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PRESS RELEASE

June 29, 2014

"Mesopotamia's Christians, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs and other communities, are calling for a UN deployment in the Nineveh Plain in Northern Iraq under Chapter 7."


Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.

We the undersigned members of Middle East Christians Committee (MECHRIC) and other Middle Eastern Christian Organizations convened on the Capitol Hill on June 26th
2014 to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East have been deeply troubled by the anarchic crisis caused by the invasion and occupation of Mosul and Nineveh Plain and some Iraqi cities by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is particularly grave news for the vulnerable and the already oppressed Christian community that now credibly fears it will be targeted for extermination by such Islamic extremists who are branded for being inhuman and brutal.

We call on the International Community, US Administration, Government of Iraq, and the Regional Government of Kurdistan to mount an immediate and decisive response to purge Mosul and Nineveh Plains of ISIS militants and to provide immediate humanitarian aid and protection to those impacted by violence.

We strongly urge United States and European Union to petition The United Nations Security Council to address this crisis to issue resolution under Chapter 7 to deploy international forces to secure our community in Nineveh Plain and Mosul of Iraq.

The current situation in Iraq and in many other Middle East countries have become tragic for the Christians as they face the risk of extinction in the land of cradle of civilization. If the Western World and in particular United States of America want Christians to be part of the Middle East community, it is now time to act and save them.

Bethnahrin Patriotic Union Iraq
Syriac National Council of Syria
Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey Universal Syriac Union Party Lebanon European Syriac Union
Bethnahrin Women Union
Suryoyo American Association
Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council
Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute
Assyrian American National Federation World Council of Cedars Revolution World Maronite Union
Coptic Solidarity


For more information, please contact:

Joseph T. Kassab President, Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute (ICAE)

e-Mail: JKassabICT@aol.com Phone (248) 882-1912

William Youmaran President, Assyrian American National Federation (AANF)

e-Mail: wyoumaran@yahoo.com Phone (630) 400-5162


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, February 2014

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo HobilDear readers,

Syriac people around the world are watching developments and events in the Middle East countries closely as their brethren continue their presence in the region despite the harsh incidents against them and Christian populations as general. The ongoing trouble and stalemate of political impasse in the Middle East region and the deadlock on the Syrian cri- sis affect enormously the presence and the future aspirations of the Syriac people. Syria has important place among Syriac people as they leave their steps in every moment of the Syrian history.

International community and regional powers did not achieve any success and consensus in order to end the crisis of Syria which became one of the tragic events in history. Since the beginning of the uprising, on 2011, more than
130.000 people lost their life, hundreds of thousands fled the country and nearly half of the Syrian population is in precarious situation. Humanitarian situation and the conditions of refugees and IDP’s is increasingly dramatic as they lack fundamental needs for daily life.

European Syriac Union, ESU with its partner organizations inside Syria and those in Europe territories try all chan- nels to be present, help and coordinate the needs of people inside Syria. In parallel to this, ESU conducted several humanitarian aid campaigns and projects towards Syria with its partners. We will continue our commitment and efforts to the need of Syrian people.

On the other side, nowadays all regards are fixed on Geneva II conference which will seek new route map for Syrian crisis. International community, regional powers and other relevant actors are preparing their positions and alignments regarding this conference. We believe that international community and regional actors can find viable solution to Syria crisis which is becoming extremely dangerous for the Middle East region and poisoning already some countries.

We believe that Syriac people have to find their place in the Geneva II conference. This is very important point for the future of Syriac people in Syria. Ignoring minority groups and non-dominant entities during Geneva II confer- ence will be great error and fundamental missing elements for the peaceful end of this crisis. In order to achieve this point, ESU is working coordinately with its friends and organizations to assure the distinctive presence of Syriac people during the conference.

During the history, Syriac people have been discriminated, killed, massacred and had been subject of the geno- cides. Despite these painful tragedies, Syriac people continue their core existence and flourish their social and cul- tural aspirations. The presence of Syriac people in Middle East countries is an important asset.
ESU will continue to work and put its all efforts and weights on the presentation of Syriac people to the interna- tional platforms and assure and demand their fundamental political, social and cultural rights.

Lahdo Hobil
President of European Syriac Union

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Syrian Christians must have political voice at Geneva II

 

The Syriac   National   Council   of   Syria (SNCS), representing 99% of Syrian Christians, should be invited to the Geneva II peace talks on behalf of its constituents. The Christian  Coalition  for  Syria (CCFS), an initiative SNCS in cooperation with Jubilee Campaign and various organisations in Europe and the USA (www.ccfsyria.com), seeks to rally worldwide support for Syrian Christians to gain a voice in the political process.

Also known as Assyrians, Arameans and Chaldeans, the Syrians are the original native inhabitants of Syria and the Middle East and are internationally known as ‘Syriacs’. Having embraced Christianity at its birth, they should not be confused with the current majority of the nation of Syria, which is mostly Muslim. Even though Syriac history spans at least six millennia, this ethnic group has never gained constitutional rights in Middle Eastern countries. At the International Peace Conference in Geneva on January 22nd, they are again threatened with exclusion.

Political  representation

Peter Bronsveld, director of Human Rights organisation Jubilee Campaign, thinks it is “absurd” that the interests of Syriacs and other Christians have so far been ignored in negotiations. He said, “As this group comprises twelve percent of the Syrian population, at least twelve to fifteen Syrian Christians should be accepted as members in the Syrian National Coalition. While other opposition groups are given the right to join the conversation about a new Syria, Christians and other minorities are still completely ignored. The Syriacs must be given political representation.”

In the coming period the Syriac National Council of Syria, together with Jubilee Campaign and other organisations, will seek to mobilise churches, Christian groups and organisations to get involved and join the coalition. “We are dealing with 2.6 million people that are under immediate threat and need immediate political support from the international Christian community”, says Bronsveld. “I am aware that many petitions for Syria are circulating, but our effort focuses specifically on the support of a political party (the Syriac National Council of Syria) that represents the interests of the majority of Christians in Syria.”

Risk  of  extinction
 
The founders of the coalition are convinced that, without the support and intervention of the worldwide Christian community, the Syriacs are threatened with extinction or with permanent exile from the land that bears their name. At least 600,000 of the 2.6 million Christians living in Syria before the war are now homeless or have fled abroad. As a result of the conflict, thousands of Christians have been killed—often tortured or were summarily executed because of their faith—including various prominent church leaders who were kidnapped, tortured and killed.

The CCFS calls for the international Christian community to join this initiative by endorsing the recommendations of the coalition. These can be found on the website www.ccfssyria.com.
On January 22nd, the coalition intends to join with an official delegation of the Syriac National
Council of Syria and travel with them to Geneva to present the recommendations and statements of support.

 

 


Press Release

Middle East Christian Leadership Conference in Brussels

November 5-6, 2013

“The Christians in the Middle East are ethnic cleansed, seek international recognition”

A historic conference organized by the The Middle East Christians Committee (MECHRIC), a federation of NGOs, including Coptic, Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Melkites and others, was held in Brussels on November 5th to 6th at the Thon Hotel, with one main session held at the European Parliament. Titled “Leadership Emergency Conference” the event included two days working sessions, a political dinner with European Union officials attending, and a general session held at the European Parliament chaired by lawmakers. The conference was organized to assess the present situation and challenges facing the Christians in the Middle East and discuss new strategies to address these challenges, including new international outreach.

MECHRIC history

MECHRIC is the oldest coalition of Middle East Christian organizations launched in Beirut in November 1981 by Maronite, Coptic, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and other groups to represent the aspirations of these and other communities in the Near East and North Africa. While the founding Secretariat General of MECHRIC remained in the Middle East, the international secretariat general relocated to Washington in the early 1990s and held several summits and meetings including at the US Congress as of 2000, and in several cities around the world.

With the escalation of violence and political suppression against Christian communities and individuals across the Greater Middle East region, particularly since the so-called Arab Spring, and with the failure of the international community to identify this persecution as one of the major crises in the region and internationally, the representatives of the Middle East Christian Committee held a leadership conference in Brussels to reassess the situation in the Middle East, exchange views and develop new strategies in defense of the human rights and community rights of these communities, and by ripple effect to all peoples in the region.

The goals of the leadership conference were as follows

  1. Form a wide consultative council of leaders from various NGOs and delegates to help shape strategies and outreach

  2. Assess the situation in the region, country by country and listen to reporting from various representatives coming from the Middle East.

  3. Addressing the most urgent matters first but establishing a list of items to address and consider for forthcoming conferences and seminars.

The main issues assessed were:

a.    The severe violence against Christians in Syria, Egypt and Iraq

b.    The political suppression of Christians in Lebanon and Iran

c.    The state of the Christian communities in the Greater Middle East including the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey

d.    The state of the cause of Middle East Christians in international media

 

e.    The position of the main international actors, including the US, Europe, Russia, the UN.

Participating NGO leaders

The leaders participating in the Conference represented the MECHRIC Secretariat General, Coptic Solidarity International, The World Maronite Union, members from the Assyrian National Federation/Council, advisors to the Chaldean National Council, and leaders of the Syriac Council, in addition to a Melkite representation. NGO leaders which participated in the Conference were:

Sheikh Sami Khouri President, World Maronite Union

Tom Harb, Secretary General, World Maronite Union,
Regina Kantara representative, World Maronite Union Lebanon 
John Hajjar, delegate of the Melkites Catholics

Adel Guindy President, Coptic Solidarity International, France

Magdi Khalil, Coptic Solidarity International, US
Helmy Guirguis Chairman, Coptic Solidarity UK
Sobhy Gress  Coptic Association of France

Sargon Lewie Assyrian American National Federation & Assyrian National Council 

Aprim Rasho Assyrian National Council
Attiya Gamri of the Assyrian Council of Europe, Dutch local lawmaker 
Kino Nuri Swedish Assyrian Researcher
Ishak Betsimon, Assyrian Youth Federation Sweden

Malik Aujeri , Assyrian delegation
Pauline Jasim, Coordinator of the Assyrian delegation

Kassab Joseph T, Chairman Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute (ICAE) and advisor to Chaldean Council, Detroit 
Fehmi Yousif Mansoor, President of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, Iraq 

Yako Merogi, Canada Representative of Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, Canada
Louay Noail Mikhail, Coordinator for Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, Iraq 

Bassam Ishak, President, Syriac National Council of Syria,

Hanibal Yacoub, Head of Foreign Affairs, Syriac Union Party,

Lahdo Hobil, President, European Syriac Union,
Rima Tüzün, Vice President, Bethnahrin Women Union Europe and Head of Foreign Affairs, European Syriac Union

Evgil Türker, President, Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey

Ibrahim Mrad, President, Universal Syriac Union Party, Lebanon

Sabah Barkho, President, Bethnahrin Patriotic Union, Iraq

Opening Session

On November 5th, the president of the Conference Mr. Adel Guindy opened the first session with a minute of silence for the Christians who were killed in the Middle East at the hands of terrorists and oppressors. After he made some remarks on the importance of the conference, Dr. Walid Phares, the international NGO advisor from Washington DC took the floor to introduce the history of MECHRIC and its evolution to the participants. The participants at the Leadership Conference at the Thon Hotel in Brussels included members of MECHRIC organizations and invited groups, including but not limited to Coptic, Maronite, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and Melkite Christians. To assess the situation in the region, country by country reports and information were provided by various representatives from the Middle East. The conditions of following countries were viewed: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Other main issues assessed included: the violence against Christians in Syria, Egypt and Iraq; the political suppression of Christians in Lebanon; the state of the Christian communities in the Greater Middle East, including the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey; and the state of the cause of Middle East Christians in international media.

During the working sessions, two MPs, one from Lebanese Parliament, Mr. Nadim Gemayel, and one from the Iraqi Parliament, Mr. Khalis Berber Ishoh, addressed the MECHRIC conference via Skype.

Political Dinner: EU representation

In the evening, the participants of the MECHRIC conference held a political dinner at the Silken Berlaymont with more than 12 political and diplomatic guests. The dinner was opened by John Hajjar, the Melkite representative from the U.S. Dr. Walid Phares gave a speech on MECHRIC and remarks followed by MEP Jaime Mayor-Oreja, First Vice-President of the EPP Group and president of the European Ideas Network (EIN), Mr. Patrice Bergamini, Head of division for regional policies on the Southern Mediterranean of the EEAS, representing Baroness Ashton, Foreign Minister of the political European Union, Mr. Vladimir Chizhow, ambassador of the Russian Federation Mission to the EU, Mr. Spyros Attas, Ambassador of Cyprus to the EU and Mr. Jean Louis Bosteels, representing the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Among EU diplomats, officials, Think Tanks and NGO leaders who attended the event were Patrick Deboeck, representing Belgium Mission to the EU, Maciej Golubiewski, European Union EEAS Desk Officer Syria, Tomas Sikorskis, representing the Lithuania Mission to the EU, Andrea Rossi, European Union EEAS Human Rights Directorate, Dr. Stefan Gehrold of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Fr. Patrick Daly Secretary General of COMECE, Duke  Paul de Oldenburg, Secretary General Europa Christiana, Jean Louis Bosteels, Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a representative of Europa Christiana, Roland Freudenstein director of the Center for European Studies, Kaspar Karampetian a director at the European Armenian federation for justice and democracy, Elizabeta Kitanovic  representing the Confederation of European Churches, Mr. Paolo Casaca, former Socialist MEP and chairman of the EP delegation to NATO, currently director of the South Asia Democracy Council.

The EU Foreign Affairs representative, Mr Bergamini said in his remarks that “Europe is very concerned about the state of human rights in the Middle East, including for minorities, particularly Christian minorities. The violence directed against these communities threatens not only Christians but all other communities who are seeking coexistence and democratic values.” Bergamini said the Conference is a very positive development, which will help Europeans better understand the facts on the grounds and the possible measures the European Union and the international community could take to address these challenges.” MEP Jaime Mayor Oreja said “the European Parliament is very concerned about the persecution against Christians in the Middle East, particularly since the Arab Spring, and more specifically the terror attacks against these communities in Egypt, Syria and Iraq. We are looking forward for a partnership with the representatives of the Middle East Christians, especially via the NGOs seeking democratic culture in the region. The Russian ambassador Mr. Vladimir Chizhow condemned the Jihadist attacks against Christians in Syria and Iraq and the violence against Christian Copts in Egypt. He said “The Russian Federation wishes to raise these issues at the level of human rights discussion internationally.” Cyprus ambassador Mr. Spyros Attas said “his Government has been raising the matter on European and international levels” and he called on the conference to continue its activities worldwide so that “attention is brought to the matter.” Sheikh Sami el Khoury, speaking on behalf of the MECHRIC conference at the dinner said “the Christians of the Middle East are indigenous people and deserves recognition and protection.” Closing the speeches Dr Walid Phares clarified that the Middle East Christian communities are targeted in as much as all civil societies and moderate Muslims are targeted by the extremists, organizations and regimes. “There are two types of challenges facing the Christian communities in particular: the relentless Terror attacks by the Jihadists and the political suppression by authoritarian regimes. Both types are to be addressed properly by Europe and the international community.”   

The significant EU and international participation in the event demonstrated the importance of the MECHRIC conference and the issues it raised.

MECHRIC International Strategies

On November 6th, the second and final day of the conference, the delegation discussed a strategic assessment and the output of the MECHRIC conference through regional and international conferences, especially on how to address the UN, US, EU, Russia, Vatican and other international actors on the issue of the Middle East Christian persecution and political suppression. On this second day the delegations at the conference were invited by the European People’s Party (EPP Group), via its think tank EIN, to the European Parliament (EP) for a special briefings session. The delegations had the opportunity to report to Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and EPP leaders about the situations in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey and to explain their demands and expectations.

MECHRIC Session at the European Parliament

The conference at the EPP was led by Mr. Jan Olbrycht, Vice-Chair of the EPP and Mr. Jaime Mayor Oreja, First Vice-President of the EPP Group and president of the European Ideas Network (EIN), as well as Guillermo Cazan Martinez, the co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Group on Terrorism, and the EIN executive director. The presence of other MEPs, including human rights specialists MEP Kelam Tunne from Estonia, and MEP Patrao Neves from Portugal revealed the wider interest of the EP on the situation of the Christians in the Middle East.

A message by Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former U.N. Secretary General, to the MECHRIC leadership conference, was read at the Parliament by Mr. Magdy Khalil, Executive Director oft he Middle East Freedom Forum. In this message Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: „Christians constitute indigenous national minorities in the Middle East societies. Their history and positive contributions, over thousands of years, are intimately associated with the history, civilizations and in the renaissance of their nations.”

At the European Parliament NGOs speakers, selected during the working sessions, gave their reports on behalf of the MECHRIC conference.

Sami Khouri, President of the World Maronite Unione, who spoke as a head of the join MECHRIC delegations to the European Parliament, said in his speech: „the Middle East is also our land, we belong there and our roots are there. We will not accept to be ethnic cleansed by the Jihadists and the Khomeinists.”

Adel Guindi, President of Coptic Solidarity said: „our populations are gradually eliminated from the Middle East under the watch of the West. The Arab Spring unleashed the Islamists with their ideological hatred to „infidels“.

Bassam Ishak, President of the Syriac National Council of Syria said: “for Syriac Christians and the majority of Syrians who seek a civil and democratic Syria the hypocrisy of the Assad regime must be stopped, its use and abuse of Syriac Christians to make false arguments that it’s the secular defender of ethnic and religious minorities must be called off. We want our voice heard as indigenous people of Syria regarding our future.”

On his part Fahmi Mansour, the Chairman of the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Popular Council of Iraq said:  we need to support our Christian villages in Iraq, help them remain on their own lands, with real policies, not empty promises. More than ever we are drastically in need of practical steps that can be translated on the ground to find a solution to the plight of our people rather than attending conferences and media gatherings.“

Joseph Kassab, Founder and President oft he Iraqi Christians Advocacy & Empowerment Institute and an advisor to the Chaldean National Council, wrote in his testimony: „Special Administrative and cultural autonomy for Iraqi Christians in Nineveh Plain and Kurdistan is a solution to ensure the survival and prosperity of Christians in the area.“

Dutch Assyrian Lawmaker Attiya Gamri said: „we cannot understand this heavy silence in Europe while our native nations in the Middle East, particularly in Mesopotamia, are massacred and driven out of their homelands. When an ethnic group is the target of a systematic ethnic cleansing, the international community is under an obligation, both moral and legal, to protect them.“

Nuri Kino, an Assyrian investigative reporter said: 100 years after 1915, when we lost 4/3 of our people to the sword of Jihad, we are on the brink of another Genocide. Every day we get reports of atrocities. Our clergymen have been kidnapped and killed, our sisters and brothers have been raped and beheaded. Our nation and our religion are bleeding.“

Tom Harb, President of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution– USA Chapter said: “Hezbollah continues to interfere in the war in Syria, thus contravening every national and international law and continues to drive Lebanon away from its rightful place as an honourable citizen of the internatioanl community.“

Evgil Türker, President of the Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey said : “Following the adhesion negotiations between European Union and Turkey and semi-normalization of the conflict in Turkey, Syriac people started to return back to their historical homelands. Syriac people have to guarantee their rights in the constitution and accepting their identity officially.”

John Hajjar, Melkite Catholic representative and National Director of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution said “this conference is about representing a Middle East Christian voice in the international community. And we say it clearly, while some who claim speaking about or in the name of Christians in the Middle East, rely on Islamist or authoritarian regimes in the region to preserve our communities as dependents on their sheer will, we declare here that our peoples should not be at the mercy of Terror regimes or Jihadi organizations. They should be able to defend themselves with the help of the international community.”

