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INTERNATIONAL > Syriacs ‘common value’ for Turkey and Sweden

ISTANBUL

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President Abdullah Gül is received by the Swedish Speaker of Parliament Per Westerberg in Stockholm. AP photo

President Abdullah Gül is received by the Swedish Speaker of Parliament Per Westerberg in Stockholm. AP photo

Syriacs who live in Sweden and have had roots in the geography of Turkey for centuries are a common denominator between Ankara and Stockholm, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said yesterday in his address to the Swedish Parliament. 

“We consider religious minorities who are the children of our country as part of our diversity,” Gül said, while praising the Turkish government’s “sincere efforts” on Syriacs. “We are working sincerely to further improve the conditions for the Syriac community in Turkey.”

Rally outside Parliament

Outside Parliament, a group of 400 Turkish origin Syriacs who live in Sweden gathered to stage a protest against the president as he was making the address. Özcan Koldoyo, the spokesperson of the Sweden-based Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Association (ACSA), slammed President Gül’s speech, saying they had been “waiting for the return of their rights for almost 180 years.”

“We never accept Gül’s kind remarks,” Koldoyo said. Stressing that Syriacs were considered “intruders” in the Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin and that there 
were still some expressions of hostility against Syriacs in school textbooks, Koldoyo said they “did not believe in the government’s good intentions.”

Koldoyo also criticized Istanbul Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin’s joining of the Turkish delegation visiting Sweden. “A group of our friends met with him and we clearly told him that he was not welcome. We don’t respect him in any way and he can’t represent us in that way,” he said.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu contributed this report from Daily News Istanbul Bureau.

March/14/2013

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