Urfa Jews’ cemetery demand disapproved
The Jewish cemetery in Ulus district of Istanbul is seen in this file photo. Hürriyet photo
Şanlıurfa Municipality has rejected an appeal from a Jewish citizen requesting a cemetery for Jews in the city. “No proceedings have started based on the current appeal,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Eyüp Badem, a Jewish citizen living in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, appealed to Şanlıurfa Municipality for the creation a separate cemetery for the city’s Jewish community, Daily Taraf reported yesterday. The municipality, however, rejected the demand, saying that “allocating a separate cemetery for Jewish citizens is not possible.” Following the municipality’s decision, Badem wrote a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the issue. The letter he received in response, dated Jan.
24, 2012 and signed by the Prime Minister’s Office’s Public Relations Department Chair A. İhsan Sarıkoca, also rejected his appeal. “Upon examining your request, it was found that you had made this request previously and the relevant authorities gave their answer. Consequently new proceedings have not been started for your current appeal,” the letter read.
On April 8, 2011, the Şanlıurfa Municipality Parks Directorate’s Cemeteries Department issued a letter responding to the matter, signed by Deputy Mayor Mahmut Kırıkçı. “Allocating a separate, individual cemetery for Jewish citizens is not possible according to the regulations regarding cemetery buildings and procedures of transfer and burial. However, there is no legislation or rule restricting the burials of Jewish citizens in our existing cemetery. Everyone is buried in the present cemetery, regardless of differences in religion, race, or sex. Our municipality helps everyone with the burial procedures, without regard to these differences. Of course we provide services to our Jewish citizens. But our municipality does not provide any religious funeral rituals; these are conducted by the families of the deceased,” the letter read.
53 secret Jewish families
“There are about 53 families who are hiding their Jewish identity in Şanlıurfa. [To date my family has] also hidden [its Jewish identity]. Our dead are buried in a Muslim cemetery. We cannot perform our religious rituals in this cemetery, because we are afraid. We cannot use any symbol of our religion. We want to bury our dead in our own cemetery from now on. But I have received negative responses to the appeals I made, although I wasn’t expecting that. In Şanlıurfa, which is home to many different religions and cultures, we Jews do not even have a cemetery of our own,” Badem said.
The Jewish community could consider purchasing land for the establishment of a Jewish cemetery if necessary, Badem said. “When we have our own cemetery, we will be able to perform our religious rituals and use our own symbols on our gravestones. We cannot do that in a Muslim cemetery,” Badem said.