The conclusion of all reports was, to raise the issues in a policy paper to Western nations, demanding the internationalization of the issues for each suppressed ethnic group, calling for equal rights in certain countries such as Egypt and Turkey, and Federations such as in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.At end of the meeting, the members of the European Parliament expressed their deep concern and astonishment of the atrocities committed against the Christians in Middle East.  MEP Jan Olbrycht, Vice-Chair of the EPP said “we in Eastern Europe have gone through a similar difficult situation where we were oppressed by a totalitarian regime and oppressed. But we re-emerged into freedom. We fully understand your situation and will help you explain it to the Europeans. MEP Jaime Mayor Oreja said “the European Parliament should be well informed about the persecution of your communities. MEP Kelam Tunne from Estonia reiterated the message of his colleagues and added: “I thank you for coming to the European Parliament and informing us about the situation of your communities. We have had previous panels organized by Professor Walid Phares in Washington DC during the summits of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group (TAG) since 2008, where we listened to your colleagues and have been touched by their testimonies. As a former activist in Estonia under Soviet occupation, I relate to the horrors your communities are going through. I can assure you that we will stand by you and will take action in support of your freedom.” Portuguese MEP Patrao Neves said “we will make sure your assembly will have its voice heard in the European Parliament and we will seek initiatives to help protecting your communities in the region.”
 

Lauching of the book “The Arab Spring“

Following the session, the European Parliament held a reception honoring the Conference’s advisor, Dr Walid Phares for launching his new book in French Du Printemps Arabe a l’Automne Islamiste? (From the Srab Spring to the Islamist Fall?). Chairman MEP Mayor Oreja (Spain) and MEP Kelam Tunne (Estonia), and NGO leader Regina Kantara, praised Phares “for his academic achievements and for his role as a bridge builder between US and European lawmakers and now between Western leaders and the civil societies in the Middle East.“

MECHRIC historical precedent at the European Parliament

The session at the European Parliament was the first one in history when Middle East Christian representatives addressed European lawmakers as a coalition.

With the various developments in the Arab Spring, Middle East Christians, numbering around 25 million inside the region, have been submitted to violence and ethnic cleansing in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt in addition to  political repression in Lebanon and Turkey. Through this MECHRIC leadership conference, MECHRIC and its affiliates were able to launch an international outreach in order to inform decisions centers in the West about the gravity of the situation and consult with these actors about potential initiatives.

More initiatives are expected in the near future. Tom Harb, general coordinator of the conference and Rima Tuezen, excutive coordinator, said “now that the conference has put the aspirations of the Middle East Christians on the international scene, we hope and will work on advancing the international outreach of this representative coalition, under MECHRIC wings.“ Adel Guindi, the President of the Conference said “MECHRIC will now move forward to organize itself, and develop strategies for the near and medium futur. We count on the leaders who participated to work closely amogn each other and within their communities to help our embattled peoples in the Middle East.“ 


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, October 2013

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo HobilDear readers,

Middle East region and countries continue to hold the priority within the international community attention and meetings. As a whole the region pass through very fundamental process of re-balance between regional and international powers. In every country and corner around the region there are new discussions and negotiations to seek new alliances.Ongoing Syrian conflict is in our priority within ESU.

Syriac people are densely present across Syria. Thus, Syria holds great importance for Syriac people and their future in this country. We are trying all ways and possibilities to defend the cause and concerns of Syriac people in Syria. There is clear deadlock at the international level regarding conflict solution of Syria. International and regional actors have to find mutual consensus to end the nearly 3 year old conflict which caused to the death of 100.000 civilians and millions of refugees across Syria and in neighbor countries. The solution in Syria will not be easy but it is essential for the salvation of Syrian society. Syrian cosmopolite social fabric has to be preserved and all ethnic and religious groups have to find their places.

On the other side, there are very important developments in Turkey regarding Syriac people and democratic process. Following long years of trials Mor Gabriel Monastery has finally its lands back. Prime Minister R. T. Erdogan announced the decision regarding Mor Gabriel during the presentation of democratic package. From the first day of this issue, we were in full sure that Monastery will take its rights. Moreover, Syriac people have other problems and concerns in Turkey. Mor Gabriel Monastery solution does not have to hide other points. Above all, Syriac people have no status in Turkey. By working on new civil constitution Syriac people have to acquire constitutional guarantees. Our partner organization Federation of Syriac Associations made official request in order to open Syriac school in Turabdin which is very important step.

During last three months, as ESU, we had different works, activities and meetings. Following our humanitarian aid campaign to Syria which had been finished successfully, we made an event of three days in front of the United Nations at Geneva. Our objective was to make hear our voices concerning Syriac people in Syria. We had successful event and we made some important meetings.

We are passing very important periods and developments. Syria will continue to hold major place within our works and priorities. We will follow all news, developments closely in order to ensure the rights of Syriac people in Syria. As ESU, we believe that Syriac people also can make important contributions to regional issues as they did in history.


Lahdo Hobil
President of European Syriac Union

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Middle East Christian NGOs Conference in Europe coming



"To assess the situation in the region first"

A source from the Middle East Christian Committee (al Lajna al Mashriqiya) in Washington DC, known as MECHRIC confirmed that an “emergency leadership meeting of NGOs will be held in Europe” early November. The sources stated the conference will be held in a country member of the European Union and will gather delegates from various Middle East Christian organizations including Copts, Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, other Mideast Christians as well as other international NGOs.

The source said: “With the various developments in the Arab Spring, Middle East Christians, numbering around 25 million inside the region, have been submitted to violence and ethnic cleansing in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt in addition to political repression in Lebanon, Iran and Sudan. MECHRIC and its affiliates decided to launch an international outreach in order to inform decisions centers in the West about the gravity of the situation and consult with these actors about potential initiatives. “


Press Release
19-08-2013
BRUSSELS


Sait MALKI


WE CONDEMN THE ARRESTATION OF SYRIAC LEADER IN SYRIA

TO THE WORLD PUBLIC OPINION & INTERNATIONAL MEDIA


Syrian Baath regime continues to attack, harass and arrest the members, partisans and followers of Syriac Union Party in Syria which is leading structure which defend the rights and demands of Syriac people in Syria. The true face of Baath regime is uncovered when the native people demand their rights. World public opinion and international media all together are witnessing the brutality of the regime. Until recently, Baath regime has used and manoeuvred Syriac people for its own purposes. By asking their rights Syriac people became the enemies of Baath regime. Syrian Baath regime which do not recognise national identity of Syriac people continue to attack, arrest, torture and imprisoned Syriac people who work and fight for the rights of Syriac people.

On August, 12, 2013, Vice President of Syriac Union Party and President of Syriac Cultural Association Said Malki had been arrested at the Airport of Qamishli. Detention of high ranking member Said Malki shows clearly the brutality, intolerance and hostility of Baath regime. To date, from March 2011 several times members and partisans of Syriac Union Party had been arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Before few month member of Executive Committee of Syriac Union Party Rubel Bahho had been arrested and imprisoned during an assault to his domicile.

From the beginning of the Syrian protests until today, Syrian Baath regime is trying all unethical ways and methods to keep Syriac people with and use them for its own purposes. We believe in free and democratic Syria. Syrian people deserve their freedom, dignity, equal rights and take their place among modern nations. Baath regime has lost all its legitimacy. Syrian Baath regime is not representative of Syrian people.

As European Syriac Union, ESU, we concerned by the detention of Vice-President of SUP Said Malki and Rubel Bahho. To recall, we also do not forget the ongoing abduction of Syriac Orthodox Church Aleppo Bishop Ibrahim Hanna and Greek Orthodox Church Aleppo Bishop Boulos Yaziji.

We condemn in strongest terms possible the unjust detention of Vice-President of SUP Said Malki. Said Malki and his friends in SUP are working peacefully for the advance of Syriac people and for Syria. We kindly call to all relevant actors and parties to monitor closely this situation.

GLORY TO SYRIAC PEOPLE
GLORY TO FREE AND DEMOCRATIC SYRIA

 


Press Release
07-08-2013
BRUSSELS


WE REMEMBER THE MARTYRS OF SIMELE MASSACRE IN AUGUST 1933 IN IRAQ

Today we remember one of the darkest moments in the history of humanity. At this day, hundreds of innocent Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian (CSA) civilian people had been killed and massacred under the rule of newly established Kingdom of Iraq. The Simele Massacre took place in August 1933 in Iraq against Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people.

Following the Iraqi independence and establishment of the whole political, social and economic system in the Iraq, the Simele Massacre had been committed against Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people in the Northern Iraq with the sole objective of ethnic cleansing. In August 1933 Iraqi forces massacred civilians in Simele and at the villages of Dohuk and Mosul. According to different sources around 3000 civilians had been killed and residential areas had been destroyed. During the massacre man, women, children and elders had been victim without any distinction. The remnants of 1915
Sayfo Genocide under Ottoman-Turkish rule had been once again object of genocide. To note, well known lawyer Raphael Lemkin had been inspired from these two events in order to coin the term of “genocide”.

Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people are indigenous people of the Middle East. CSA people are not a folk who settled in the Middle East and Mesopotamia by wave of migration or as invaders. They are autochthones in the Levant and they conserved their presence during centuries despite all difficulties. They are the most ancient and deeply rooted people among the Middle Eastern nations. During the centuries CSA people have been present in different parts of Mesopotamia and in the Middle East. CSA people suffered from all hegemonic powers which have controlled the Middle East.

Following the chute of Saddam regime in 2003, CSA people had been target of attacks, killings and kidnappings. Hundreds of civilians had been killed, churches had been attacked and bombed, religious leaders and well known personalities had been abducted and killed. The forced exodus of CSA people diminished their presence in their homeland. In Iraq, we are still witnessing the attempts of demographical changes from different powers. The presence of CSA people in Iraq and more broadly in Middle East region is fundamental. CSA people had been key factor at the establishment of social, cultural and educational structures and they are very important element of social fabric. Granting the fundamental rights and preserving the identity of CSA people is vital for future generations.

We believe that Iraqi authorities and government have to enshrine the Simele Massacre in the Iraqi Constitution and make necessary arrangements and efforts in order to commemorate this painful and tragic event which hit CSA people. Iraqi authorities, regional actors and international community have the moral obligation to follow closely the situation of and support minorities and vulnerable groups in the Middle East region during the current transitional process.

GLORY TO OUR MARTYRS
GLORY TO OUR NATION
GLORY TO OUR HOMELAND, BETHNAHRIN


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, June 2013

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo HobilDear readers,

During last three months Middle East region continues to be at the top of agenda in international arena. Despite the events in Egypt and protests waves in Turkey and new President in Iran, Syria constantly holds the top priority and urgency. As ESU, we follow very closely all developments in the region especially these which are related to Syriac people and Christians as well.

Few weeks ago, Turkish Minister of European Affairs Egemen Bağış once again shows his true face regarding Syriac people and their historical values. During a meeting with journalists Mr. Bağış downplay the value of Mor Gabriel Monastery and take it only as material understanding. The Mor Gabriel Monastery has very distinctive place among Syriac people and for entire Christianity. From the first day of the unjust process against Mor Gabriel Monastery, Turkish state authorities do not show any good will and willingness to find solution to the matter and give back all rights to the Monastery. We have demonstrated our firm stand against these kinds of acts with a press release to media and world public opinion attention.

1The outcome of Iranian elections is important for the region with election of reformist candidate. Meanwhile, grievances between Shia and Sunni are deep and it looks that this situation will continue for decades. We follow closely the Iranian issue. On the other hand, Egypt events come once again to the world attention. The uncertainty reigns for the moment in the streets of Egypt. The de escalation of nerves is must and the situation of Christian Copts needs close attention.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria continues from all sides. The ongoing conflict affects all Syrian people. Christian entities in Syria became target of Islamist-Jihadists terrorists by kidnappings and barbarous killings.The issue of two Bishops of Aleppo continue to be top priority. The killing of Priest Francois Murad indicates clearly savagery and cruelty of some groups.

On the other hand, Syrian state authorities try all means to push Christians and Syriac people to the conflict. State authorities call to the youth to participate in army. To date, until now there is no clear support to the Syriac people from international community and either from responsible countries. Syriac people give their struggle by their own means and capabilities. While Syriac Union Party in Syria demands and seeks the rights of Syriac people, we as ESU, have conducted a humanitarian aid campaign to Syria. During the campaign our people and institutions have showed great act of generosity. With the help of our people, we send nearly 150 tons of food to Syria. Syriac Union Party in Syria is at the charge of the distribution.
 
International community and regional actors have moral and democratic obligations to support the minorities, religious groups and other vulnerable entities in the Middle East region.

Lahdo Hobil
President of European Syriac Union

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Syriacs react to minister’s wording regarding Mor Gabriel Monastery

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Juliy 1, 2013

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images/news/201307/n_49769_4.jpg

Egemen Bağış is currently in Croatia for special events celebrating the country's accession to the European Union.
DHA photo

Syriac communities outside Turkey have reacted against recent remarks by EU Minister Egemen Bağış apparently denigrating the value of the Mor Gabriel Monastery. Bağış had said on June 21 that the historical monastery, an issue of contention between the government and Syriacs, was worth "even less" than the EU Affairs building in central Istanbul.

The Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU) said in a written statement last week that Bağış’s stance was insulting.

“Bağış’s approach, which only looks at the monetary value of the monastery, is not a result of senselessness, but a reflection of ignoring the beliefs of people from other religions,” it said. The statement condemned Bağış’s wording and asked for a correction.

ESU spokesperson David Vergili told the Daily News by phone that Bağış’s remarks were "mocking." If the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) really wanted Syriacs to return to Turkey, it should first find a resolution to solve the issue of confiscated lands and monasteries including Mor Gabriel, he said.

The government has recently called on members of minorities who have fled Turkey to come back, but in order for this to happen economic and social hardship should be removed, he added.

Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old historic monastery located in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence, sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier,” after which the case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News 

Link to the article


SYRIA/ The dramatic situation of Syriac Christians and the possible role of Turkey

Interiew with Mr. Evgil Turker
June  3, 2013

Persecuted by Assad, threatened by Jihadists, and fleeing the war that is raging in the country: this is the sad fate of Syriac Christians, a people living between Syria and Turkey. Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ankara has suggested granting citizenship to all Syriac Christians who have Turkish citizen as relatives and who are in danger from the revolution taking place in Syria. However, as noted by Evgil Turker, head of the Federation of Syriac Associations, "Turkey itself does not fully recognize the rights of our community, to the point that many of us have had to emigrate. The only solution is an intervention by the international community in Syria. I believe that NATO and the Arab League bear a great responsibility which must be addressed as soon as possible."

What do you think of the plan of the Turkish government to grant Turkish nationality to all the Christian Syriacs of Syria?

Up until now, officially there is no decree to grant nationality to the Syriacs who fled Syria. But during some of our meetings, some state authorities have expressed an intention to grant nationality. Thus, the issue looks like more as a rumour. Moreover, granting nationality to the Syriac people does not solve our issue, because most of the Syriacs with Turkish nationality have migrated abroad and even those remaining in Turkey do not their entire fundamental rights and their problems remain unsolved. Even those who have returned from Europe face bureaucratic, legal, and local pressure. It is not easy task for the Syriacs of Syria to re-construct their lives in Turkey. There should be cultural and social rights for new arrivals. If they do not have legal and personal security, it will be impossible to stay for long in Turkey. We support a solution for the Syriacs of Syria in their own settlements and places. Until now, Turkey does not grant the rights of the Lausanne Treaty to the Syriac people.

How is the situation of the Christian Syriacs in Syria? What are their main difficulties and troubles?

Generally, the situation of the Syriac people in Syria is neutral. Some of the political establishments and intellectuals are in the opposition. A small minority which benefits from the Baath regime still support Bashar Al Assad. But as the regime atrocities increase day by day, the Syriac people disconnect from the regime. At the beginning, the church hierarchy was grateful to the regime, but as the conflict has been prolonged and created victims, the Church has stayed silent. Thus, the Syriac people are desperate and in big danger. For this reason, many of them choose the way of exodus. In light of the deterioration of the situation, some of the Syriacs have organised and taken up arms in order to defend themselves. This is common in the Al Hasake region. The Syriac people are indigenous in Syria, thus they demand their rights and they do not want to be considered only as Christians. Because with our Christian identity, we are also a nation, and we have an ethnic identity as do the Arabs, Kurds and other groups.

Are they targeted as Christians or persecuted by the jihadists or by the Assad government?

During the last two years, we have observed the establishment of various armed and unarmed opposition groups in Syria. The regime of Al Assad had chosen the line of violence and showed one was either with him or dying. This policy is also valid for the Syriacs. Thus, the regime forces attack Syriac people directly or indirectly. Also, jihadist groups are hostile toward Syriacs and Christians. Because of the jihadist groups and gangs, many Syriac families have suffered and have been harmed. Dozens have been kidnapped and later some of them have been killed. They seized goods and properties of the people with force. Also, they have kidnapped two bishops from Aleppo City. These are Yuhanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo and Paulos El Yaziji of Antioch, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo. Since April 22, there has been no reliable news about them.

How many Christian Syriacs do you expect to flee from Syria to Turkey?

If the war arrives or intensifies at the city of Al Hasake or in the Al Jazeera region, hordes of Syriacs will be obliged to take refuge in Turkey, because the closest border is Turkey.

How will it be possible to ensure a job and a permanent house to all the Christian Syriacs who will return to Turkey?

Until now, the Syriac people who have fled Syria are more than 500 people. Most of them are welcomed and they live in churches and monasteries. Also some of them stay at the homes of Syriac people. At this moment, the Turkish state has given the green light for the establishment of a camp for Syriac people with a capacity for 4,000 persons. I do not have any more information concerning their work and shelter.

Do you think that NATO or the Arab League should create a safe zone at the borders between Turkey and Syria in order to protect the Syriacs and other people who try to escape from the war?

In my opinion, the bloodshed in Syria has to be stopped by an international decision. Thus, any method that can stop the bloodshed has to be quickly realized and this also includes a safe zone. I believe that NATO and the Arab League have great responsibilities to accomplish. I know from our past experience that it will be very difficult for the Syriac people to return to Syria. Syriac people do not have to face same things as happened in Iraq. Thus, I invite all international officials and public opinion to be responsive to this point. The disappearance of Syriac people from Syria and from the Middle East will be a great loss to humanity. Thus, we have to focus on the Syriac people that they can continue to live in their ancestral lands and flourish with their historical culture.

After the war in Syria is finished, will the Christian Syriacs be allowed to return in Syria?

After the war in Syria is finished, and if it leads to the establishment of a modern, democratic system, all Syrian people as well as Syriac people will have the right to return to their lands. On the contrary, if the end of the war leads to the establishment of a jihadist-islamist and anti-democratic system, the return of the Syriac people to their lands will be a great problem. Our utmost expectation and efforts are for the establishment of the democratic and modern system which will guarantee the constitutional rights of the Syriac people. Our works and efforts are in this direction. Up until now, within our capacity, we, as the Federation of Syriac Associations, have helped our brothers and sisters and we will continue to help with our utmost efforts and hospitality. We also accord great importance and expectation to the support of the Turkish government and of course of the international community.


Syrian Syriac National Council Urges Support of Christians in the Country

By MidEast Christian News | syria
May 29, 2013

http://images.christianpost.com/full/60332/syria.jpg?w=300

An Israeli soldier walk past a sign pointing out distances to Jerusalem and Beirut at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing with Lebanon, in northern Israel May 5, 2013.U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday voiced alarm at reports Israel has struck targets inside Syria, but said the United Nations was unable to confirm whether any such attacks had taken place
(Photo: Reuters/Baz Ratner)


Bassam Isaac, the Head of the Syrian Syriac National Council, called on different organizations in Syria to pay attention to the immigration of Christians, and stressed the importance of them remaining in the country.

