‘Textbook includes provocative language against Syriacs’

Civil society groups in the southeastern province of Mardin criticized the representation of Syriacs in the high school history textbook prepared by the Ministry of Education for the 2011-2012 school year, stating that it contained language that could provoke Turkish youths against Syriacs in a written statement on Sunday.

“What is important here is that young students are being misguided by the discourse against minorities and differences in Turkey. The minds of the youths have been injected with the idea that Syriacs are a potential danger to the existence of the state. The statements in the books are a sign of hatred and this is a hate crime. A course textbook should give objective information rather than subjective and ideological statements,” the statement noted, addressing the textbook’s problematic approach to Syriacs.

The textbook frames World War I as a breaking point in which Syriacs betrayed and stabbed the country in the back by cooperating with the great powers, including Russia. In addition, the migration of Syriacs to European countries in recent decades is portrayed in a negative way. “Syriacs chose to live in Europe to benefit from the welfare and prosperity there, only to become instruments used to achieve European political goals. Their relations with Turkey have been manipulated for the benefit of Western interests,” the textbook reads.

It was prepared by the Ministry of Education for 2011-2012 include anti-Syriac statements, disappointing Syriacs at a time when Turkey has been renewing relations with its minorities by eliminating unfair treatment in all sectors of social and economic life.

Fourteen civil society groups lined with the Syriac Archbishop in Mardin stated that Syriacs have a Christian culture and are representatives of the Mesopotamian cultural heritage in southeastern Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday. The state’s approach was harshly criticized in the statement.

“We believe that all segments of society in the Republic of Turkey must be represented in the cultural scene with the preserved cultural elements of those segments. We think that homogenization of the society must be abandoned by eliminating discriminative and assimilative discourse and policies against differences,” the statement noted.

The civil society groups demanded that the textbook be removed from the curriculum immediately, saying that if the state really wants to introduce its Syriac people, it should present their language and traditions and that this should be done with the guidance of the Syriacs themselves.

The Syriacs are a minority who belong to the Syriac Orthodox Church and predominantly live in southeastern Anatolia. Due to political pressure, Syriacs, like other minorities, faced serious problems during the republican era. Only 15,000 are left in Turkey, as many have migrated to Europe.