A Turkish soldier stands guard along the Turkish-Iraqi border in Sirnak province, Dec. 8, 2008. (photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
Chaldeans who fled from Turkey to France amid oppression in the wake of the military coup on Sept. 12, 1980, have launched a legal process to return to their village in Sirnak province.
Natives of the village of Onbudak in Sirnak’s Uludere district, the Chaldeans were forced to immigrate to France, bullied by clans belonging to the village guard [pro-government Kurdish militia]. Now they want to return home. The 84 families, encouraged by what they see as an improved political climate in Turkey, have taken action to recover their properties, usurped by force of arms and through intimidation.
Their lawyer, Eren Keskin, applied to the Interior Ministry in 2011. In separate letters to the local governor’s and sub-governor’s offices, she demanded that her clients return to their village and have their properties back. The Uludere sub-governor’s office replied, “The village land has been sold off and is being used regularly during the summer and occasionally during the winter at present.” But the Central Bureau for Return to Villages, a unit of the Sirnak governor office’s project coordination department, replied that the village is not occupied but is insecure as it lies on a route used by militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“Properties seized through intimidation”
The Chaldeans say part of their properties were seized by force of arms and through intimidation, and the lands and immovables they left behind are now being used illegally by the Babans, a village guard clan.
The Babans, however, reject the claims, arguing that they never usurped the properties through intimidation and that the Chaldeans sold them at their own will before a notary public.
Keskin says the replies she received from the two government offices are contradictory, and that the Chaldeans should have their properties back since they are the original owners of the village.
Ancient people with a 700-year history
In 1304, some Nestorians adopted the Catholic faith and accepted the papal authority. The new church was named the Chaldean Church and the Catholic Nestorians were thereafter called Chaldeans. Some, however, say the community’s name is not linked to their adoption of the Catholic faith, and had existed long before, originating from the ancient Chaldean people of south Mesopotamia. Although they accepted the papal authority, the Chaldeans preserved their religious rites and continue to use the Chaldean language in their rituals. Today, they use also Arabic in some parts of their services