"Christians in Syria and the Middle East are one of the most ancient peoples in the region. They work to achieve justice and peaceful coexistence. They recognize different religions and ethnic groups. If any government wanted to build a strong state, it should recognize the different religions and ethnic groups that exist in this country," Isaac told Mideast Christian News.

"There are nearly 2.5 million Christians in Syria, affiliated with nine sects. Most of them live in the Syrian governorates of Haska, Homs, Damascus, and Aleppo. We should work together by unifying organizations to plan for their future."
In addition to the council's call for more protections for Christians in Syria, Jim Wallace, vice president of the Australian Christian Lobby, urged western nations to take decisive action to protect Syria's Christians.

"The hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level, but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East," Wallace wrote in The Australian on Tuesday.

Wallace explained that after he visited the region to assess the situation facing Syrian minorities it soon became clear to him that the West's policy for the Middle East "courts a disaster."

Source: MidEast Christian News (MCN)

Link to the article


State spares 1 million lira budget for Mor Gabriel Monastery

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

May 22. 2013

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images/news/201305/n_47330_4.jpg

The Syriac Monastry of Mor Gabriel in Mardin’s Midyat district is seen in this file photo. Hürriyet photo

Midyat Governor’s Office has allocated a budget of 1 million Turkish Liras for the restoration of the road leading to the Syriacs’ Mor Gabriel Monastery, a move viewed by the Syriac community as contradictory as the monastery was previously labeled an “occupier” and its lands were transferred to the Treasury.

The road works will be rolled out on the initiative of Midyat Governor Oğuzhan Bingöl, and supported by Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Interior Minister Muammer Güler.

David Vergili, a spokesman for the Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU), one of the most influential Syriac organizations in the diaspora, said the state tried to slide over the crucial problems by keeping people busy with formalist and cosmetic activities.


“The demand for the return of the all the lands of Mor Gabriel is stated in both the EU’s annual report and the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report,” Vergili said.

“The progress of the law cases and the state’s attitude is evident. Both the state and the parties of that subject agreed on the fact that the lands belong to the monastery. But they are making things difficult by making various proposals, such as renting the lands. This is against morality and human rights,” he said.

Mor Gabriel Foundation Head Kuryakos Ergün argues that the road construction works and the case should be considered individually. Ergün said thousands of people paid visit to the monastery.

“The road is in a very poor condition. The Midyat Governor works so hard for the construction of the road since he came to office. It can be regarded as a positive first step, but we would be gladder if our cases result in our favor,” Ergün said.

Chair of the Midyat-based Syriac Associations Federation Evgin Türker also regarded the decision as a positive step, adding that they had made some contacts with Ankara on that matter and the governor Bingöl’s efforts yielded some results. “But still there is a contradiction here. Even though the governor has a good will and is sensitive to our problems, he is still a part of the bureaucracy. Our procedures are ongoing and we are regarded as occupants in our own lands,” Türker said.

Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old historic monastery located in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Cadastre Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The lawsuit was finalized last year, recognizing the monastery as an “occupier.” The case was then brought to the European Court of Human Rights. The future of the monastery currently hinges on the ECHR’s decision.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


The Unbearable Lightness of Syria Policy

Supporting Assad’s non-jihadist enemies may be our least bad option.

May 9, 2013 By Clifford D. May

Free Syrian Army fighters outside Maaret al-Numan, November, 2012.

“Arming the rebels — that’s an option.
You look at and rethink all options. It doesn’t mean you do or you will. . . . It doesn’t mean that the president has decided on anything.”


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, May 2, 2013

But deciding on something is what presidents get paid the big bucks to do. Obama is right to find the available options unappealing, but the problem remains. Declining to choose is no solution; it simply leaves it to others  including those most hostile to America  to call the shots.

Two years ago, Syrians fed up with Bashar Assad’s Iranian-aligned dictatorship began to peacefully protest. Assad responded with brutality. Before long, a civil war was raging. Since then, more than 75,000 men, women, and children have been killed a catastrophe of major proportions. Curiously, this carnage is not a priority for either the Arab League or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as even a cursory look at their websites makes clear.

About 600 days ago, Obama declared that “Assad must go.” When an American president wills ends, the best practice is also to will means. The president’s secretary of state, secretary of defense, and director of central intelligence advised him to support moderate and secular opponents of Assad. He didn’t take their advice. Would the situation have turned out differently if he had? It’s a reasonable supposition, though we’ll never know for certain. Call that the unbearable lightness of foreign policy
Here’s where we are now: Assad backed to the hilt by Iran’s Shia jihadists; Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist foreign legion; and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the autocrat’s friend is fighting insurgents whose most lethal combatants are non-Syrian Sunni jihadists, some of them joined at the hip to al-Qaeda.

As Henry Kissinger reportedly said during the Iraq–Iran war: “It’s a pity both can’t lose.” And that is the puzzle that Obama and his advisers should be working overtime to solve. Is there a way to ensure that neither Iran nor al-Qaeda emerges from this conflict strengthened? The other day, a group of Syriacs visited my offices. Syriacs are members of an ancient ethnic group, some might say an ancient nation. They have lived in the land now called Syria it is from them that the name derives since before the advent of Islam and the subsequent Arab invasions. They are Christians whose native tongue is Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus and other Jews of that era.

They told me they do not support Assad, nor do they support the Sunni jihadists fighting him. They have no love for the Muslim Brothers also vying for power. What the Syriacs do want is to survive in their homeland. They favor toleration and substantial autonomy not only for themselves but for Syria’s other minorities, for example the Kurds, the Druze, the Armenians, the Turkmen, and even the Alawites, Assad’s people. My Syriac friends said they believe there are millions of urbanized Sunni Syrians who also do not want to live under the domination of an Iranian viceroy, jihadists, or Islamists.

The Syriacs are not asking that American troops intervene. They aren’t asking for sophisticated arms that could fall into terrorist hands. They would appreciate simple weapons they can use to defend themselves, their villages, and their families from Assad’s forces, jihadists, and bands of thugs. Humanitarian aid would be useful, too.

I would argue that it is in America’s interest to support such people in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, pretty much everywhere. Such people should not be orphans while terrorists, totalitarians, and tyrants of all stripes receive abundant support from Iran, Russia, Gulf petro-princes and, more often than not, the United Nations. What kind of people are we if we take more pains to save snail darters than Syriacs?

If Assad survives, Iran’s rulers will pop the pomegranate juice a battle won in a war they’ve been waging since 1979. By contrast, Assad’s fall would set back, perhaps permanently, Iranian attempts to spread their Islamic Revolution to Arab and Sunni lands. For this reason alone, “Assad must go.” A strategy to help him on his way is long overdue.

What comes after Assad is probably not peace and prosperity. So it makes sense to begin, albeit belatedly, bolstering those willing to resist the foreign jihadists, as well as those who, post-Assad, would favor a federalized Syrian government, one in which no individual or faction can dictate to the others.

I’m not saying that is a good option. I am saying that it’s less bad than the others. It’s certainly better than playing Hamlet while those who seek to diminish us (e.g. Putin), and those who seek to destroy us (e.g. Iran’s rulers and their jihadist rivals) shape the future for Syria and the Middle East.


Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been amended since its original posting.



Chairman’s Message

Brussels, April 2013

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo Hobil

Dear readers,

The Syrian case, it is resuming to be crucial issue of the world’s agenda. The Middle East, in every century has got through period of transition and heavy wars. Aftermath of the Lausanne agreement in 1923, the Syriac people had been left outside of the change region and develop­ ments which happened in the Middle East. They couldn’t benefit from these developments neither as nation and nor as Christians. Now a days, the Arab Spring which begun in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, continues in Syria more than two years. The Syrian uprising turned into a bloody war and caused hundreds and thousands victim across Syria.

As ESU, we are aware of difficulties and the obscure future for Syriac people. Neither Western powers and nor the local powers do not pro­ tect them. They let them out of the process. The representation of Syriac people in every level is weak or neglected. Once again the agenda is about the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds. We have already seen this film in Iraq. As ESU we demand from the Western powers to consider and to understand the problems and the circumstances of the Syriac Christians in Syria.

As ESU we started a campaign to help our people in Syria. This campaign consists of collecting food, clothes, blanket etc. to serve the people to continue their life in Syria. Our campaign has begun 15th of March and will continue until 15th of April. We expect each kind of help and donations so that hand in hand we can protect and help the kids, the women, the elderly, the sick and people in need.

In this occasion, we would like to congratulate the head of the Catholic Church his Beatitude Pope Francis I. who has been elected as the new leader of Vatican and the whole Catholic in the world. Our expectation from the new Pope Francis I. is to awake the Christian world on the sit­ uation of the Christians of the Middle East. We call him to support spiritually and materially and to pay attention to those Christians as his Beatitude pay attention to the other Catholics faithful.

In the past several days, the Turkish government launches a process with the Kurds and especially with the Kurdish Worker Party (PKK) to solve the problems and the Kurdish issue. In our opinion, this is a significant step towards the security of the people who are living in Turkey. But on the other hand, the Turkish government does not give the impression of being honest and sincere towards the Syriacs. Because it takes the Syriac issue as a religious community and it is trying to solve the problems with the religious leaders. That shows the approaches of the Turkish government are avoiding the identity of the Syriacs and it wants to accept them as Turkish Christians. But as ESU we do not accept this approach toward our people and the denial of our identity that has a history of more than 6000 years old. We appeal the European Union to be aware of this richness of Syriac history and tradition does not be vanished from Turkey.

As ESU in last 3 months, we organized activities such as conference in the France Senate about Syria. Also we made several activities to cele­ brate the World Women day and to promote the Syriac women in the community. Furthermore we held some presentations, conferences and parties in different European countries and we prepared the activities to commemorate the Sayfo 1915 martyrs in April.

Lahdo Hobil
President of European Syriac Union


TO THE WORLD PUBLIC OPINION

The Uprising in Syria which started on March 2011 continues constantly. The regime of Assad tries all means to stop and crash this uprising. Thus, the country had turned into the ruins and hundreds of thousands families fled their country. While the rebels fighting against fascist practices of the regime, on the other hand some marginal groups and gangs belonging to the regime terrorise people and civilians. With these terror acts all Syrian people are affected as well as Syriac people and their religious institutions. Until today hundreds of Syriac-Greek-Maronites had been killed because of their Christian belief. Hundreds of Syriacs had been kidnapped for high amounts of ransom and when the ransom is not provided the victims  are  killed  with  barbaric  ways.  Business  establishments and  domiciles  had  been priority for the attacks and the gangs.

The terror attacks reached the tipping point on April, 22, 2013 against Syriac people in Syria.

This day, the bishop of Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo Hanna Ibrahim and the bishop of Greek Orthodox Church Paolus Elyaziji had been kidnapped by unknown persons around Aleppo. At the same time their driver Fethallah Robin Kabud had been killed.

In order to protest against this inhuman attack and sensibilise the world public opinion around Syriac people problems, we are organising protest meetings in Brussels, Belgium and in Södertalje, Sweden on April, 28, 2013.

We kindly ask the support, sensibility and empathy of world media organs and institutions to the cry of Syriac people. The attention of media organisations to the protestations is vital and fundamental during these difficult days that face Syriac people.

OUR DEMANDS

  1. Unconditionally immediate release of two bishops.
  2. Immediate cease of attacks against the religious values, properties and other assets of Syriac people.

  3. Immediate release of Syriac and Christians hostages and prisoners at the hands of various gangs and of the regime.

  4. Immediate cease of bloodshed and finding solution to the human tragedy. Release of prisoners,   stopping   torture,   exodus and   destruction   of   the   country.   Inviting international community, regional actors and humanitarian organisations to act immediately.

  5. Christian Syriac-Assyrian-Chaldean-Aramean people in Syria face the same threats and difficulties as it was in Iraq. In order to avoid and put aside all threats and difficulties, United Nations, European Union, Arab Union and Islamic Union have to act immediately. 

Addres:

Rond-Point Robert Schuman
1000 Brussels-BE

Date: 28-04-2013
Time: 14H00

Contact: 0032 484 54 44 36


POUR L’OPINION PUBLIC MONDIALE

Le soulèvement qui a commencé en Mars 2011 en Syrie continue sans cesse. Le régime d’Assad utilise tous les moyens pour cesser le soulèvement. Par conséquent, le pays est en ruines et des milliers de familles ont du quitter leur pays. Pendant que les rebelles luttent contre les pratiques fascistes du régime, d’autres groupes marginales et les gangs liés au régime terrorise la population. Par conséquent, tous les Syriens sont affectés ainsi le peuple Syriaque et ses institutions religieuses. Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, des centaines de Syriaque- Grecque-Maronites ont été tué à cause de leur identité Chrétienne. Des centaines de Syriaques ont été kidnappé pour des rançons et des sommes très élevé et faute de provision de rançon les ravisseurs tuent leur victimes. Les établissements commerciaux et les domiciles sont prioritaires pour les gangs.

Les attaques terroristes ont été élevées à un point très haut ce 22 Avril 2013 contre le peuple

Syriaque en Syrie. Pendant ce jour-là, l’évêque de l’Eglise Syriaque Orthodoxe d’Alep Monseigneur Hanna Ibrahim et l’évêque de l’Eglise Grecque Orthodoxe Monseigneur Paolus Elyaziji ont été kidnappés par des inconnus prés de la ville d’Alep. Dans le même incident, le conducteur des évêques, Fethallah Robin Kabud, a été tué sauvagement.

Afin de protester cet acte criminelle et sensibiliser l’opinion public autour des problèmes qui rencontrent les Syriaques en Syrie, nous organisons des protestations à Bruxelles en Belgique et à Södertälje en Suède le 22 Avril 2013.

Nous demandons le soutien et l’empathie des medias internationales. L’attention des medias pour les protestations, est fondamentale et vitale durant ces jours difficiles que subissent les Syriaques en Syrie.

NOS DEMANDES

  1. Libération inconditionnelle et immédiate de deux évêques.

  2. Arrêt immédiate des attaques contre les valeurs religieuses, des biens et d’autres acquis de peuple Syriaque.

  3. Libération immédiate des otages et prisonniers Chrétien Syriaques dans les mains des gangs ainsi du régime.

  4. Arrêt immédiat de bain du sang et trouver une solution pour cette tragédie humaine.Inviter la communauté internationale, les pouvoirs régionaux et les organisations humanitaires à agir sans délai.

  5. Les Chrétiens Assyro-Chaldéen-Araméen de la Syrie rencontrent les mêmes menaces et difficultés qu’ils avaient rencontrées en Iraq. Afin d’éviter toutes les menaces et les difficultés, les Nations Unies, l’Union Européenne, la Ligue Arabe et l’Organisation de la Coopération Islamique doivent agir sans délai.

Adresse:
Rond-Point Robert Schuman
1000 Bruxelles-BE

Date: 28-04-2013
Heure: 14H00

Contact: 0032 484 54 44 36


Syriac Orthodox Christians in Turkey

''This Is Simply Our Home''

February 25, 2013

Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere © Qantara.de 2013

In recent years, around 60-100 Syriac Orthodox families have returned from central Europe to Turkey. Encouraged by changes in the political atmosphere, the minority nonetheless faces a host of problems, from the expropriation of land belonging to a monastery, to a ban on special schools and kindergartens, and also a lack of places of worship in Istanbul. By Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere

The Mor Gabriel monastery (photo: Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere)

A sign in Aramaic at the side of the road defiantly bids visitors "Welcome to Kafro" next to the official Turkish sign on which the village is called "Elbeğendi". Here, some 15 kilometres south of Midyat, live 17 Syriac Orthodox families. There are no shops in the village, but there is a café that allegedly serves the only decent pizza in the area.

"German is the lingua franca amongst the children in the village," says the pizza maker in flawless German, which he learned while living close to Stuttgart. All of the families here have returned to Kafro after living in Germany and Switzerland, some of them for decades.

Among them is also the muhtar, the elected village chief, Aziz Demir, who lived with his family in Zurich and near St. Gallen. "Even if our lives there as Christians were very pleasant, something was still missing," he says on the terrace of his house, where he lives with his wife, from a neighbouring village, and their youngest son, Josef, who attends secondary school in Midyat. With a sweeping gesture beyond the newly landscaped garden out onto the plain, he says "This is simply our home."

Urgent need of restoration

The Demirs and the other 16 families all live in new houses, because the buildings of the old village, within site of the new developments, were for the most part destroyed in the clashes between the army and the PKK. As was the old church, which is in urgent need of restoration but still awaits the necessary permits.

Mor Gabriel Monastery (photo: Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere) Land dispute with the Turkish government and Kurdish village leaders: The Mor Gabrial is the oldest surviving Christian monastery in the world. There have been claims that the monastery was built on the grounds of a previous mosque - regardless of the fact that the monastery was founded over 170 tears prior to the birth of Mohammed

The inhabitants of Kafro have therefore erected a small chapel with the help of the "Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg", as the sign next to the entrance indicates. Services only take place here once in a month, however, as the village does not have its own priest. From the roof of the old church, Demir points out the surrounding villages from east to west: "One is Christian, one Arabic, one Kurdish, one Yazidi and then another one Christian: Enhil (in Turkish Yemişli), where Tuma Çelik comes from."

Celik already moved with his family to Istanbul as a ten-year old, in 1974, and then emigrated to Switzerland in 1985. There, he became an activist fighting for the interests of the Syriac Orthodox church. He wrote for Aramaic magazines and was one of the founders of "Suroyo TV", which broadcasts in Aramaic from Sweden. He has been living again mostly in Tur Abdin since 2010.



Legal proceedings against Mor Gabriel

Last summer, he founded the first Turkish-Aramaic monthly magazine, Sabro (Hope), which is published by volunteers in Midyat. Also last summer, he launched a website called "We have grown up in this world together", devoted primarily to the legal proceedings against the region's oldest monastery, Mor Gabriel.l.

Altar in the Curch of Kafro (photo: Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere) The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities. It uses Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic spoken by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, as its official and liturgical language. Pictured: Altar in the Curch of Kafro

Mor Gabriel was founded in 397. 1,611 years later, a complaint was filed by the surrounding villages alleging that the monastery was illegally occupying land, some of it even located inside the monastery walls and for which the monastery has paid property taxes regularly since 1937. Nevertheless, the courts have been handing down decisions against the monastery since 2008 and have granted around 28 hectares of its land to the Turkish forest ministry; the last judgement was passed in July 2012.

Now the only hope is to take the case before the European Court of Human Rights. Erol Dora, the first Syriac Orthodox member of the Turkish parliament, who was elected for the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Mardin in 2011 and previously worked as a lawyer for minority foundations, commented: "We as the BDP and as the Assyrian people will do all we can to support the monastery at the international level, because we believe that in this trial we have justice on our side."




Just one of many problems

For Çelik, however, Mor Gabriel is but one problem among many: "This is just a small drop in the ocean. Assyrians lived mainly in rural areas, where the land registry system was the least active. That's why so many churches, monasteries and community buildings are not even registered."

Tuma Çelik (photo: Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere) In Switzerland, he became an activist fighting for the interests of the Syriac Orthodox church: Tuma Çelik

Today, the great majority of the Syriac Orthodox faithful lives in Istanbul. Sait Susin, chairman of the Syriac Orthodox Foundation in Istanbul, estimates that about 17,000 of the approximately 20,000 members live in Istanbul. Currently, there is only a single Syriac Orthodox church there, in the trendy district of Beyoglu, which was built in 1844 for the around 40-50 families living in the city at that time. The community, most of whose members now live in Bakirköy, close to Atatürk Airport, therefore also uses Catholic churches for services.

