Turkey’s Syriacs deprived of rights, says union head
Vercihan Ziflioğlu ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Tuma Çelik (L) says there is a lack of clarity as to who the Syriac community is and what its status is.Turkey’s Syriac Christian minority has not been able to take advantage of the rights bestowed upon them as part of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, according to a community representative.
“Although Syriacs were included as a minority in the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey placed random hurdles before [the Syriacs] to prevent us from taking advantage of these rights,” the head of the Turkish branch of the European Syriac Union, Tuma Çelik, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The Syriac community lost an entire two thirds of its population in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, Çelik said, adding that Nestorians, or Eastern Syriacs, in the eastern province of Hakkari were also forced to flee to Iraq in 1924.
Syriac Christians in Turkey today face a problem of “recognition,” Çelik said. “They shut down our only school in 1928 and exiled our patriarch to the Deyrulzafaran Monastery in 1930. As such, Syriacs who were pushed to the brink of extinction were not able to voice their concerns in public.”
There is a lack of clarity as to who the community is and what its status is, Çelik said, adding that “determined steps” needed to be made to rectify the problem.
Çelik said the Syriacs were demanding legal recognition of their identity, the return of their usurped rights – both material and incorporeal – greater safety in the region, the end of the feudal social system in the country’s east and the development of a democratic atmosphere.
Such moves would help the position of Syriacs around the world, according to community leaders.
Çelik also criticized the ongoing lawsuit regarding the fate of the Mor Gabriel, or Deyrulumur, Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin, saying it amounted to “an attack” on the Syriac people that should be brought before the European Court of Human Rights.
Local residents in the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence filed a suit against the 1,700-year-old monastery in 2008 on the grounds that it was occupying their lands.
The case regarding Mor Gabriel is still continuing.