Date: Sun, 14 Dec 97 13:32:34 CST
From: “” <>
Subject: Greece: complete texts on appeal for Thrace
Article: 24051

Appeal to the Greek government for the abolition of Article 19 of the Citizenship Code and other discriminations

Press Release, 10 December 1997

The human rights organizations signing this text, on the occasion of today's International Day of Human Rights, appeal to the Greek government to:

1. Abolish Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which is a flagrant violation of the constitutional principle of equality before the law, by giving the administration the discretion to arbitrarily revoke the citizenship of only “non-ethnic ( allogenous)” Greek citizens when they settle abroad with no intent to return, an article that was recently characterized by Foreign Minister Thodoros Pangalos “a clause that violates human rights.”

2. Grant to the stateless (former Greek citizens who, following an irregular application of Article 19, lost the Greek citizenship though they have been living permanently in Greece) all rights resulting from the UN 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (ratified by Greece with Law 139 of 25/25—8-1975 but never applied to this date in our country ), starting with the granting of identity documents (according to article 27 of the Convention) or/and travel documents (according to article 28), so that these persons can at long last go to school, have social security and healthcare, receive pensions, have work permits, etc. instead of being almost “human ghosts.”

3. Abolish all administrative circulars and provisions on the restricted zone in Thrace, which, contrary to government declarations, remains in force, with the exception of the abolition of the control of the entrance and exit from it only for Greek citizens, as the local police authorities sincerely assert..

The appeal is also signed by the three minority deputies Birol Akifoglou (ND), Galip Galip (PASOK), and Moustafa Moustafa (Coalition) and the political parties Coalition (Synaspismos), OAKKE and Rainbow.

The appeal is available in the web:

Citizens' Movement against Racism
(3 Saranta Ekklision St., 16231 Athens, tel. 7652213)
Committee for Human Rights and Against Racism (Kalamata),
(67 Aristomenous St., Kalamata, tel. 0721 26608 fax: 0721 25166)
Forum of Social and Youth Organizations for Human Rights
(417 Aharnon St., GGNG building, Athens, tel/fax: 2530949, e-mail:,
Greek Helsinki Monitor
(P.O. Box 51393, 14510 Kifisia, tel. 620.01.20; fax: 807.57.67;
Minority Rights Group—Greece
(P.O. Box 51393, 14510 Kifisia, tel. 620.01.20; fax: 807.57.67; e-mail:
Network of Movements for Political and Social Rights
(35 Valtetsiou St, 10681 Athens, tel. 3828325 fax: 3843911)
Network of Women of Europe
(15 Amaliados St. Athens, tel. f fax: 6411449)
SOS Racisme —Greece
(P.O. Box 3724, 10210 Athens, tel.. 3613392; e-mail,
Turkish Minority Movement for Human and Minority Rights
(5 Othonos St., 69100 Komotini, tel. 0531 20660 fax: 0531 37759)
Women in the Struggle against Drugs and Social Exclusion
(134 Solonos St., Athens, tel. 3841171)
Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE),
(1 Maisonos St., 10438 Athens tel. f fax 5247177)

Living in limbo: Campaign to stop ‘ghost citizen’ law

Athens News, 11 December 1997

Rights activists demand end to law which makes Muslims stateless

HUMAN rights campaigners yesterday called on the government to scrap a citizenship law which they say is used to oppress Greece's Muslim minority and which has left thousands of people stateless and stranded without their basic rights.

The campaigners and representatives of the 120,000-strong minority issued the plea in Athens on World Human Rights Day. They highlighted the plight of Muslims stripped of their citizenship and thus deprived of their right to travel, education, free healthcare and almost everything else.

Aysel Zeibek is 20 and has been a “ghost citizen” for 13 years. Her entire family, from the village of Echinos near the Bulgarian border, had their passports and ID cards confiscated after going on a trip to Istanbul. “I want to get married but I cannot,” the slightly built Zeibek told the news conference. “I can remember when I was seven. I couldn’t really understand what was going on…They called my mother down to the police station and she came back crying.” She added: “It's like having been in jail for 13 years. I can’t get a degree. I can’t travel. I have absolutely no rights. My father had to have a heart operation but he wasn’t insured…I want my passport and ID card back.”

Zeibek lost her citizenship under the now-infamous Article 19 of Greece's Citizenship Act first voted into the law in 1954 and which states that citizens of “foreign origin” can be deprived of their Greek nationality if they leave the country with the intention of settling abroad.

Panayote Dimitras, head of Greece's branch of the Helsinki Human Rights Monitor, said at least 7,000 people had been made stateless since the law was passed, including about 50 new cases this year. Over half the Muslim minority in Thrace is considered to be ethnic Turkish. And about 500 families living in the area are believed to be living in limbo after losing their identification papers.

The central problem of the article is that even a brief trip abroad can be taken as an intention to leave the country, while family dependants often suffer the same fate as those who are punished by the state. Campaigners also say it is inherently unjust. “We have a contradiction here. On the one hand, the state says there are no ethnic but only religious minorities. But on the other, people are being legally termed as being of foreign descent; which one is it?,” queried Pavlos Athanasopoulos, human rights officer at the Left Coalition, the only party officially represented at the news conference.

Lawyers representing the stateless charged that, apart from the citizenship law, a campaign of discrimination was being waged against the minority. They cited a secret directive signed in the Eighties by the socialist ex-deputy foreign minister, Yiannis Kapsis, which instructed authorities to process applications (business licences, building permissions etc) at the rate of 19 Orthodox applications for every Muslim one. The existence of the directive was only made public in 1989, when it was scrapped.

Yesterday's speakers charged that Article 19 was being used by the government to drive ethnic Turks out of the region. Each representative had his own case of injustice to report: The Muslim boy who was told of his loss of citizenship while serving his national service, or the elderly divorced woman also made stateless because the authorities had failed to notice that she had ended her marriage. Since 1991, foreign ministry decisions to strip citizens of their citizenship are not made public, and the Muslims in question only find out about their fate.

“I am tired of seeing this problem, of people losing their citizenship and being scared to travel,” said Galip Galip, a Muslim Pasok MP. “This is exposing [Greece] to the rest of the world.”