In addition, the foundation has been submitting applications for years to build a new church, for which it needs land to be assigned to it by the municipal administration. Last year, the city made two "immoral offers" of land confiscated from Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities. The Syriac Orthodox leaders therefore rejected the offers for the time being. Should the plot in question be returned to the Catholic Church, however, they would be prepared to try to reach an agreement with the Catholic priests to erect a new church next to the Catholic cemetery.



"You are not a minority"

But that is not the only problem confronting the Istanbul community. Outside of Tur Abdin, only a minority of its members are fluent in Aramaic. Çelik estimates that "around 3,000 people in Istanbul speak the language, but only about 200 can also read and write it." The foundation had therefore submitted a request to open a kindergarten with instruction in Aramaic. The response of the ministry of education was: "You are not a minority; therefore you cannot teach your children a foreign language."

Although Syriac Orthodox Christians are clearly not Muslims and thus should be able to benefit from the minority rights stipulated in the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, the Turkish State has granted these rights thus far only to Greeks, Armenians and Jews, with numerous infringements.

An adjustment of Turkish laws to European minority rights standards, long overdue, would not only solve the problem of the kindergarten, but would also create a modern frame of reference for all the other issues. Nothing revolutionary, just equal rights for al

© Qantara.de 2013

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de


Christians Squeezed Out by Violent Struggle in North Syria

By SUSANNE GÜSTEN

Published: February 13, 2013

MIDYAT, TURKEY — The bright voices of children at play echoed off the ancient walls of Mor Hanonyo last week, breaking centuries of stillness in this 1,600-year-old Syriac Orthodox monastery outside Mardin in southeastern Turkey. Little boys skipped around the monastery courtyard zipped up in quilted winter jackets, while their elders huddled indoors and lamented the violence and mayhem that have forced them to flee their homes in Syria.

One mother told of the abduction of a neighbor’s child, held for ransom by rebel fighters in her hometown of Al-Hasakah, which prompted her family to seek safety for their three young sons across the border in Turkey. A young man demonstrated how he was hung by his arms, robbed and beaten by rebels, “just for being a Christian.”

Violence against Christians is escalating in the governorate of Al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria, which is home to tens of thousands of Syriac Christians, the refugees said.

The region, known locally as the Jazeera, encompasses the districts of Ras al-Ain, Qamishli and Malikiyah. With government forces, Arab rebels of the Free Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters locked in a three-way struggle for control, the area’s Christian population has found itself caught in the middle.

While fighting is sporadic, the region has succumbed to lawlessness, and Christians have become the target of armed rebel gangs, Father Gabriel Akyuz, the metropolitan vicar of Mardin, said in an interview in Mardin last week.

“The gangs are kidnapping people and holding them to ransom. They are perpetrating great injustices. That is why Syriacs are fleeing,” he said.

Several hundred Christian refugees have arrived in Turkey in recent weeks, with tens of thousands poised to follow if the region, currently held by the Kurdish, should fall to Arab militias, according to refugees, church officials and representatives of Syriac organizations interviewed in southeastern Turkey last week.

Bypassing Turkish refugee camps on the border, fleeing Christians have headed for the monasteries and towns of Mardin and Midyat in Tur Abdin, an ancient region in southeastern Turkey, less than 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, from the Syrian border that is the historical heartland of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

“They are afraid to stay in the camps. They feel safer with their own people,” said Father Joseph, a Syriac monk looking after four families and several single refugees in Mor Hanonyo.

“We are fleeing from the rebels, and the camps are full of rebels,” said the mother of the three little boys, a schoolteacher who did not want to be named for fear of rebel reprisals against relatives at home.

Many of the Christian refugees are young men who have fled conscription in the army and now fear being drafted into rebel ranks if they enter the Turkish camps, Evgil Turker, the president of the Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey, said in an interview.

Al Nusra Front “and other rebel groups are entrenched in the refugee camps,” Mr. Turker said. “They round up young men in the camps, sometimes 20 or 30 a day, and send them through the border fence back into Syria.”

Mr. Turker’s organization has retrieved dozens of Syriacs from the camps, where some of them are sent by Turkish security forces when caught crossing into Turkey illegally. “We vouch for them and they are released to us on our recognizance,” Mr. Turker said.

The Syriac community of Turkey, itself greatly diminished by persecution and emigration over the last century, has rallied to come to the aid of fleeing kin and coreligionists from Syria. Besides rescuing refugees from the camps, the Syriac community shelters them in monasteries and in dozens of church properties and privately owned vacant houses in Tur Abdin. Donations from local Syriacs and from the large Syriac diaspora in Europe keep the refugees fed and clothed.

“We can handle it so far,” said Ayhan Gurkan, deacon of the Mor Barsomo church in Midyat and vice president of the Syriac Culture Association, who runs aid distribution in Midyat. “But God help us if the insurgents take the Jazeera from the Kurds. Then we will be overwhelmed.”

That is an imminent danger, according to refugees sheltering in the Mor Hobil-Mor Abrohom monastery outside of Midyat. While the Kurds remained in control of the Jazeera, most Syriacs would stay put, said one young man, who gave his name only as Gabriel. But if the region should fall to Islamist Arab rebels, “then not any Christian people will stay there,” he said.

Yusuf Turker, the administrator of the monastery, said Syriacs on both sides of the border were anxiously following the struggle between Kurds and Arab militias over the region.

“If Ras al-Ain falls and the militias overrun the region, God forbid, then 40,000 or 50,000 Christians will come over the border in one rush,” he said.

To prepare for such a contingency, Turkish Syriacs have solicited and obtained the support of the Turkish authorities, said Evgil Turker of the Federation of Syriac Associations. In addition to allowing Syriac refugees to be privately sheltered outside the camps and providing aid for their support, the prime minister’s office in Ankara had pledged to establish a separate refugee camp for Syriacs if necessary, he added.

Some Turkish officials confirmed this. Syriac Christians fleeing Syria had asked for help from the Turkish authorities “and we will be happy to help them,” a high-ranking Turkish official, who commented on condition that he not be identified, wrote in an e-mail.

“Upon their request, they will be placed with or near the Turkish Syriac Christian communities in Mardin,” he said.

Another Turkish official, who also would not be named, said Turkey was prepared to build a separate camp for Christian refugees. Such a camp would include facilities to meet their “religious requirements,” he added.

Many Syriac refugees, including those interviewed in Mardin and Midyat, would prefer a European visa to a place in a Turkish refugee camp or a cell in a Tur Abdin monastery. “Most want to move on and leave the region,” Mr. Turker admitted. “But we won’t help them to do that.”

In fact, the Syriac federation has asked European embassies in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate in Adana not to provide the refugees with visas, but rather to help them stay in the region, Syriac activists said.

“We are strictly opposed to an exodus of Syriacs from our homeland,” said Aziz Demir, the mayor of Kafro, a Syriac village in Tur Abdin that was recently rebuilt and resettled by Syriacs returning from the European diaspora; he is also president of a Syriac association affiliated with the federation.

“We tell every refugee who comes that he must not emigrate to Europe or America, but hold out in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, because emigration means that we will lose our homeland and our roots,” Mr. Demir said.

Syriacs see the Jazeera region of Syria as their last toehold in the Middle East, Mr. Turker said. In the Tur Abdin region of Turkey, their number has dwindled from 200,000 a century ago to fewer than 5,000 today. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, meanwhile, have fled Iraq in the past decade.

“If we Syriacs keep on running, where will we end up?” Mr. Turker said. “It is time for us to make a stand.”

The Syriac federation hopes that it can persuade Turkey to grant citizenship to Christian refugees from Syria, enabling them to settle in Tur Abdin.

It says the road to naturalization in Turkey should be easy for Syriac Syrians, most of whom are descended from earlier generations of refugees from Tur Abdin who fled Turkish persecution and a local famine in the first half of the 20th century. They settled in what was then the French mandate of Syria, leading to the establishment of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Jazeera and Euphrates in Al-Hasakah, where it remains to this day.

“Most of the refugees’ ancestors are still on record here in Turkey, so they could be naturalized on those grounds: That is what they told us,” Mr. Turker said, referring to comments by officials at the Turkish prime minister’s office and at the governorate of Mardin Province.

In the monastery outside Midyat, a refugee named Hannibal sighed at that thought. His family, he said, had fled Midyat for Al-Hasakah in the 1940s to avoid the labor camps that non-Muslims in Turkey were sent to in lieu of military service during World War II. “Now the same thing is happening to me and my friends. I guess in 40 or 50 years we will go back to Syria.”

Hannibal, a 36-year-old pathologist who fled Syria when his life was threatened by rebels, was not smiling as he talked: “As Christians in the Middle East, we live in misery and suffer many difficulties. We want nothing more than to emigrate to other places.”

Source: The New York Times

Link to the article


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, January 2013

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo HobilDear readers,

First of all, with Christmas upon us, we wish merry tidings to the Christians of the world and especially the Christians who are in danger and persecuted in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. We wish them peace and hope that they will live in their homeland in freedom.
In the last three months the Middle East has become steadily more dangerous, particularly for Christians. As the war has intensified, so to have the numbers of Christian refugees increased. In the last three months, hundreds of the Syriac Christians took refuge from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

We, as the European Syriac Union, have cooperated with other political and cultural institutions to protect the Syriacs Christian refugees in Turabdin in Turkey, North Iraq and Lebanon. Therefore, we have established a committee called ``Bethnahrin Solidarity Committee``. As a result, we have launched a campaign to fulfill the material needs of people. This committee was
established on 21st of October in Germany.

The case of Syria is now on the world’s agenda, but the native people of Syria, the Syriacs, though they are persecuted and killed, have not heard their cry answered or their problem understood. To announce the cry of the Syriac Christians of Syria, we arranged on 9th of October a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. This conference was lead by Member of European Parliament (MEP) Elmar Brok who is Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the European Syriac Union ESU. Several MEP`s from the European Parliament and around 120 people from different countries attended in this conference.
The speakers of this conference were The president of the Syriac council of Syria, Mr. Basam Ishak and the Vice President of the Syric Union Party, Mr. Said Malke. Both of them explained the situations, the circumstances and moreover the problems the Syriac Christians face in Syria. They aslo mentioned the demands of the Syriacs in Syria, to be considered together with the other Syrian communities. They need to be treated with equal importance and to solve the problem of the Syriacs as the problems of the Muslims, Kurds, Alleviates and other minorities.

To solve the problems of the Syriacs and the difficulties that they face in the Middle East, we have established a group of parliaments called ``Swiss-Syriacs friends``. This group consists of 13 members of the Swiss parliament, all from different political parties. They will work and help us to announce the voice of the Syriacs and to demand the rights of our people in the Middle Eastern Countries.

Lahdo Hobil
President of European Syriac Union


How to Save a Dying Language

Geoffrey Khan is racing to document Aramaic, the language of Jesus, before its native speakers vanish

By Ariel Sabar
Smithsonian magazine, February 2013

 

http://media.smithsonianmag.com/images/Last-Words-St-Andrews-church-631.jpg

It was a sunny morning in May, and I was in a car with a linguist and a tax preparer trolling the suburbs of Chicago for native speakers of Aramaic, the 3,000-year-old language of Jesus.

The linguist, Geoffrey Khan of the University of Cambridge, was nominally in town to give a speech at Northwestern University, in Evanston. But he had another agenda: Chicago’s northern suburbs are home to tens of thousands of Assyrians, Aramaic-speaking Christians driven from their Middle Eastern homelands by persecution and war. The Windy City is a heady place for one of the world’s foremost scholars of modern Aramaic, a man bent on documenting all of its dialects before the language—once the tongue of empires—follows its last speakers to the grave.

The tax preparer, Elias Bet-shmuel, a thickset man with a shiny pate, was a local Assyrian who had offered to be our sherpa. When he burst into the lobby of Khan’s hotel that morning, he announced the stops on our two-day trek in the confidential tone of a smuggler inventorying the contents of a shipment.

“I got Shaqlanaye, I have Bebednaye.” He was listing immigrant families by the names of the northern Iraqi villages whose dialects they spoke. Several of the families, it turned out, were Bet-shmuel’s clients.

As Bet-shmuel threaded his Infiniti sedan toward the nearby town of Niles, Illinois, Khan, a rangy 55-year-old, said he was on safari for speakers of “pure” dialects: Aramaic as preserved in villages, before speakers left for big, polyglot cities or, worse, new countries. This usually meant elderly folk who had lived the better part of their lives in mountain enclaves in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Turkey. “The less education the better,” Khan said. “When people come together in towns, even in Chicago, the dialects get mixed. When people get married, the husband’s and wife’s dialects converge.”

We turned onto a grid of neighborhood streets, and Bet-shmuel announced the day’s first stop: a 70-year-old widow from Bebede who had come to Chicago just a decade earlier. “She is a housewife with an elementary education. No English.”

Khan beamed. “I fall in love with these old ladies,” he said.

***
Aramaic, a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, was the common tongue of the entire Middle East when the Middle East was the crossroads of the world. People used it for commerce and government across territory stretching from Egypt and the Holy Land to India and China. Parts of the Bible and the Jewish Talmud were written in it; the original “writing on the wall,” presaging the fall of the Babylonians, was composed in it. As Jesus died on the cross, he cried in Aramaic, “Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

But Aramaic is down now to its last generation or two of speakers, most of them scattered over the past century from homelands where their language once flourished. In their new lands, few children and even fewer grandchildren learn it. (My father, a Jew born in Kurdish Iraq, is a native speaker and scholar of Aramaic; I grew up in Los Angeles and know just a few words.) This generational rupture marks a language’s last days. For field linguists like Khan, recording native speakers—“informants,” in the lingo—is both an act of cultural preservation and an investigation into how ancient languages shift and splinter over time.

In a highly connected global age, languages are in die-off. Fifty to 90 percent of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken today are expected to go silent by century’s end. We live under an oligarchy of English and Mandarin and Spanish, in which 94 percent of the world’s population speaks 6 percent of its languages. Yet among threatened languages, Aramaic stands out. Arguably no other still-spoken language has fallen farther.

Its first speakers, the Arameans, were desert nomads. (The Bible describes the mythic forebear of the Hebrews as “a wandering Aramean.”) Spreading out from ancient Syria, they so blanketed Mesopotamia that when the Assyrians conquered the Middle East in the eighth century B.C., they adopted Aramaic—not their own tongue, Akkadian—as a language of empire. So did the Babylonians when they vanquished the Assyrians, and the Persians when they toppled the Babylonians. The language crossed the lips of Christians, Jews, Mandeans, Manicheans, Muslims, Samaritans, Zoroastrians and pagans.

The writing on the wall (the proverbial sort) came for Aramaic in the seventh century A.D., when Muslim armies from Arabia conquered the Middle East, and Arabic routed Aramaic as the region’s lingua franca. Aramaic survived only in the Kurdish mountains of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, places so remote they never got the memo. Jews and Christians there (though not Muslims, who spoke Kurdish) kept up Aramaic as an everyday tongue for another 1,300 years.

The number of Aramaic speakers alive today is difficult to calculate. Though some estimates set the figure as high as a half-million, that number is misleading. Because of its ancient lineage, lack of standardization and the isolation of speakers from one another, the modern tongue, known as Neo-Aramaic, has more than 100 dialects, most with no written analogue. Many dialects are already extinct, and others are down to their last one or two speakers.

As an everyday language, linguists told me, Aramaic is safe now in only one place: the Christian village of Maaloula, in the hills outside Damascus, where, with Syrian state support, elders still teach it to children.

***
Like many Neo-Aramaic experts, Khan, whose accent bears traces of his working-class childhood in northeast England, stumbled on the field almost by accident. In his early years at Cambridge, he worked on a trove of ancient Jewish manuscripts—in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic—known as the Cairo Geniza. But the long hours squinting at microfilm were a downer. Eager for change after a dispiriting day in a Jerusalem microfiche lab in the early 1990s, he asked a local organization of Kurdish Jews for referrals to actual native speakers of Aramaic.

No sooner had Khan sat down with a Jew from Erbil, a northern Iraqi city whose Aramaic dialect was undescribed, than he felt he had found his calling. “It completely blew my mind,” he told me. “To discover a living language through the lips of a living person, it was just incredibly exhilarating.”

The traditional aim of fieldwork is to produce for undocumented languages what linguists sometimes call “the holy trinity”: a grammar, which is a road map to sounds, syntax and structure; texts, which are chunks of unedited speech that reveal a language’s texture; and a dictionary. Over the past two decades, Khan has published highly regarded grammars on the previously undocumented dialects of Barwar, Qaraqosh, Erbil, Sulemaniyya and Halabja, all areas in Iraq, and Urmi and Sanandaj, in Iran. He is also at work on a web-based database of text and audio recordings that allows word-by-word comparisons across dozens of Aramaic dialects.

Aramaic speakers tend to greet microphone-toting linguists with traditional Middle Eastern hospitality. The widow we visited in Niles, Agnes Nissan Esho, would not let us leave before serving an elaborate lunch of kubba hamuth (sour dumplings), masta (yogurt), chicken with rice, and kadeh (spiced-walnut pastry).

“I’m getting very excited about some vowels here,” Khan said as Esho carried in the steaming plates of food.

“And I’m getting excited about the kadeh,” Bet-shmuel deadpanned.

The half-dozen Neo-Aramaic lin­guists I spoke with said informants often served feasts, confided family gossip and plied them with take-home boxes of fruit. But some are puzzled by the outside interest in their language, and others suspicious that their interlocutors are spies.

And bum steers abound. On our drive to one informant’s house, Khan told a story about his multiyear search for a Chicago man from Iraq’s Barwar region who had been described to him as a font of Assyrian folklore. “When we finally met, I said, ‘I heard you know lots of stories.’”

The man’s response: “I’ve forgotten them all.”

When we arrived at homes around Chicago, Khan, in dress shirt and blazer, explained his research, then drew from his backpack a digital voice recorder, a microphone and a sprawling loose-leaf questionnaire. Each session lasted two or three hours, as Khan worked, like an archaeologist with a soil sifter, to tease out nuances, among dialects, in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

How would you say, “There they are”? he asked. How about, “Here I am”? How about, “He wants to come”? And on it went: “You want to come. I want to come. Come!”

To make sure he heard words correctly, Khan repeated them slowly. He held his mouth open an extra second to verify a vowel or ran a finger over his Adam’s apple to confirm a guttural.

At a public housing tower, we spent more than an hour with a 97-year-old Assyrian from Turkey and his 90-year-old wife. When we stopped for coffee afterward, I asked Khan whether he’d found the meeting productive. “Some pronunciations of one of the consonants in the word for ‘hen’ are not according to what I predicted,” he said.

Advances in field linguistics, I saw, come in dribs and drabs, not eurekas.

The work has its exhilarating days, though, and few moved Khan more than his 2008 trip to the former Soviet republic of Georgia. He was in the capital of Tbilisi in search of Aramaic speakers from Salamas, a city in northwestern Iran. One wave of Assyrians fled Salamas after a Kurdish chieftain murdered a Church of the East patriarch there in 1918; another, after an earthquake a dozen years later.

In Tbilisi, people told Khan that all but three of the dialect’s “pure” speakers had died. At the first house, the man’s daughter apologized: Her father had recently suffered a stroke and was mute. At the second, an older woman lived with a quartet of energetic Rottweilers. “I took out my microphone and they just started howling and barking,” Khan recalled. “It was impossible.”

Finally, a local Assyrian escorted Khan one night into an imposing Soviet-era apartment block. At the top of a dark flight of stairs was a one-room apartment. A frail woman in her mid-90s answered the door.

Khan looked at her brittle physique and wondered how much she could handle. He told himself he would stay for just a few minutes. But when he got up to leave, the woman stretched a bony hand across the table and clasped his wrist.

“Biqir, Biqir,” she pleaded, in a small voice. (“Ask, ask.”)

