American Hellenic Institute


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Washington Times Publishes AHI Letter
May 4, 2000 No. 27/2000 (202) 785-8430

Washington Times Publishes AHI Letter

On April 30, 2000 the Washington Times published the following letter from Eugene T. Rossides in reply to the article by Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on the subject of Turkey's human rights record.

Senator may be too optimistic about 'Turkey's human rights progress'

With regard to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms' April 21 Op-Ed column, "Turkey's human rights progress," we hope his optimism on the course of Turkish human rights abuses is justified. The Turkish people certainly merit a reprieve from the relentless pattern of oppression they have suffered over the past decades. Mr. Helms is right when he calls for Turkey to adhere to "world-class standards of democracy and human rights." At present, the Turkish constitution, with its dominant role for the Turkish military, does not get to first base.

Two conspicuous omissions from Mr. Helms' column were Cyprus and religious freedom in Turkey. During the Turkish aggression against Cyprus in 1974, the Turkish forces killed more than 1,000 Greek Cypriots and forced 180,000 Greek Cypriots to flee from their homes. The Turkish military occupation of 37.3 percent of the island is in its 26th year, and signs of Turkish progress on human rights are zero. Such independent institutions as the European Court of Human Rights have found the Turkish occupation guilty of denying human rights to the residents of Cyprus and have assessed large monetary penalties against Turkey.

Religious freedom is sharply curtailed in Turkey. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are subject to regular harassment. The Patriarchate's School of Theology at Halki was closed illegally in 1971 and remains closed despite requests from the U.S. government and others to have it reopened.

Mr. Helms wisely accepts that many of the charges of human rights abuses against Turkey are well-founded. I hope that, in assessing progress, he also will take account of Turkey's complete lack of movement on Cyprus and religious freedom and protection for the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

General Counsel
American Hellenic Institute