sensitivity in order to complete the investigation as soon as possible and return the cemetery to its previous state.”

It is reported that two local MPs, Burkhan Baran (KINAL) and Hussein Zeimbek (SYRIZA), already on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the destruction and desecration of the cemetery in the Xanthi prosecutor’s office.

The Secretary General for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Education issued a statement stating:

“The destruction of cemeteries is an act that deeply hurts every person, regardless of their religion. The pictures we saw today insult our culture. Respect for the dead is non-negotiable, just as respect for our Muslim brothers in Thrace is non-negotiable.”

According to the latest information, the Ministry of Culture, one of the responsible institutions, intervened in the case, sued the “unknowns” and stopped work at the site. The tombstones will be moved to a safe place to protect them.

In Greece, since the time of the Ottoman rule, there has been a large Muslim community, approximately 300,000 people. Basically, these are those Muslim Greeks and ethnic Turks who refused to resettle in Turkey after the population exchange process that took place in the 20s of the last century, after the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

Read more about the situation in the material To the 98th anniversary of the tragedy in Smyrni.

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