“She literally grabbed onto me,” he said. “It was as if this was her last breath and she wanted to tell me everything.”

For two hours she hung on his wrist as his recorder filled with the sounds of a language in twilight.

Source: Smithsonian.com

Link to the article


 

GRUNDTVIG-WORKSHOP

„Bildungs- und Chancengleichheit für Suryoye-Assyrer Frauen“

 

Wer mit dem Leben spielt,
kommt nie zurecht.

Wer sich nicht selbst befiehlt

bleibt immer Knecht.

(Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe)

 

Mit diesen Versen richten wir unseren Aufruf an die Suryoye-Assyrer Frauen in Europa.

Die Union Freie Frauen Bethnahrins in der Schweiz lädt zum Workshop „Bildungs- und Chancengleichheit für Suryoye-Assyrer Frauen“ ein.

Bei unserem Workshop werden wir anhand von Vorträgen und Diskussionen verschiedene Themen gemeinsam erlernen und austauschen.

Das Ziel unseres Workshops ist es, durch eine Öffnung für Bildung (lebensbegleitendes Lernen) einen Zugang zu Bildung zu finden.

Dies soll die Suryoye-Assyrer Frauen dabei unterstützen, mehr Selbstbewusstsein und Stärke heraus zu bilden und ein europäisches Verständnis und eine gesunde Integration in die europäische Gesellschaft zu finden.

Bei dem Workshop werden Suryoye-Assyrer Frauen aus verschiedenen Ländern Europas zusammengeführt, um gemeinsam zu lernen.

Der Workshop findet vom 16. – 20. Mai 2013 im Ferienhaus Hinterberg, 6318 Walchwil / Schweiz statt.

Wir würden uns freuen, auch Sie unter unseren Teilnehmern begrüßen zu dürfen.


Kontakt:
Union Freie Frauen Bethnahrins
Hülya Gabriel

hgabriel@sunrise.ch

Tel: +41 76 518 00 25

Syriacs want separate refugee camp in Turkey

Syriac leaders are petitioning Turkish officials to establish a separate camp in southeastern Turkey for those who have fled violence in Syria

December 12, 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Turkey currevtly hosts more than 130,000 Syrian refugees who fled from the war-torn country. Syriac figures say they demand a separate camp for those who have fled Syria. AFP photo

Turkey currevtly hosts more than 130,000 Syrian refugees who fled from the war-torn country. Syriac figures say they demand a separate camp for those who have fled Syria.
AFP photo
Leading Syriac figures say they met with officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Foreign Ministry in an effort to establish a separate camp in Mardin for Syriac citizens who are defecting from Syria.

Deputy chair of the Syria-based Syriac Union Party, Said Malki, Syriac National Council chairman and member of the Syria Syriac Associations Federation’s management board Bassam Ishak, Turkey Syriac Associations Federation chairman Evgil Türker, met with AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş and the Foreign Ministry’s Center for Strategic Research (SAM) deputy chair Mesut Özcan.

No compromise has yet to be reached between the officials on that matter, but negotiations are still ongoing, Malki told the Hürriyet Daily News. “They assured us not to create a problem in the works we are to conduct within the bounds of our means. We want the Syriacs to stay in Turabidin (around the southeastern province of Mardin and Midyat), which is the old residential area of the Syriac community,” Malki said.

The Syriac community is asking for a separate camp to be established for them as they do not want to settle in already founded camps along the border. “Within the current camps there are various people from different segments of society so every kind of problem can arise there. Also, there are many gangs involved in human trafficking in these camps. The Syriacs who cannot comply with the camps leave there and try to migrate to a third country. So some undesired things might occur. Above all they do not want to return their homeland after all this, we are trying to prevent it,” Malki said.

“We firstly want to meet the accommodation needs with the support of diaspora and Turkey’s Syriac associations. But since we have limited facilities we need the support of the state,” Malki said about the expenses of a possible Syriac camp.

Unregistered Syriac immigrants
Thousands of people who fled from Syria found asylum in Turkey or migrated to a third country through Turkey, Malki said. “Only a few [of the refugees] were registered. Many of them stay with their relatives, while some reside in various places they could afford with their own means,” Malki said, indicating they did not want anyone to migrate from their homeland.

“We want them to stay in their residences and struggle. But if there is no chance to struggle, they could temporarily migrate and then return to their homeland after conditions get better. Consequently, we want the migrants to stay in a place where they would not face difficulties and would not need to migrate to a third country and the most appropriate location for that is Turabidin,” Malki said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Dallas Museum Volunteers to Return Mosaic to Turkey

Monday, December 3, 2012

By RANDY KENNEDY

Orpheus taming animals with his lyre The Dallas Museum of Art voluntarily returned an ancient marble mosaic in its collection to Turkey on Monday, after determining that the work - which dates from A.D. 194 and shows Orpheus taming animals with his lyre - was probably stolen years ago from a Turkish archaeological site.

The decision, part of a new plan by the museum to court exchange agreements with foreign institutions more actively, comes at a time when the Turkish government has become more aggressive in seeking antiquities it believes were looted from its soil. In recent months it has pressed the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several other museums around the world to return objects and, to increase its leverage, it has refused loan requests to some.

The Met says that the objects sought by Turkey were legally acquired in the European antiquities market in the 1960s before being donated to the museum in 1989

Other museums have accused Turkey of undue intimidation. Last year the Pergamon Museum in Berlin returned a 3,000-year-old sphinx, which Turkey said had been taken to Germany for restoration in 1917. But German officials say Turkey has continued to deny loans of objects for exhibitions because of claims to other objects in the Pergamon collection.

The Dallas mosaic, bought at auction at Christie’s in 1999 for $85,000, is thought to have once decorated the floor of a Roman building near Edessa, in what is now the area around the city of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey. Edessa developed alliances with Rome from the time of Pompey and was sacked under the rule of the emperor Trajan.

Maxwell L. Anderson, the director of the museum in Dallas, said that when he took over at the beginning of 2012, he asked antiquities curators to identify objects that might have provenance problems.

“What I didn’t want to happen here was a succession of slow-motion claims coming at us,” he said in an interview. As part of the review, the museum has also transferred legal ownership of several objects to Italy, including a pair of Etruscan shields and three kraters, or earthenware vessels used to mix wine and water.

Turkish officials had been searching for the Orpheus mosaic for some time, Mr. Anderson said. “For whatever reason, they hadn’t found their way to the Christie’s catalog or to us,” he said.

When the museum contacted Turkey earlier this year to say that it had doubts about the mosaic, whose existence seems not to have been cited in publications before its inclusion in the Christie’s catalog, Turkish officials provided photographs of a looted site near Edessa whose physical characteristics closely matched those of the mosaic.

“I saw that, and even as a novice, I said: ‘Done,’ ” Mr. Anderson said.

Cemalettin Aydin, the consul general of Turkey in Houston, who along with other Turkish officials took possession of the mosaic at a ceremony in Dallas on Monday morning, said in prepared remarks that he applauded the museum’s “unwavering ethical stance.” He added that the restitution would lead to an active loan arrangement between Turkey and the Dallas museum. The museum has no Anatolian collection to speak of, and so the hope is that the agreement with Turkey will allow Dallas to organize ambitious exhibitions of work lent from that region.

The return of the mosaic is the first official act of the museum’s new international loan initiative, called DMX, which seeks agreements with foreign museums to share objects and to collaborate on conservation projects, exhibitions and educational programs.

A version of this article appeared in print on 12/04/2012, on page C1 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Dallas Museum Returns Art to Turkey.

Source: The New York Times

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EU ‘seriously concerned' about Mor Gabriel Monastery

20 November 2012 / SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, BRUSSELS


Mor Gabriel 2012The Mor Gabriel Monastery in Mardin (Photo: Cihan)

The European Union has stated that it is "seriously concerned" about a court decision on the Mor Gabriel Monastery in Mardin.

The spokesman for Stefan Füle, the commissioner responsible for the Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy said the commission was concerned both about the verdict and about the fact that the litigation against the monastery had been started by state authorities.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, spokesperson Peter Stano said the commission was deeply concerned regarding the decision made by the Civil General Assembly of the Court of Cassation against the monastery. "The commission is also concerned that the litigation on such issues is instigated by judicial actions launched by state institutions," noted Stano.

Bearing in mind that Turkey is a candidate country negotiating its accession to the EU, Stano said it had to guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of all citizens. He also announced that the commission would follow cases closely regarding the property rights of the Aramaen (Syriac) community and in particular of the monastery.

Last week the Supreme Court of Appeals threw out a petition by the Mor Gabriel Monastery to re-examine a decision handed down by its 20th Chamber, which ruled that the monastery is occupying state land even though it has been paying taxes on that land for decades. The local court has also twice ruled in favor of the monastery.

Source: Today's Zaman

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An outpost of Aramaic speakers

The battle for Mor Gabriel

Saterday, November  3. 2012

 MIDYAT | from the print edition

http://media.economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/290-width/images/print-edition/20121103_EUP007_0.jpg
Not so serene

WHEN the Young Turks enlisted Kurdish tribesmen to take part in the mass slaughter of the Armenians in 1915, Muslim clerics spurred on their flocks: those who slew Christians would be blessed with wealth and beautiful girls and their places in heaven assured. Although the deaths of around 1m Ottoman Armenians are well documented, little is known about the tens of thousands of Syriacs, one the world’s oldest Christian communities, who fell with them.

From Stockholm to Sydney, an increasingly vocal Syriac diaspora is lobbying for international recognition of the killings as genocide. Home to a large population of Syriacs, Sweden already has. As the centenary of the 1915 tragedy looms Turkey is waging a counter campaign and an ancient monastery in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east is feeling the heat. Perched on a barren hilltop near the town of Midyat, the monastery called Mor Gabriel, is at the centre of a land dispute pitting Kurdish villagers backed by Turkey’s mildly Islamist government against Timotheos Samuel Aktas, the combative crimson-robed bishop. His ever-shrinking flock speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. Monks at the monastery are struggling to pass it down.

The Syriacs’ latest troubles started when Kurds from surrounding villages began claiming land in and around Mor Gabriel just as a steady trickle of Syriacs began returning from Europe. Many were encouraged by the ruling Justice and Development party’s embrace of minorities after it shot to single rule in 2002. But as the Syriacs began rebuilding their homes, the Kurds grew hostile. And in a stream of complaints to the local prosecutor they claimed that “strangers” gathered “secretly” for “illegal activities” at the monastery which itself had been erected on top of a mosque. “Never mind that Mor Gabriel existed 174 years before the birth of the prophet Mohammed,” huffed the bishop on a recent afternoon.

Until recently the bishop and his entourage viewed their travails as greed robed in Islamic piety. That was until the Treasury intervened in 2009 and began claiming the monastery’s land as well. At a recent hearing, a local court ruled in favour of the Treasury even though the monastery had presented documents proving its ownership of the contested properties and that it had been paying their taxes for decades. The prosecution claimed it had no record of these. As news of these legal tangles have spread, the Syriacs have stopped returning.

Separate audiences with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, and Abdullah Gul, the president, held last year failed to make a difference And both leaders appeared to allude to the Syriacs’ campaign for recognition of the 1915 massacres as a genocide. “Your community abroad is talking,” they complained to Mr Aktas. The monastery has appealed to a higher court. True justice, says the bishop, will be delivered by God.

Source: The Economist

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Legal Issues Cast Doubt on Return of Christians to Turkey's Southeast

Friday, October  26, 2012

Dorian Jones

Turkey is home to Syriac Christians, whose followers extend across the Middle East. In the 1990s, many Syriac Christians fled Turkey during years of fighting between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebels. In the last few years, they have been returning. But a series of court cases against the ancient monastery of Mor Gabriel, in southeastern Turkey, has put their return increasingly in doubt.

For 1,600 years, the bell at the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel Monastery has called people to prayer. The ceremonies are conducted in Aramaic, a language spoken at the time of Christ.
GianThe building and region around it have survived invasions by Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Kurds and Turks, going back more than 1,000 years.

But there is a relatively new battle. A ruling by Turkey's highest court in favor of the Turkish state over the monastery's land has cast doubt about its future, says the Mor Gabriel Foundation, which runs the monastery.

Christians have been living on these lands for thousands of years, said Kuryakos Ergun, the foundation's head. He doesn't know what to think of all the competing legal disputes because they are Syriac Christians.

According to Ergun, the court lost documents proving the ownership of the monastery land and the judges demanded witnesses of 120 years ago to prove the monastery's case.

The state has opened six more cases in the last four years. Another concern is a local state prosecutor investigation into whether the monastery was built on top of a mosque, even though the monastery was founded almost 200 years before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Demands on the land have also been filed by neighboring Muslim villages like Yayvantepe. Ismail Erkal heads the village and warns the dispute with the monastery is getting increasingly tense.

At one time the Muslims and Christians were close and even attended each other's funerals, but now injustice is being done, Erkal said.

The controversy comes as Syriac Christians started returning - helping to rejuvenate the region, including the main town of Midyat, where the monastery in located.

The overwhelming majority had fled to Europe and the United States during the 1990s at the height of the conflict between the state and Kurdish rebel group PKK that often saw them caught in the middle, according to local lawyer Rudi Sumer, who is defending the returning Christians facing legal challenges.

Surrounding villages tried to take over the land the Syriac Christians left behind when they fled, said Sumer, and now they are claiming ownership.

Test case

The village of Kafro is a test case for some Syriacs thinking about a return. Israil Demir and his family came back seven years ago. But with tension growing - and court cases - he is not sure he would make that decision today.

Demir said he brought his family back to set and example so the Syriac Christians would not vanish into history.  But he said he is not sure if he would make that decision today.

At the monastery, there is growing frustration with the governing AK party, which officially has been promoting the return of Christians to the region. Religious rights are a key demand of the European Union, which Turkey is aspiring to join.

Questioning the government

Many Syriacs feel their legal problems are raising question marks over the government's intentions, said Isa Dogdu, an assistant to the monastery's bishop.

"They felt that something is not sincere in these developments On the one side they encourage [us] to come back or show signs of encouragement. But these court cases are a way maybe of discouraging people - a kind of intimidation."

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has promised to look into the ongoing controversy.

Turmoil in the region has caused ancient Christian populations to collapse. Until now, Turkey was bucking that trend but with the growing legal uncertainties, the future is more clouded than ever..

Source: Voice of America

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“Opportunity or disaster? Christians and the Arab Spring“ - FOCUS ON SYRIA -
the event on October 9th 2012 in the European Parliament in Brussels

Please follow this Link for more information


Syriacs join opposition to topple al-Assad government

Tuesday, October  09, 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images/news/201210/n_31979_4.jpg

European Syriac Union’s Turkey representative Çelik (L) and Ishak, the Syriac National Council head, says they are carrying out a mutual fight against al Assad’s dictatorship.
DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK


A group of Syrian Syriacs have thrown their support behind the struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by forming an agreement with the leading representatives of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC). In the agreement a democratic Syria is demanded, in which all peoples would have equal rights and could alternately come into power after the al-Assad regime falls. 

Representatives of the Damascus-based Syriac National Council and the Brussels-based European Syriac Union said a part of the Syriac community stood with opponents against the al-Assad regime according to the agreement they had made with opposition groups like the SNC. 

Bassam-Said Ishak, the Syriac National Council head, and the European Syriac Union’s Turkey representative Tuma Çelik, both prominent figures supporting the opponents in Syria, spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News about the reasons for their allying with opponents to the Syrian regime. “As all the people of Syria, including Christians, Muslims, Sunnis, Kurds and Alevis, we are carrying out a mutual fight for the fall of al-Assad’s dictatorship and for the acquisition of freedom and equal rights. The opposition movement is regarded as a Muslim-Sunni movement, which is a great mistake,” Ishak said. 
“We are standing for the first time with Turkey, which supports the opponents,” Çelik said. “Turkey not only regards the opponents as a Sunni movement, but also tries to represent it as an anti-Alevi one. This perception that they have tried to impose worries us, since we, as opponents, are struggling for a mutual ideal,” Çelik said, criticizing Turkey’s attitude. 

“If any party steps back, then they would face our opposition. We struggle not only for the fall of the al-Assad regime, but also for the future of Syria democracy. We stand against anyone who blocks our way,” Ishak said, when asked what if the agreement will lose its validity after al-Assad’s fall.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


“Opportunity or disaster?
                   
                               
Christians and the Arab Spring“


                        - FOCUS ON SYRIA -


                            9th October 2012 , 16:00 - 18:00 h
                            Room PHSP4B001 European Parliament In Brussels   


   
        Hosted by

        MEP Elmar BROK,

        Committee on Foreign Affairs , Chair
        in cooperation with European Syriac Union

        
Guest Speakers

        1- Bassam Ishak, Member of the Syrian National Council,
            President of the Syriac National Council of Syria
        2- Ibrahim Mrad, President of the Universal Syriac Union Party in Lebanon (tbc)
        3- Said Malki, Vice-President of the Syriac Union Party of Syria

      
 Interpretation available in Syriac, Arabic, English

Contact:   
          Rima Tüzün , ESU - Head of Foreign Affairs
          rima.tuezuen@esu.cc
          Tel.: +32 252 34 181
          Mobile: +49 176 628 70 683

“Opportunity or disaster?  Christians and the Arab Spring“ - FOCUS ON SYRIA-


Syriacs form group in Swiss to make their voices heard

Ocotber, 4. 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images/news/201210/n_31541_4.jpg

Syriac Orthodox community prays at the Orthodox monastery in Mardin in this file photo. AFP Photo

Twelve Syriac-origin lawmakers in the Swiss Parliament have come together to establish a group that aims to make the voice of Syriacs heard.

The group, named “Schweiz Suryoye” (Switzerland Syriacs) will aim to bring the problems of the Syriacs in Turkey and the Middle East to the agenda, Rima Tüzün, the head of foreign affairs at the Brussels-based European Syriac Union told the Hürriyet Daily News. “The main objective of the group is to distribute information about the cultural, communal and social situation of the Syriacs in their native countries [Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon],” said Tüzün. “This is the first time MPs have come together politically in a group for our people and therefore this group is a historic step for us,” said Tüzün. “The Syriacs are not yet united and do not have a powerful voice ... The Syriacs have a chance to regain their rights,” he added.

 

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Christian group ‘will be’ OK with Brotherhood

September, 11. 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Syriac National Council

A general view shows a damaged church in the neighbourhood of old Homs. REUTERS photo

A recently established council bringing together Syria’s Christian minority groups in Syria has no fear of a possible Muslim Brotherhood rule in the country, according to a prominent member.

“We want to live as equal citizens and with equal rights all over the Middle East, especially in Syria,” Bassam Ishak, leader of the Damascus-based Liberal Party, told the Hürriyet Daily News on behalf of the council after announcing the establishment of the “Syrian Syriac National Council” on Sept. 8.

Over 30 political parties, non-governmental organizations, and women’s organizations, including the European Syriac Union, the Syriac American Association and the Syriac Movement have joined together to form the council.

The council’s headquarters will be in Damascus, while another office is planned to be opened in Ankara.
Ishak, who is also a member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said the council should not be seen as supporting one side in the Syrian conflict.

“The [Bashar] al-Assad regime is oppressive,” Ishak said. “We have no hesitation about the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule over the region; we are ready to support them. Along with this, we don’t want our council to be understood as a supporter of an opponent or a sided organization.

We will only convey our people’s democratic demands. Even though we support [the opposition], we are not for or against anyone. We will only fight for our people’s future.”

Importance of Istanbul

Declaring the council’s opening in Istanbul had great historic importance for its members, Ishak said. “A part of our people is still living here. Geographically, this is the closest location to Syria and the Anatolian territories where we have lived for thousands of years.”

