ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
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Following Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik’s call for the return of Syriacs to Turkey, the Syriac Democratic Union (SDU), a Sweden-based organization, has sent a letter to Çelik, requesting the establishment of a commission to work on the practicalities of a possible return.
The letter emphasizes that Syriacs are ready to return as long as the Turkish government guaranteed that it would take the necessary steps.
During his recent visit to Russia, Çelik had suggested that those who had migrated from Turkey in the past could return to their ancestral homes. “Due to faults in the past, some Christians and Jews left our country. We want to tell them that they can return to their country,” he said.
Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News about the letter and the proposal to establish a commission, SDU Deputy Chair Fikri Aygur said Syriacs had strong bonds of affection with Anatolia and they still hoped to return. “As we stated in the letter we sent to Mr. Çelik, in 2001, [Former Prime Minister Bülent] Ecevit’s government made a similar call. It said Syriacs could return under a state guarantee. As European Syriacs, we took that call seriously; there were those who returned, but necessary guarantees could not be provided to them. Our people returned to the European countries they lived in with great disappointment,” Aygur said.
‘Why not the prime minister?’
“We would expect such a call to come from the prime minister or the interior minister, but it still bears importance. All in all, it is important that a minister issued such a call. If the state is sincere, we will respond positively,” he said.
“As the Syriacs who migrated to Europe, we have been living in different countries, away from the country we were born in, for about 30 years. Though the minister made a call, we still do not know whether a basis for it is ready or not … We want to gather, discuss on our problems, and convey our demands in a joint commission that could be formed,” Aygur also said.
“First of all, the things that lead to Syriacs migrating from their hometowns should be resolved. If the government is willing to take serious steps regarding us, we are ready to contribute to [the process] as the SDU. If the required regulations are made, many will want to return,” he added.