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SYRIZA replaces a Roma woman on the ballot paper for the European elections with an ethnic Turk

22 April 2014 / 19:04:56  GRReporter
3433 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The violent debates in the main opposition SYRIZA party in Greece on the inclusion of Roma woman Sabiha Suleiman on the party ballot paper for the European elections ended with her exclusion from it.

The party authorities issued a short message stating, "A meeting of the secretaries of the regional party committees and the deputies from the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace in the presence of Secretary of the Central Committee Dimitris Vitsas decided to interrupt the inclusion of Sabiha Suleiman on the ballot paper for the European elections. The minority will nominate Mestan Osman Umiz for the European Parliament."

According to media reports from the region of Xanthi, removing the Roma woman from SYRIZA’s ballot paper for the European elections is the result of acute reactions on the part of the Turkish minority in the region. Local political sources told "Ta Nea" newspaper, "SYRIZA deputies of Turkish identity requested the withdrawal of the nomination of Sabihah, who has long been a thorn in the side of the Muslims with a pro Turkish position."

The decision on nominating the Muslim woman of Roma origin a SYRIZA candidate for Member of the European Parliament was taken at a meeting of the central party committee. The decision on replacing her with a representative of the Muslim minority of Turkish identity was taken at a meeting of the local party bodies, provoking reactions in the public domain.

In addition, since morning, various members of the leftist leadership have been trying to dispel the negative reactions, arguing that Sabiha alone has given up her candidacy. "I have not resigned, they have expelled me," she stated to refute the claims of leading party officials.

"SYRIZA secretary Mr. Dimitris Vitsas called me on Monday afternoon and told me that they had withdrawn my candidacy. He did not tell me the reason for this. The central commission had voted for me. All this was very surprising. It seems that they wanted a candidate with Turkish identity," said Sabiha Suleiman before the Greek media, adding that a few years ago she had been the object of an attack by "people of Turkish identity". She also said that her sole purpose is for Roma children to attend Greek primary schools (rather than minority schools, where the education takes place in Turkish - author’s note). "I do not know if I would decide to get involved in politics again," she concluded.

Despite the efforts of SYRIZA leadership to appease the spirits related to the removal of Sabiha Suleiman, the party's candidate for the European Parliament and Vice-President of the World Federation for Human Rights Dimitris Christopoulos openly stated that he had done everything possible to remove her from the ballot paper.

In an interview for the online edition he said that in no way could he be on the same ballot paper with the Roma activist. "The problem in this nomination, which was fortunately removed, and I admit in public that I worked for this, is the following: It is one thing for a leftist citizen of the Thrace region to say that he is not Muslim because he is not a believer whereas it is quite different when this lady states that she was suppressed by the Turkish nationalism. SYRIZA must understand the simple but critical difference that turns part of the minority into symbols of comrades’ coexistence and solidarity and some others into the "Trojan horses" of one type of nationalism to another." Christopoulos said that the minority in Western Thrace is "a compact Turkish thing rather than two or three ethnic groups, such as Pomaks, Gypsies and Turks," and blamed the divide on the "mechanisms of the Greek nationalism".

His words were severely criticized by other members of SYRIZA, including by expert in ethnology and teacher at the University of Western Macedonia Domna Michael. On her Facebook profile she wrote, "I am totally against this view of Dimitris Christopoulos. Of course, not one but three ethnic groups of Muslims live in the area of Thrace. The presence of a single Turkish ethnic group is the firm position of the Turkish consulate in the region. Understandably, the Turkish side can express similar positions but I am particularly worried when Dimitris Christopoulos, who sets the course of SYRIZA policy in Thrace, expresses them. Furthermore, in my capacity as a SYRIZA candidate for regional councillor in Western Macedonia this puts me in a position to apologize for views that I do not recognize under any circumstances."

GRReporter contacted Domna Michael. "In his interview Dimitris Christopoulos states that he has been nominated due to his experience with minority issues which is determined by the fight against two types of nationalism, namely Greek and Turkish, and especially by the right of people to determine the ethnic group to which they want to belong without threatening their position in Greek society. Everything he says is correct but it completely contradicts his other statements. Because when you recognize the right of people to self-determination then you recognize their right to ethnic determination. In Western Thrace, there are three ethnic groups and we all know this very well. Pomaks and Roma are one ethnic group and this is an undeniable fact," she stressed.

Domna Michael said that many sociologists have examined the ethnic group of the Pomaks and she herself has conducted her Ph.D. among them. She said she is surprised by the position of Dimitris Christopoulos, who is also a member of the Minority Groups Research Centre which held in the past many discussions on this topic.


Tags: PoliticsSYRIZAEuropean electionsSabiha SuleimanRoma womanBallot paper
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