Asked why the council plans to open an office in Turkey, Ishak said “Turkey is our neighbor, and also an example in terms of democracy, so we want to build good relations [with Turkey].” Although Syriac Christians have had painful experiences with Turkey in the past, they do not want to remain trapped in the past, he said.

Thousands of Christians leaving Homs: Vatican envoy

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency

Approximately 100,000 Christians in Homs have had to move to different places in Syria due to the ongoing clashes between the Syrian army and opposition militants, according to a senior Vatican diplomat in Damascus.

“Up until now, Christians have been suffering from the same consequences of the conflict like all the other citizens. However, a good number of Christians, around 100,000, had to leave Homs. Most of them moved to the Christian Valley [Krak des Chevaliers] and to the Damascus area,” Vatican Ambassador to Syria Nuncio Mario Zenari said yesterday.

Zenari said Christians made up 8 percent of Syria’s population.“It is very difficult to know how many Christians died because of the explosions and shelling,” the ambassador also said. Zenari said the Vatican was doing its utmost to stop the ongoing clashes in the country. Pope Benedict XVI had recently called on international communities to make further effort to stop violence in Syria.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Syriac National Council of Syria.jpg 

 

 

To the Syrian people... To the People of Revolution

It has been more than a year and half for the start of the Syrian revolution that seeks better future for us and for our children. Killings, displacement, oppression and torture. The process of assassination has not stopped from killing our children and attacking our villages. The criminal gang did not provide a barbaric way of killing and only used, arrests, raids, shelling and bullets, killing and violations, displacement and mortar hatred destroy houses, cities, streets and fields. The ruling gang aircraft fired lava death and destruction. The regime is trying to destroy the pure image the Syrian revolution to divide the components of the Syrian people. The regime is trying to destroy our dream in the presence of any international support.

More than twenty thousand martyrs (civilian and military) including women and children, tens of thousands wounded, imprisoned or move to more secure countries as refugees. But after all this! we still fixed, and our great will was never weakened by the horrible attack of Al-Assad criminal regime. And we’ve become role model in confrontation and competition to move forward to overthrow the legitimate system of tyranny, terrorism and corruption; and to finally enjoy civil republic of pluralist based on the foundations of justice and equality.

Many factors pushed the Syriac people to arrange his powers to remedy the risk of fragmentation and loss and for activating claim his rights. The sense of responsibility towards the sacrifices of the Syrian people and the difficult conditions experienced by the country pushed us as parties, institutions, and Syriac members to establish the Syriac national council of Syria in order to activate the group work that support Syriac in specific and Syrians in general. However, we will keep on supporting the Syrian revolution in which we are part from beside supporting the Syrian national council the one we ask to unite the council for better vision of Syria after Assad’s regime.

Consequently, we ask the Arab League and the United Nations and influential countries in the international community to be committed legally and morally by the international law in order to overthrow the Assad regime and we ask for the military intervention to overthrow the criminal regime of Al-Assad who is killing Syrian people.

We look forward to a Constitution that guarantees public liberties, separation of authorities, equal citizenship and full national partnership. A constitution that admits and situation of national diversity, including constitutional recognition of the existence of the national identity of the Syriac people. Constitution in accordance with international conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and keep pace with modern developments, and meets the requirements of society with all its components so that this constitution is based on administrative decentralization.

We look forward to peaceful life for all the components of the Syrian people for the various national and religious affiliations in the future Syrian republic of pluralism and democracy. We also look forward to preserve the rights of our Syriac people and to be equal as Syriacs - Assyrians by rights and duties with the rest of Syria, Arabs and Kurds, Circassians, and others, in addition to the rights of the different religions and sects of Christians and Muslims and others. Believing that this pluralism and this diversity is an essential factor culture and civilization of Syria.

We ask our brothers in the Free Syrian army whom we support and defend to control all irresponsible actions that take place in some cases in which it alter its real and great image and to stop anyone who intend to give a bad image or bad reputation for to wonderful revolution.

As result for all what we mentioned, we ask our Syriac people to support the Syrian revolution

And we ask all other Christians to be good example of Jesus’ message which rejected injustice and called for justice and rights. You should not allow the regime to succeed in his trap that relies on strife and conspiracies. The huge number of Syriacs who migrated during the reign of this regime after the great ignorance and injustice of the Syriac clearly shows the great lie about protecting Christians by the regime. The regime intended to make demographic change for the syriacs and to abolish their culture and political institutions as well.

The last but not the least, we ask our Syriac people to stick to their land and to keep their presence in Syria the land of their ancestors and civilization. We ask you to be strong like great rock that never moves or shakes.

We are ready for all kinds of collaboration to rescue Syria from its crisis.

Finally, we believe that we all together are going to drop that Tyrant and we will build home of peace and dignity where all Syrians enjoy their rights without any ethnic, national or ideological discrimination

Glory and eternity to martyrs of the Syrian Revolution

We pray for God to heal all the wounded and to liberate all the detainees

Freedom for civil and democratic Syrian republic.

 

Syriacc Nationall Councillof Syriaa
Istanbull Septemberr 8, 2012


 

FOUNDATION OF THE SYRIAC NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SYRIA

On 08.09.2012 organizations, political parties and independent person of the Syriac people have founded the Syriac National Council of Syria.

 At the Gonen Hotel in Istanbul the participiants of the founding congress elected Mr. Bassam Ishak as the President of the Syriac National Council of Syria.

 For more information please have a look on the press release (only in arabic).

Foundation of the SYRIAC NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SYRIA

Syriac National Council of Syria_Logo

إطلاق المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري في اسطنبول... مراد: لترجمة الجامعة العربية وأصدقاء سوريا التزاماتهم لإسقاط نظام الأسد الفاشي

 

اجتمعت الاحزاب والمؤسسات السريانية بالاضافة الى شخصيات سريانية مستقلة منضوية في المجلس الوطني السوري في مدينة اسطنبول تمهيداً لاطلاق المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري المعارض حيث عقد ممثلو الاحزاب والمؤسسات والشخصيات السريانية اجتماعاً تحضيرياً. وتمت مناقشة بنود البيان التأسيسي والنظام الداخلي للمجلس، حيث اتفق المجتمعون على الصيغة النهائية لهاتين الورقتين تجاوباً مع تطلعات شعبنا السرياني نحو الحرية والديمقراطية وضمان حقوقه القومية والوطنية للمرحلة الراهنة التي تمر بها سوريا اسوةً بباقي مكونات الشعب السوري، كما تم عن طريق التصويت المباشر انتخاب اعضاء المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري برئاسة الشخصية المستقلة في المجلس الوطني السوري بسّام اسحق.

ثم عقدت الاحزاب والمؤسسات والشخصيات السريانية المستقلة مؤتمراً صحافياً في اسطنبول، وتم خلاله إعلان المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري، حيث تلا البيان رئيس حزب الاتحاد السرياني العالمي ابراهيم مراد.

وشدد مراد في كلمته على أن التطورات الحاصلة أظهرت عوامل كثيرة دفعت بالشعب السرياني على اختلاف مذاهبه وتسمياته لأن ينظم صفوفه من أجل تدارك خطر التشتت والضياع ومن أجل تفعيل المطالبة بحقوقه كذلك فإن الشعور بالمسؤولية إزاء تضحيات الشعب السوري والأوضاع الصعبة التي تعيشها البلاد، دفعنا كأحزاب ومؤسسات وشخصيات سريانية لإنشاء مجلس سرياني وطني سوري لما فيه خير الشعب السرياني خاصة وسوريا عامة.

ولفت مراد الى أن الشعب السوري بكل مكوناته يقدم قرابين غالية من أجل إسقاط الديكتاتورية وإننا نؤمن أن هذا النظام ساقط لا محال رغم استخدامه الهمجي لكل أساليب العنف بحق الشعب السوري المطالب بالحرية.

وطالب مراد جامعة الدول العربية والأمم المتحدة ومجموعة اصدقاء سوريا، بترجمة التزاماتها القانونية والأخلاقية والإنسانية التي نصّ عليها القانون الدولي، من أجل إسقاط نظام الأسد الفاشي بكافة الوسائل لانقاذ الشعب السوري مما يعانيه جراء إجرام العصابة الحاكمة. (كلمة مراد كاملة في الختام)

وبعدها القى رئيس المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري المنتخب الاستاذ بسام اسحق كلمة شكر فيها ممثلي الهيئات السياسية السرياينة السورية وممثلي المنظمات المدنية السريانية السورية والشخصيات الوطنية السورية لوضعهم ثقتهم به حيث وعد بالعمل الجدي مع زملائه بالمجلس من اجل ان يكون للسريان السوريون دوراً بارزاً في انجاح الثورة السورية المباركة ضد النظام الاسدي الاجرامي وايضاً سيعمل على بيان وبلورة الهوية السريانية الوطنية فيكون لها دورها الطبيعي الايجابي في بناء سوريا المستقبل سوريا لجميع السوريين.

ويعتبرُ تأسيس هذا المجلس حدثاً تاريخياً في حياة الشعب السرياني من جهتين، ذلك لأنّ السريان يتمثلون لأول مرة داخل المجلس الوطني السوري من جهة، ولأن المجلس المؤسَّس يعكس موقف السريان الداعم للثورة السورية المستمرة منذ أكثر من ثمانية عَشَر شهراً (18) للاطاحة برأس النظام بشار الاسد وكافة رموزه.

إنّ الهدف من تأسيس المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري تعزيز دور السريان وتفعيلُ حضورهم في الحراك الثوري، تمهيداً لمشاركتهم كجزءٍ اساسيّاً ومهم من سوريا المستقلة في صياغة الدستور الجديد. كذلك فإنّ المجلس بتأسيسه يُكَذِّبُ الحملة الدعائية للنظام التي تقول ان المسيحيين وبضمنهم السريان هم موالون له وانهم يحتمون به.  

نحن نقول إنّ السريان هم جزءٌ اساسيٌّ وفاعل من الحراك الثوري منذ بداية الثورة الشعبية السورية سواءٌ على الصعيد السياسي او الميداني – نحن نقول إنّ السريان سيواصلون دعمهم للثورة السورية كمكوّن اساسياً يحقُّ له ما يحقُّ لغيره ويقع عليه ما يقع على غيره. 

 

كلمة ابراهيم مراد رئيس حزب الاتحاد السرياني العالمي

يا أبناء الثورة السورية... يا أبناء الحرية

أكثر من عام ونصف على انطلاق ثورتنا من أجل مستقبل أفضل لوطننا وأبنائنا. قتل وتهجير وظلم وتعذيب. لم تهدأ آلة القتل التي تفتك بمدننا وقرانا وأبنائنا. وعصابة الإجرام لم توفر وسيلة همجية إلا واستخدمتها، اعتقالات، مداهمات، رصاص وقصف، قتل وانتهاكات، تهجير وقذائف حقد تدمر بيوتاً ونيران غل تحرق مدناً وقرى وشوارع وحقولاً. وطائرات العصابة الحاكمة تطلق حمم القتل والدمار. ويحاول نظام الإرهاب أن يصور ثورة الشعب السوري على أنها ذات طابع مذهبي وأن يزرع الشقاق بين مكونات الشعب السوري. وتحاول الطغمة الحاكمة أن تحطم حلمنا المشروع بغد أفضل. 

أكثر من خمسة وعشرين ألف شهيد (مدنيين وعسكريين) وبينهم أطفال ونساء، ومئات الآلاف من الجرحى والمعتقلين واللاجئين. إلا أننا ومع كل هذه الظروف صامدون، ثائرون، ثابتون لم تزعزع عزيمتنا همجية النظام ولم يروعنا نزيف الدم المستمر. فيما يسطر شعبنا دروساً عظيمة في المواجهة والبطولة والسير قدماً في ثورتنا المحقة من أجل إسقاط منظومة الاستبداد والفساد والانتقال إلى دولة ديمقراطية مدنية تعددية تقوم على أسس العدل والمساواة.

إن التطورات الحاصلة أظهرت عوامل كثيرة دفعت بالشعب السرياني على اختلاف مذاهبه وتسمياته لأن ينظم صفوفه من أجل تدارك خطر التشتت والضياع ومن أجل تفعيل المطالبة بحقوقه كذلك فإن الشعور بالمسؤولية إزاء تضحيات الشعب السوري والأوضاع الصعبة التي تعيشها البلاد، دفعنا كأحزاب ومؤسسات وشخصيات سريانية لإنشاء مجلس سرياني وطني سوري لما فيه خير الشعب السرياني خاصة وسوريا عامة.

إن الشعب السوري بكل مكوناته يقدم قرابين غالية من أجل إسقاط الديكتاتورية وإننا نؤمن أن هذا النظام ساقط لا محال رغم استخدامه الهمجي لكل أساليب العنف بحق الشعب السوري المطالب بالحرية.

لهذا فإننا نتابع دعمنا الذي بدأناه منذ بداية الثورة للمعارضة السورية التي نشكل جزء منها وخاصة المجلس الوطني السوري الذي ندعوه لأن يلم شمل المعارضة من أجل الخروج بمواقف أقوى ورؤية شاملة من أجل مستقبل أفضل لسوريا ما بعد نظام الأسد.

من هنا فإننا نطالب جامعة الدول العربية والأمم المتحدة ومجموعة اصدقاء سوريا، بترجمة التزاماتها القانونية والأخلاقية والإنسانية التي نصّ عليها القانون الدولي، من أجل إسقاط نظام الأسد الفاشي بكافة الوسائل لانقاذ الشعب السوري مما يعانيه جراء إجرام العصابة الحاكمة.

نتطلع إلى دستور يكفل الحريات العامة، ويضمن فصل السلطات، ويؤمّن شروط المواطنة المتساوية والشراكة الوطنية الكاملة، ويقرّ بحالة التنوّع القومي بما في ذلك الاعتراف الدستوري بالوجود والهوية القومية للشعب السرياني. دستور يتوافق مع المواثيق الدولية وشرعة حقوق الإنسان، ويواكب تطورات العصر، ويلبي متطلبات المجتمع بكل مكوناته بحيث يكون هذا الدستور قائماً على اللامركزية الإدارية.

نتطلع لأن تعيش كل مكونات الشعب السوري بمختلف انتماءاتها القومية والدينية والمذهبية بسلام وأن يتساوى الجميع في دولة المستقبل، دولة التعددية والديمقراطية. كما أننا نتطلع للحفاظ على حقوق شعبنا السرياني وأن نتساوى كسريان بالحقوق والواجبات مع باقي مكونات سوريا من عرب وأكراد وشركس وأرمن وتركمان وغيرهم، بالإضافة إلى حقوق أبناء الديانات والمذاهب المختلفة من مسيحيين ومسلمين وغيرهم. إيماناً منا بأن هذه التعددية وهذا التنوع هو عامل غنى ثقافي وحضاري لسوريا.

إننا وإذ نشد على أيدي الجيش السوري الحر البطل، نناشده بأن يقوم بضبط كل الأعمال التي تجري في بعض الأحيان والتي لا تعكس جوهر وحقيقة الثورة السورية ومحاسبة من يقوم بأي تجاوز يشوه صورة الثورة الرائعة، كذلك ندعوه لتوحيد كل الوحدات المقاتلة وأن يضم في صفوفه كل مكونات الشعب السوري بمختلف انتماءاتها الدينية والقومية حتى نخرج بجيش وطني جامع يمثل كل سوريا.

من هنا فإننا نتوجه إلى أبناء شعبنا السرياني خاصةً لنقول " أن هبّوا جميعاً لدعم ثورة الشعب السوري المحقة، ونناشد المسيحيين جميعاً بأن يقتدوا برسالة السيد المسيح الرافضة للظلم والداعمة للحق والعدل والكرامة. وعدم الوقوع في الفخ الذي يحاول النظام نصبه لكم ومحاولاته الدائمة للايقاع فيما بين كافة مكونات الشعب السوري من خلال زرع الفتن". إن الهجرات الضخمة للسريان من سوريا قد حصلت في عهد هذا النظام الفاشي فيما يدعي كذباً حمايته للمسيحيين والسريان حيث أوغل ظلماً وتنكيلاً وتهميشاً بهم على مر السنين، من تغيير ديمغرافي إلى إلغاء مؤسسات وتهميش سياسي وتدمير ثقافي وحضاري.

يا أبناء شعبنا السرياني، تمسكوا بأرضكم وحافظوا على وجودكم في سوريا التي تتجذر فيها جذور أجدادكم وحضارتكم وقوميتكم، وكونوا كالصخرة الضاربة بالأرض لا تتزحزح حفاظاً على تاريخنا وجذورنا ووجودنا.

إن يدنا ممدودة للجميع من أجل العمل بشكل جماعي لإنقاذ الشعب السوري من المحنة التي زجه فيها هذا النظام المجرم.

وختاماً نقول سنسقط طاغية البعث وسنبني وطناً نعيش فيه جميعاً بكراتمنا حيث ننال حقوقنا كاملة دون أي تمييز عرقي أو قومي أو مذهبي، وسننطلق مع شركائنا في الوطن من أجل مستقبل أفضل لأبنائنا لينعموا بالديمقراطية والحرية.

 

المجد والخلود لشهداء الثورة السورية الأبرار

والشفاء للجرحى والحرية للمعتقلين

 

عشتم وعاشت سوريا حرة ديمقراطية تعددية مدنية

المجلس السرياني الوطني السوري

الموقعون:

-         حزب الاتحاد السرياني العالمي

-         حزب الاتحاد السرياني السوري

-         الاتحاد السرياني الاوروبي

-         اتحاد الشباب السرياني

-         الجمعية الثقافية السريانية في سوريا

-         تنسيقيات الشبيبة السريانية السورية

-         اتحاد نساء بيث نهرين

-         جان عنتر رئيس الحركة السريانية السورية وعضو المجلس الوطني السوري

-         الجمعية السريانية السورية الامركية

شخصيات

-         عضو المجلس الوطني السوري: بسام اسحق

-         عضو المجلس الوطني السوري: ريمون معجون

Press Release in arabic

Foundation of the SYRIAC NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SYRIA Picture 2


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, September  2012

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo Hobil

Dear readers,

The Syriac people have survived many difficulties and dangerous situations in the past 3 months. The Syriac people (the indigenous Christian people in Syria) are being targeted and suppressed by the forces and different powers who are now active in Syria’s political arena. They have no power to protect themselves or any other power to offer them security.

Due to the escalation of clashes in Aleppo (the second largest city in Syria) a few Syriac families have been killed. There is also a new trend of kidnapping Syriac people in that area and asking for ransom. When the ransom is not paid, the Syriacs are killed.

The Syriac people are living terribly in Syria and are in a panic. That`s why the last few months have seen an increase in emigration. Anyone who can find a way to escape will emigrate.

With such terrible living conditions, the Syriac people are struggling for their rights. The Syriac’s passive, peaceful approach has truly led to their slow demise and suffering throughout the last century.

Two examples illustrate this. In the genocide of 1914-15, the Syriacs In Turkey, even without any form of defense, survived a genocide and changed the demography of their homeland. Secondly, in the last few years, the suffering of our people in the Iraq war has resulted in blown up churches and murdered innocent victims, including religious leaders. As a result of the war, more than 60 percent of our people emigrated and scattered in the world.

In order to not repeat in Syria the same suffering of the above given terrible experiences, nowadays our people struggle for their rights equally as other national and religious people and communities.

But the Syriac people without support of the Western World on their own and single handed, can`t achieve getting their rights and recognition.

For the Syriac people to get their rights in Syria, we as the European Syriac Union (ESU), providing factual information to the several and different international organizations, are trying to support our people. In effect, the rest of the world will obtain more objective information about our people and other people too.

Meanwhile, we organized several rallys and demonstrations in front of the Syrian Embassies in Europe against the Baas Regime. The aim of those activities were to announce the rights of Syriac people and to demand the release of the members of the Syriac Union Party in Syria. Our demonstrations took place in Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany to appeal to the world about the unjustness and persecutions which are made by the Baas Regime against the Syriac people. We carry on our activities in Brussels by a demonstration in front of the European Parliament in order to announce the voice of the Syriac`s in Syria to the world.

The Syriac`s people struggle, which began in Syria by the leadership of the Syriac Union Party in Syria, is to demand the rights of our people. Those political demands and activities which took place in Syria let the Syriacs’ demands be heard by the opposition of Syria.

This month, the members and followers of the Syriac Union Party in Syria have occupied the Syrian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. The aim of this activity was to appeal to stop the persecutions, the murders and the cruelties made by the dictatorial Baas Regime, and to notify the world that there are not only Arabs and Kurds in Syria but Syriac`s as well which are suffering from violent injustice. The Syriacs constitute 13 percent of the Syrian population.

European Syriac Union, Chairman
Lahdo Hobil


+ + + BREAKING NEWS + + + +

 

The Syriac Union Party in Syria Entered the Syrian Embassy in Sweden

The supporters and members of (Syriac Union Party In Syria) attacked the Syrian embassy in Stockholm and they raised the slogan “All Syrians are one’’ on 08.14.2012 at ten in the morning and issued the following statement of the party.

http://www.svt.se/ts_1344936592/nyheter/sverige/article236007.svt/ALTERNATES/large/syrien992.jpg

Picture: SVT.se.

 

One.. One.. One.. All Syrians are like one

In the name of this triangular union that we do believe in we share our Syrian brothers their claim for freedom, democracy and change toward Syria civil and democratic republic in which its people enjoy equal rights and duties.

It has been year and half the year and the terrorist regime of Alasad, is still killing, emigrating, destroying, and arresting his people relying on his fake glory and his bloodily throne ignoring international conventions and the will of the majority of Syrians who have been asking for his departure.

We were from the pioneers of the union party in the Syrian Syriac who rebels against injustice and crime.

This regime is trying to give an image about this revolution as terrorist movements and as a civil war.

This regime is claims that he is defending Syrian Christians… and from whom?

From their partners in the homeland and its purpose was and is still creating a rift between the components of the Syrian people and feeding sectarian which contradicts with Syrian civilization and its people.

The regime claims to protect Christians... while its criminal militia beats the holy places of Christianity and does not respect its privacy .The regime deprived syriacs from their civil rights and abandoned them from their land for long decays. The regime wants to protect the Christians? While its troops hit the Syriac churches in Homs, Aleppo and a private church or girdle, which occupies the status of historical and symbolic significance of the Syriac people.

That regime works to protect the Christians!!! These repressive bloody massacres of our people will not be forgiven. We as Syrian Christians we condemn Bashar’s terrorist attack against our people after we made sure that the regime has converted it’s embassy in Stockholm into an office to Assad intelligence to collect all information about anti-Syrians regime and to torture them with their families.

We decided to protest peacefully and in civilized manner towards the Embassy of the oppressive regime. We wanted our voice and our message to to be reached to all nations and for our people in general and Christian Syriac especially our churches and clergy who have not yet engaged in the ranks of the revolution against the Syrian regime of oppression and crime. Our purpose, is r to unite the efforts of our people in order to establish our legal rights, to preserve our heritage, civilization, our culture and our political rights equally with all the components of Syria.

  • Our people will triumph and win.. Syria's Assad criminal regime will defeat.
  • Glory and immortality to the martyrs of the Syrian Revolution
  • Syria to be a free and democratic pluralistic civil republic..

The Syriac Union Party in Syria
Secretariat of Information

Stockholm - Sweden
08/14/2012


 

Ancient Syriac monastery under threat

By Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 18/07/12

Syriacs argue the court’s decision highlights their position as second-class citizens.

Perched on rocky hillside on the outskirts of Mardin in southeastern Turkey, the Mor Gabriel Monastery has been a cultural and religious centre of the ancient Syriac people for more than 1600 years. But in a controversial decision that will likely bring the case to the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled the land belonging to the monastery is occupying state lands and should be given to the Treasury.

  • A Syriac monk walks up the stairs in the ancient Mor Gabriel Monastery. [Reuters]

    A Syriac monk walks up the stairs in the ancient Mor Gabriel Monastery. [Reuters]

"Declaring that the Treasury is the rightful owner of these lands, this final verdict issued by the Supreme Court of Appeals has no reasonable grounds given historical and legal facts," Tuma Celik, the representative of Turkey within the European Syriac Union, told SES Türkiye.

The conflict over the monastery began in 2008 when three village heads near the monastery filed a complaint claiming the land belonged to their villages and the monastery was engaged in "anti-Turkish activities" and proselytizing. The complaint came as Turkish authorities were redrawing the boundaries around the monastery and surrounding villages to update the national land registry in line with the EU harmonisation process. Adding to the case, several new laws have been adopted that require the transfer of uncultivated land to the Treasury.

The Treasury responded by filing a complaint against the monastery, but a lower court dismissed the case after finding the monastery had registered the property with the Foundations Directorate General in 1936 and has been paying taxes since 1937.

In response the Treasury appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which found the monastery had not presented documents to the Foundations Directorate General in 1936 and provided no proof of paying taxes since 1937. The monastery claims all documents were provided in 2009 and were ignored in the court's final decision.

The EU has sharply criticised Turkey over the case against Mor Gabriel and the status of the Syriac people.

For Turkey's 25,000 strong Syriac community and human rights defenders, the Treasury's actions and the court's decision highlight a selective use of evidence and hypocrisy against non-Muslim communities.

Kuryakos Ergun, the head of Mor Gabriel Monastery, said the court's decision was "unfortunate" as the monastery is considered the second most important holy place for the Syriac people after Jerusalem.

"We are the citizens of this country. We didn't come to these territories by immigrating from somewhere. We born here and we are living here for millennia. But such verdicts imply that we are second-class citizens," he told SES Türkiye.

Unlike Jews, Armenians and Greeks, the Syriacs are not considered an official minority under the Lausanne treaty, prompting some to call them the "forgotten minority."

Since World War I, there has been a steady population decline in the Syriac population in Turkey as a result of state policies, discrimination, economic factors and the conflict with the PKK in the 1980s and 1990s. Over the past several years some families in the diaspora have started to return.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a prominent Turkish lawyer and human rights activist, told SES Türkiye some citizens have a hidden agenda to continuously bring an organised action against non-Muslims.

According to Cengiz, the decision is the reflection of a state reflex that views non-Muslim citizens as "indigenous foreigners," a term once used by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

"We should ask ourselves how it would be possible to improvement our policies regarding minority rights when proceeding in such embarrassing actions against a handful of Syriac citizens and their ancient church," he said.

Some 300 individuals, composed of writers, academics and artists, have joined in a petition campaign entitled "Turkey is the Syriacs' Homeland and the Mor Gabriel Monastery is not an Occupier," to protest the decision to nationalise its lands.

"According to us, the decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals reveals the hypocrisy of the state toward Syriacs. While on one hand there are calls to the Syriac people who live outside Turkey to return, on the other hand, Syriacs are declared occupiers," the petition states.

One of the co-sponsors of the petition, Cengiz Aktar from Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, said that the Syriacs are the most destitute non-Muslim communities of Turkey because they lack the special rights granted to official minorities.

"Very much ignored, the Syriacs need to reappear on Turkey's radar, on its conscience record and more importantly on Turkey's legal framework which would grant the same rights to all, be they Muslim or non-Muslim," Aktar told SES Türkiye.

The Syriac community now plans to appeal the case to the Constitutional Court. Barring a positive outcome, Syriac representatives will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Source:Source: turkey.setimes.com

Link to the article


EU voices serious concern over Mor Gabriel decision

Thursday, Juliy  12, 2012

Selçuk GÜLTAŞLI , BRUSSELS

Mor Gabriel

(Photo: Cihan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The European Union has reacted to the latest court verdict against the Mor Gabriel Monastery stating that it is seriously concerned about the developments.

The Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that the Aramean (Syriac) Orthodox monastery is occupying state land, even though monastery officials have been paying taxes on it for decades.

Peter Stano, the spokesman for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Füle, said they were “seriously concerned” about the reversal by the Supreme Court of Appeals of a local court’s decision in favor of the monastery. He added that their concern was aggravated by the fact that the litigation was launched by state institutions.

Stressing that Turkey had to guarantee the fundamental rights of all its citizens as a negotiating country for accession to the EU, Stano made it clear the commission would follow closely all cases regarding property rights of the Syriac community and, in particular, of the Mor Gabriel monastery.

At the end of June, the EU had raised the issue of Mor Gabriel at the 50th Association Council with Turkey, stating: The EU continues to be concerned about the continued court cases regarding land ownership of the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel monastery.

Source:Source: todayszaman.com

Link to the article


 

Oldest Christian Monastery at Risk

Thursday, Juliy  12, 2012

Mor-Gabriel-Monaster

Mor Gabriel Moastery


The Mongolians failed to destroy it 700 years ago despite the massacre of 40 friars and 400 Christians. Yet the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, the fifth century Mor Gabriel Monastery in the Tur Abdin plane (“the mountain of God’s servants”) near the Turkish-Syrian border, is at risk after a ruling by Turkey’s highest appeals court in Ankara.

Founded in 397 by the monks Samuel and Simon, Mor Gabriel in eastern Anatolia has been the heart of the Orthodox Syrian community for centuries. Syriacs hail from a branch of Middle Eastern Christianity and are one of the oldest communities in Turkey.

Today the monastery is inhabited by Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktash, 3 monks, 11 nuns and 35 boys who are learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and the Orthodox Syriac tradition.

Although the monastery is situated in an area at the centre of conflicts between Kurdish separatist with the armed PKK group and the Turkish army, Mor Gabriel welcomes 20,000 pilgrims every year.

The Syriac Orthodox community – estimated to be 2.5 million across the world – is under the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch and considers the monastery a “second Jerusalem.”

The monastery’s reputation 1,500 years ago was such that Roman Emperors Arcadius, Theodosius and Onorio built new buildings around it and enriched it with art and mosaics. But in the past 150 years Mor Gabriel has gone through a decline after the massacres of Christians by nationalists at the end of the 19th century – 3,000 Christians were burnt to death in Edessa’s Cathedral in 1895 – and clashes between Turks and Kurds in the area during World War I.

In the mid 1960s the community in Tur Abdin numbered 130,000.

Today only 3,500 people are left and the ‘second Jerusalem’ is in danger. The heads of the three neighbouring Muslim villages, Kurds with the Belebi tribe, filed a lawsuit against the monastery years ago with the support of an MP member of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under the lawsuit, the Syriacs are accused of practicing “anti-Turkish activities” by providing an education to young people, including non-Christians, and of illegally occupying land which belongs to the neighbouring villages.

After a number of contrasting verdicts, the highest appeals court in Ankara, which is close to the government, has ruled in favour of the village chiefs and said the land which has been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, Turkish newspaper Zaman reported.

The lawsuit also claimed that the sanctuary was built over the ruins of a mosque, forgetting that Mohammed was born 170 years after its foundation.

The verdict has been slammed by the Turkish media and Zaman wrote that the judges had “lost” property and fiscal documents “proving that the land in question belongs to the monastery.”

Mor Gabriel now needs to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in order to survive, a move already undertaken with success a few years ago by the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople to re-obtain the building housing the Orthodox orphanage of Buyukada in Istanbul.
(source: ANSA)

Source: eu.greekreporter.com

Link to the article


 

Iraqi christian group: we still want our own independent region

niqash | Abdul-Khaleq Dosky | Dohuk | 05.07.2012

A leading member of the Christian-based political group, the CSAPC,  talks about why his group still insists on their own independent region, the impact of ongoing violence on Iraqi Christians and his group’s position on the current political crisis in Iraq. 

While some sectarian and ethnic groups have started to pull back on demands for a region of their own, similar to the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan, one Christian group continues to want their own independent state.

The Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council (CSAPC) was created in 2007 with a view to uniting Christian discourse in Iraq; all of the groups represented are variations of the Christian sect. Representatives from each group rotate the chairperson’s position regularly.

Lawyer Shams al-Deen Gewargis, one of the Council’s former heads, talked about why his group still insists on their own independent region, the impact of ongoing violence in Iraq on Christians there and his group’s position on the current political crisis in Iraq. 

NIQASH: What is your group’s position on the current tensions –some would say, crisis situation – between authorities in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the federal government, led by Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad?

Shams al-Deen Gewargis: We believe that solving this crisis requires all of the parties involved meeting, without marginalizing or excluding anyone, in some form of national conference. The aim should be to reach agreements that consider the interests of all Iraqis.

NIQASH: The Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council was created in 2007 – has the Council achieved its aims?

Gewargis: We want to create a Christian province in the state of Ninawa, together with other ethnic, religious and sectarian components in the region.  Until now, we haven’t been able to do that but we are dedicated to that aim.  We are currently conducting an online referendum on this topic.

NIQASH: Why do you want to do this?  Doesn’t this kind of thing just split Iraq up into conflicted regions? 

Gewargis: We don’t want to divide Iraq or split it into pieces. The Christians of Iraq support a united Iraq. But we do want to have our own identity and we want to preserve that identity.

Like many other disputed areas in Iraq, this area has been suffering because there are two different administrative authorities, which has led to marginalization and a lack of state services. Because the majority of the people here are Christians, we simply think that administrative independence could ease these problems.

NIQASH: Where would this region be?

Gewargis: The Hamdaniya and the Tal Keef districts in Ninawa.

NIQASH: In fact though, hundreds of Christian families have been fleeing this area over the past few years, for fear of persecution and targeting by extremist militias. Surely this exodus has affected the latter goal?

Gewargis: Yes, it has. Mostly Christian villages in the [semi-autonomous region of] Iraqi Kurdistan are almost empty and the same is true of villages on the Ninawa plain. The rapid decrease Christian numbers has a negative impact on our political demands.

NIQASH: What challenges have Christian Iraqis had in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Gewargis: It is true that living conditions in Iraqi Kurdistan are better than in other Iraqi cities. But it is still difficult for them to find jobs and there is also a language barrier there – many cannot speak Kurdish. Additionally Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming more limited as a host – so many immigrants have sought refuge there.

NIQASH: Late last year Christian-owned stores and businesses were attacked during riots in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan. What sort of impact have these had on your community?

Gewargis: The impact has been on the economic as well as psychological level. But we still want to have a state where there is religious pluralism, freedom of opinion and where extremism is repudiated. We want a state where there is rule of law to resolve conflicts and citizens can live freely in the way they wish. 

NIQASH: What do you want from the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan then?

Gewargis: We want the regional government to apply the rule of law.  In my opinion, if the attacks such as those in Zakho – the arson in liquor stores and other businesses including Chinese massage parlours – happen again, they will have a negative impact on the progress of Iraqi Kurdistan and on its stability, as well as on any hopes the region may have to become a country on its own in the future.

Some international organizations measure the levels of democracy achieved by events such as these.

Source: niqash.org

Link to the article


ACCORDIRG TO TBE SUPREME COURT: MOR GABRIEL MONASTERY IS AN OCCUPIER

 13 JUNE 2012

In the lawsuit regarding the deed registration of the land of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel the Supreme Court has made its decision.

The Supreme Court General Counsel of the Law has annulled the decision by the Midyat Cadastral Court which decided that 'the land in question is the monastery property’.

Thus the Supreme Court has decided against the monastery ignoring the fact that not only the whole land of the monastery is under its disposal from ancient times, but also the declaration of the land of the Monastery Foundation, the record of the tax paid for the land since 1937, the records at the Foundations General Directorate, the statements by the local witnesses and the decisions of resistance and the protests by the Midyat Court of Cadastre.

Mor Gabriel

Source: morgabriel.org

Link to the article


‘Elective courses may be ice-breaker for all’

Tuesday, June  19, 2012
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Greek Shcool in Istanbul

The Greek school in Istanbul's Balat district.
Photo: Hurriyet

Teaching Armenian and Syriac in Turkish public schools could help make a contribution to Turkey’s peace, members of the minority communities have said in the wake of a decision to introduce elective Kurdish to schools in the next academic year. 

Some community members say Armenian and Syriac elective classes in the state schools could be an icebreaker with the Turkish community, while others say crypto-Armenians - an umbrella term to describe Turkish people of full of partial ethnic Armenian origin who generally conceal their Armenian identity from wider Turkish society - could also learn their culture.

“Even though it is not enough, the step taken by the Turkish government [to offer the Kurdish classes] was remarkable,” said Etyen Mahçupiyan, a columnist for daily Zaman. “Elective mother tongue classes will help provide consensus.”

Zakarya Mildanoğlu, an editor for Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, said there were already schools providing instruction about the Armenian language, but that elective classes could allow crypto-Armenians to learn their own language, he said. 

Şabo Boyacı, the founder of a Syriac website, said he was forced to send his child to public school due to the absence of a Syriac school. 

“My kids are having difficulties learning their mother tongue and learning their own culture. An elective in our mother tongue has provided a glimmer of hope for us. On the one hand, our children will learn their own language and, on the other, Turkish children will learn the different languages and cultures of Anatolia. This contributes to dialogue and rapprochement,” he said.

But Garo Paylan, an administrator from Yeşilköy Armenian Elementary School, said consensus was impossible “until the way people look at differences in Turkey are changed.”

The Turkish government will introduce Kurdish elective lessons in public schools in the next educational year as part of the ruling party’s effort to find a solution to the Kurdish question. 

“Kurdish will be learned and taught as an elective lesson if there are a sufficient number of students [demanding it]. This is a historic step,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said June 13.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Syriacs seek to regain Turkish citizenship

Tuesday, June  05, 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Mor Gabriel

The Mor Gabriel Monastery,The Syriacs’ most revered place of worship located in the southeastern city of Mardin has been the subject of a legal case since 2008.
Photo: Hurriyet

The Mor Gabriel Monastery,The Syriacs’ most revered place of worship located in the southeastern city of Mardin has been the subject of a legal case since 2008.

Many Syriac Christians who have emigrated from Turkey to European countries are seeking to regain their Turkish citizenship.

The Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU) yesterday presented a report to the European Commission Directorate-General for Enlargement, demanding Turkish citizenship for the Syriacs who were deprived of their nationality without notice. Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News about the report, ESU Spokesman David Vergili said the report highlighted the problems Syriac immigrants face.

“There are many Syriacs who lost their citizenship and hence the ownership of their properties in Turkey,” Vergili said, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone. “Properties belonging to Syriac families who moved to Europe have been confiscated by the Turkish Treasury; we are talking about thousands of acres here.”

Vergili noted that the group does not have an exact idea how much land falls into this category, adding that thousands of Syriacs were deprived of their Turkish nationality after leaving Turkey.

Syriacs were caught in the crossfire during clashes between government forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast during the mid-1980s. Many of them consequently left for abroad. The current Syriac population in Turkey is estimated to be in the thousands.

The report also noted the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies towards Turkey’s minority groups. Vergili said the steps taken by the government were “important but not enough.”

“The AK Party has the majority in Parliament, but it still is ungenerous towards the Christian minorities in Turkey,” said Vergili. 

Syriacs in Turkey still do not have legal guarantees, because they are not one of the minorities mentioned in the Lausanne Treaty, Vergili said, recalling the legal case regarding the Mor Gabriel Monastery, located in southeast. Vergili said the report also made note of attacks against Syriac villages and institutions, as well as the bureaucratic problems that Syriacs in Turkey faced.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Syriacs join forces under new group

Saterday, June  02, 2012

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / Vercihan Ziflioğlu

This file photo shows a religious ceremony held in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district, which was home to many Syriacs living in Europe today.
Photo: Hürriyet


Syriac Christian associations in Turkey have joined forces under a newly established federation based in the district of Midyat in the southeastern province of Mardin, the traditional homelands of the ancient community.

“We are a people that pays respect to our churches and Metropolitans, but we want to break out of the definition of a religious congregation and [receive recognition] as a community. We are becoming civilianized,” Evgil Türker, the head of the Syriac Associations Federation’s management board, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Syriacs prefer to resolve their problems with Turkey inside the country itself, rather than discussing them in other countries’ parliaments, he said.

“We also presented a file to the Constitution Commission with regard to our demands. Our contacts with Ankara will continue. On the other hand, we are also going to propound our problems through symposiums, seminaries and panels under the federation’s umbrella and promote Syriac culture,” Evgil added.

Syriac Christians lagged behind in explicating themselves, as the community living in the countryside had been unable to bring their problems to the fore, according to Evgil.

“The second generation educated in Europe now wishes to transfer their knowledge here and bring about solutions,” he said.

Coming back
Evgil also repudiated recent press reports that Syriacs in Europe had begun returning back to Turkey, adding that a mere 50 families had thus far resettled in the country.

“Of course, news about us are not limited to this either; the federation will answer all such [reporting that distorts facts] from the first hand,” he said.

In February 2012, the head of the Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, Kuryakos Ergün, met with the Parliament’s constitution-making commission commission and highlighted the need to give Syriacs official minority status similar to that granted by the Lausanne Treaty to Jews, Greeks and Armenians.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article


Chairman’s Message

Brussels, May 2011

ESU Chairman, Mr. Lahdo Hobil

Dear readers,

Our world is changing extremely rapidly and world politics developments are in very sensitive scale for the next years.

While Europe and United Stated made their focuses on the coming elections, Middle East region countries continue to be at the to p of the international agenda and especially Syria which is the centre of the tensions concerning Bashar Al Assad regime.

Syria is becoming extremely in difficult situation to maintain the current status quo in which Al Assad is continue to kill and oppress his own people. By the way, international community is far from reaching to a consensus and finalising the Syria crisis.

Syriac people also are victim of this regime and they also took their place for a new, free and democratic Syria. As we detailed in our bulletin, last 3 months had been intense and very difficult for Syriac people in Syria. The regime does not allow even any small event of people.

Syriac people who wanted to celebrate 1st April (Akitu) Festival had been attacked by Syrian Security Forces and they had been arrested.

For this objective, ESU with the coordination Syriac Union Party in Syria organised demonstrations and protests meeting around major European cities to denounce the real face of Bashar Al Assad regime and showing their solidarity with Syriac people in Syria.

European Syriac Union, Chairman
Lahdo Hobil


Hopes to Revive the Christian Area of Turkey

By SUSANNE GÜSTEN

Published: April 4, 2012

IDIL, TURKEY — Clambering over the rubble of what was once his hometown, Robert Tutus pointed to a spot just up the road from where his family’s house had stood.

“This is where my father was assassinated,” he said. “Two men walked up to him as he was returning home one evening, and killed him with a bullet to his head.”

His father, Sukru Tutus, was the last Christian mayor of Azeh, known as Idil in Turkish, a town in southeastern Anatolia that traces its Christianity back to the time of the Apostles.

Within a month of his killing, which happened on June 17, 1994, Mr. Tutus recalled last month, the remaining Christian population of the town, several hundred people at the time, had gathered their belongings and fled to asylum in Western Europe.

The departure marked the end of the Christian era of Azeh, which had been a bishop’s seat as early as the second century and home to a Christian population of several thousand until the late 1970s.

Only ruins scattered about the hillside remain of their town today, while above it shabby concrete buildings rise to form the new town of Idil, inhabited by local Kurds and Arabs as well as a few Turkish administrators on temporary postings to the east.

And then there is Mr. Tutus, 42, camped out in an apartment in one of those buildings while he tries to reclaim his father’s properties and rebuild his parental home among the ruins on the hillside.

“This is our home, the home of the Syriac people,” Mr. Tutus said. “We will not give it up.”

The plateau of Tur Abdin, upon which Idil lies nestled between the Syrian plain and the mountain ranges of southeastern Turkey, is the historical heartland of the Syriac Orthodox Church, whose patriarchate resided here until tensions with the Turkish republic pushed it to move to Syria in 1933.

The region is still dotted with Syriac churches like Mor Gabriel, which was founded in the year 397 and is one of the oldest active monasteries in the world today. But apart from the monks, very few Syriacs remain.

A century ago, they numbered 200,000 here, according to the European Syriac Union, a diaspora organization. Some 50,000 survived the massacres of Anatolian Christians during World War I, in which the Syriac people shared the fate of the Armenians. Today, no more than 4,500 Syriac Christians, who speak a local dialect of the Aramaic language as well as Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish, remain in Tur Abdin.

In Azeh, which held out against a siege by surrounding Kurdish villages for months in 1915, the final push in the age-old power struggle over the town began in 1977, when Mayor Sukru Tutus was deposed by the Turkish authorities in what his successor, Abdurrahman Abay, today freely acknowledges was a rigged election.

“The military commander, the judge, the district governor — they encouraged me to run and they helped me” to win, Mr. Abay, chief of the powerful Kurdish Kecan tribe, said last month over a glass of tea in Idil. “After the election, I received a telegram from Egypt, from Anwar el-Sadat. It read: ‘I congratulate you on the Muslim conquest of Idil.”’

The takeover brought the dramatic shift in the town’s demographics that was completed in 1994, with Kurds from the surrounding villages moving in as Syriac families sold up and joined the rising flow of Christian migration from the Tur Abdin to Europe.

Today, 80,000 Syriacs from the Tur Abdin live in Germany, 60,000 in Sweden, and 10,000 each in Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands, according to estimates from the European Syriac Union.

Mr. Tutus found political asylum in Germany, together with his mother, six sisters and three brothers, all but one of whom have since acquired German citizenship and settled there.

A decade later, he was one of the first exiles to accept the Turkish government’s public invitation to Syriacs to return home. It was issued in 2001 under pressure from the European Union and repeated on several occasions.

Although he carries a German passport, Mr. Tutus spends much of his time in Idil, where he has overseen the restoration of the Church of St. Mary and last year founded an Association for Syriac Culture.

“Our aim is to keep the Syriac language and culture alive in Idil, and to remind people that this is the home of the Syriacs,” Mr. Tutus said.

Although the association’s office was fire-bombed this year, Mr. Tutus remains undeterred.

“We want the world to see that Syriacs still live here,” he said.

Source: The New York Times

Link to the article


BREAKING NEWS

 

Eight of nine members of Syriac Party Union in Syria had been released. Only one member is still arrested.


During  the 1st April (Akitu) Festival celebrations and during the protestations that followed, Syrian Security Forces had been arrested 9 members of the Party.

The released members are in good health and they join their families and their domicilies.

We will up-date our bulletin as fast as possible with new developments.

 


Update Information concerning Syriac détenues in Syria

Consequently to this incident ESU organises protest meetings around European cities

 Places and dates:

  

 Place:

  Stockholm 

 Genève

 Brussels

 Berlin

 Adress:

 Vendevagen 90
 183 32 Danderyd

 La Place des Nations
 1202 Genève

 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 3
 1050 Ixelles

 Rauchstraße 25
 10787 Berlin

 Date:

  06-04-2012

 07-04-2012

 10-04-2012 

 10-04-2012 

 Time:

  14:00 PM

 14:30 PM

 13:00 PM

  10:00 AM 

Following the arrest of five members of Syriac Party in Syria, Syriac people organised peaceful protestation in front of the gendarmerie.

During the protestation Syrian Security Forces attacked people and injured more than 20 demonstrators within them 4 injured gravely.

Meanwhile, Security Forces arrested nine other people in the demonstration and held them with unknown place to the Syriac people and to the Syriac Party in Syria authorities. Syrian authorities refuse all kind of information and they do not provide any relevant help to Syriac authorities.

By the way, two arrested women had been released.

The identity of nine arrested people is mentioned:

Hanna Lahdo

Afram Bahine

Mirza Hanna

Suphi Malke

Muosa Hanna

Issa Shukri Murad

Gabi Hanna

Philip Juju

Mark Kerim Saliba

 

Kind regards,

Rima Tüzün

ESU – Head of Foreign Affairs

 

rima.tuezuen@esu.cc
0032 – 485 75 49 67
0049- 176 628 70 683

 

SYRIAC MEMBERS CAPTURED IN SYRIA

URGENT RELEASE

Brussels April 04. 2012

Today at the morning hours, the Syrian Security Forces captured five members of Syriac Party in Syria in the city of Qamishli and Malikiye. Syrian Security Forces continue to terrorise people and they realized raids to the domiciles for further arrests.

According to the latest information that we receive, five members, 2 women and 3 men, are at the gendarmerie of Qamishli. The identity of the five members is known to the Syriac Party in Syria.

Recently, Syriac Party in Syria had celebrated the 1st April (Akitu) Spring Festival in the in Syria with the present of Syriac Christians. Akitu Festival is traditional and cultural festival among Syriac people as the beginning of the spring.

Eurpean Syriac Union (ESU) strongly condemns this shameful arrest of the Syriac people in Syria. Arrested people did nothing against the rule of the country and they use only and basic right of assembly to celebrate traditional festival peacefully.

The Assad regime shows once more time its real face to the entire world with this unacceptable arrest of peaceful people.

ESU calls kindly to international community, regional powers and relevant actors to monitor this situation, staying sensible and acting with responsive way for the liberation of the five people.

We will keep you informed with up-dated and detailed information as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

PS: Following the arrest wave of members of Syriac Party in Syria, Syriac people in Qamishli organized peaceful and passive demonstration in front of the gendarmerie in which members were arrested. With the aim to release members of Syriac Party in Syria people came together while Syrian Security Forces attacked people in the manifestation and injured several people and also they arrested more people present in the demonstration. According to the latest news, Security Forces continue to attack people and try all means to disperse people.

For further information please contact:

Rima Tüzün

ESU – Head of Foreign Affairs

rima.tuezuen@esu.cc

+49 176 628 70 683



  I. INTERNATIONAL SYRIAC STUDIES SYMPOSIUM 

                 Syriac in Its Multi-Cultural Context    Mardin Artuklu University 

Institute of Living Languages 

20-22 April 2012


      


First Turkish-Syriac paper hits the shelves


Thursday, March  15. 2012
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News / VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU


Sabro will be based in Mardin’s Midyat district.

Sabro will be based in Mardin’s Midyat district.

A new monthly Turkish-Syriac journal, “Sabro” (“Hope”), will hit the shelves this week, marking the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic that a Syriac Christian newspaper will enter circulation. 

“As Syriacs, we also maintain hopes about the future in Turkey, and thus we named our newspaper ‘Sabro,’” the journal’s chief editor, Tuma Çelik, told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

Çelik also said he could not learn the Syriac language due to Turkey’s policies toward its minorities. Turkish society is not sufficiently familiar with the Syriac community, and the general discourse in the country makes it seem as if the ongoing problems regarding the Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin constitute the community’s sole problem, he added. 

“For that reason, we placed a greater emphasis on [using] Turkish. We are both going to inform our people about their culture while [providing them] with news and inform the people of Turkey about Syriacs and their problems,” he said. 

Sabro will be based in Mardin’s Midyat district, the historical homeland of Syriac Christians. The paper will also maintain offices in Istanbul and the southeastern provinces of Hakkari and Şırnak, according to Çelik, who said the 25,000-strong population of Syriacs in Turkey was predominantly concentrated in Istanbul.

The paper, which will become a weekly journal in the months following its initial launch, will also feature the writings of Turkish, Armenian and Greek intellectuals.

“Syriacs always lived in the countryside. We had much difficulty getting our voice heard despite the many critical problems [we] experienced,” Çelik said. 

Many Syriac Christians emigrated to Europe in three separate waves, the biggest of which was in the 1960s, due to the outbreak of political turmoil in their historical homelands. 

“We could not [uphold] our intelligentsia until they left for Europe. Syriacs educated in Europe have begun to return in the past six years and bring our problems to the fore,” he said. 

Sabro will initially be distributed in the Simurg and Medya bookstores in Istanbul’s Taksim neighborhood, the Anatolia Culture and Research Association (AKADER) in Ankara and Antalya, as well as the Virgin Mary Syriac Church in Diyarbakır, but there are plans to subsequently expand distribution to other cities. 

Donations and advertisements will constitute the chief income streams for the journal. 

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Link to the article



Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline

 The New York Times, March 10, 2012

At monasteries in Qosh

At monasteries in Qosh, Christians who fled Baghdad's strife for the Kurdish north are now abandoning the area, ground down in part by a lack of jobs. More Photos »
Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

TENNA, Iraq — Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them.

Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples. Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen by more than half since the 2003 American invasion, and with the military’s departure, some Christians say they lost a protector of last resort.

Their flight is felt in places like the wind-scoured village of Tenna, which has sheltered dozens of Christian migrants over the past nine years. The families fleeing Baghdad’s death squads and bombings found safety here beneath the hulking mountains, but little else besides poverty, boredom and cold. Villagers estimate that half of the 50 or so Christian homes are now empty, their families abroad.

Walid Shamoon, 42, wants to be the next to leave. He said he left Iraq’s capital in January 2011 after a confrontation with Shiite militia members set off a nightmare of escalating death threats and an attempt on his life. A brother had already been killed in a mortar attack six years earlier, so he said he quit his contract job with the Australian Embassy, giving up a $1,500 monthly salary, and came here.

These days, all he can think about is his application to emigrate to Arizona.

“This is not a life,” he said one recent afternoon, as a blizzard raced down from the mountains. “There is no improvement. There is no work.”

Many of the people now struggling in Iraq’s Kurdish north came in the wake of a suicide attack in Baghdad at Our Lady of Salvation Church in October 2010. It was the single worst assault on Iraq’s Christians since the war began, one that left 50 worshipers and 2 priests dead and that turned the church into a charnel house of scorched pews and shattered stained glass.

Christian families in Baghdad grabbed clothing, cash and a few other provisions and headed north for the Christian communities along the Nineveh plain and Kurdistan’s three provinces. They joined tens of thousands of other Christians from the capital, Mosul and other cities who traced similar arcs after earlier attacks and assassination campaigns.

“They traded everything for security,” said the Rev. Gabriel Tooma, who leads the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the Christian town of Qosh, which took in dozens of families.

The Christians in northern Iraq make up a tiny fraction of Iraq’s legions of displaced people. In all, there are 1.3 million of them across the country, according to the most recent United Nations estimates. Many live in garbage dumps, shanty towns and squalor far worse than anything facing the Christian families in Kurdistan.

Still, Christians and other minorities were singled out in the years of sectarian cleansing that bifurcated a once-diverse Baghdad into pockets of Sunnis and Shiites. Estimates by the United States and international organizations say that Iraq’s prewar Christian population of 800,000 to 1.4 million now stands at less than 500,000.

“The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its most recent annual report, summarizing the concerns of church leaders.

In January, the International Organization for Migration found that 850 of 1,350 displaced Christian families it was tracking in northern Iraq had left in the past year. Many cited fears about security as well as the strains of finding work, housing and schools in an unfamiliar place where they had few connections and spoke only Arabic, and not Kurdish.

“No one has done anything for us,” said Salim Yono Auffee, a member of the Chaldean/Assyrian Popular Council, a Christian group in northern Iraq. “These people are trying to figure out how to build their futures, to find homes, to get married. And they are leaving Iraq.”

Even in the relative safety of Kurdistan, some Christians say they still live in apprehension. A kidnapping of a Christian businessman in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and a recent outbreak of riots and arson attacks against Christian-owned liquor stores in Dohuk Province — the northernmost in Iraq, along the Turkish border — have deeply unsettled Christian migrants to the area.

Seven years ago, after retrieving his son from kidnappers, Salam Meti Abdul Karim moved his family from Mosul to the small Christian community of Shioz, a half-hour’s drive from the center of Dohuk Province. The years passed quietly, until one night in December, when a pickup truck full of men pulled up at the edge of town and set fire to a liquor warehouse.

“I felt like history was repeating itself,” Mr. Abdul Karim said. “We worry the situation is just going to devolve into violence. I was thinking to just take my family and go up to the mountains.”

The village hired armed guards after the attack, Mr. Abdul Karim said.

No Christians were killed in the riots against Christian store owners. Local officials say they were not specifically targeted because of their religion, but because the mobs who burned their stores — and the conservative clerics who had incited them — viewed the alcohol sales as un-Islamic.

Still, Kurdish officials, who have welcomed Christians to the region, rushed to defuse fears conjured by the clash. Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, visited Christians in Zakho, the city where the riots were centered, and a parade of government officials and religious leaders emphasized Kurdistan’s historical tolerance, and its deep ties to Assyrians, Chaldeans and other branches of Christianity.

“They are part of us,” said Fadil Omar, the head of the provincial council in Dohuk.

The Kurdish government has offered land, free fuel and other assistance to Christians as they have arrived from Baghdad, and it has opened its universities to students from Mosul, officials say. And Christians do not lack a political voice. They sit on local and provincial councils throughout the north, and hold seats in Parliament in Kurdistan and Baghdad.

Despite the help, many families say they are straining to stay afloat. Those close to cities have found jobs, but those in villages are largely unemployed, and they subsist on government pensions or relief payments of about $200 per month. They skip meals and share heating fuel. They are often miles from schools that teach in Arabic, and some parents say their children have dropped out.

The mountain village of Dawudiyah is a study in trade-offs, a place whose residents share similar stories of fear and flight from their homes in Baghdad. One man was threatened with death if he did not hand over his daughter to militants. A couple’s son was killed on his way home from work. Another family’s son was gunned down with three friends. They gave little thought to the consequences of leaving. They just had to get out.

“It was unbearable,” said Berkho Odeesho, the village’s mayor. “We found safety in Kurdistan, but things are getting unstable. We don’t know where to go.”

But like others here, Mr. Odeesho has a plan. He has applied for an immigration visa, and he is now busy preparing for his consular interview. Uprooting his family from Iraq may be difficult, he said, but it would be in service of a new future, away from Iraq, in a distant place called Illinois.

Omar al-Jawoshy contributed reporting.

Source: The New York Times

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Syriac Organisations meet Turkish Constitution Conciliation Commission

On February 27, 2012 Syriac organisations from Europe and Turkey met the Turkish Constitution Conciliation Commission in Ankara to present and deliver the demands and expectations of Syriac people concerning the new constitution. This meeting has another important point is that for the first time of the history of Turkish Republic the National Parliament met with the political and NGO groups of Syriac people.

Syriac organisations consisting from European Syriac Union (ESU), Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey, Mezo-Der and Federation of Syriac People in Germany (HSA) had meeting at the parliament with the Commission which is consisted from the deputies of all political parties present at the Turkish Parliament.

Nearly one our of the meeting representatives of Syriac organisations focused their attention at the most important and fragile issues that face Syriac people and explain the historical and current situation of Syriacs to the Commission.

The Syriac representatives present the report concerning the demands and expectations of Syriac people from the new constitution and the highlight the injustice concerning lack of status of the Syriac people, inter alia, the suppression of unjust and false passages at the schools manuals which defined Syriac as “traitors”, the views concerning definition of “citizenship” in the new constitution and problems concerning land issues in the Turabdin region.

Syriac committee which were consisted from Tuma Çelik (ESU), Evgil Türker (Federation of Syriac Associations in Turkey), Tuma Özdemir (Mezo-Der) and Saliba Joseph (HSA) will continue their meetings with the all political parties that are present at the Turkish Parliament.

ESU member Tuma Çelik declared that they have very useful meeting for two sides and that the meeting passed with very good atmosphere.


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