Assyrians call on int’l community to find kidnapped clerics

The issue has become controversial, as there are contradictory claims of whether or not they have been released and who the kidnappers are.
World Bulletin/News Desk
An Aramean NGO has called on the international community and mainstream media to correct all published stories about the alleged release of two Syrian bishops who were taken hostage near Aleppo on Tuesday and continue their efforts to locate the two missing clerics.

Aleppo and Hatay Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Pavlov Yazici and Aleppo Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yuhhana ?brahim were taken hostage near Aleppo on Tuesday. Yazici, who lives in Aleppo, is also responsible for the Orthodox churches based in the southern regions of Turkey. He had been in Turkey for the past month because the Aleppo airport was closed due to the clashes between the regime and the armed opposition. Ibrahim was based in Aleppo.

Some conflicting reports were published by the media yesterday regarding the release of the two bishops. A statement published by the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (WCA) on Thursday said both the Hatay Greek Orthodox and the Aleppo Syriac Orthodox churches were unable to confirm the release of the spiritual fathers.

The WCA also said they had decided to continue to deny all rumors that they have been freed until they receive some concrete signs of life from the clerics.

The WCA statement demanded that the international community, government leaders and mainstream media retract all published news stories about their release, continue their endeavors to determine their whereabouts and continue to publicize the plight of the two archbishops, as well as that of vulnerable groups in war-torn Syria in general, such as the Aramean (Syriac) Christians.

On Wednesday, Lt. Col. Fatih Hassun from the Syrian National Coalition’s (SNC) Supreme Military Command stated that the two bishops have been released safely and are in Syria, not specifying where they are due to concerns for their security.

In relation to the claims of release, a Turkish official who spoke to Turkish press said on Wednesday that they were unable to confirm it.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also spoke on the phone with Turkish Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Cetin and said that Turkish officials have been working on the event since the kidnapping occurred.

Syriacs, who sometimes also refer to themselves as Assyrians or Arameans, are an ethnic community indigenous to Turkey’s Southeast and other parts of Mesopotamia.

Hassun accused the Syrian regime of the kidnapping, saying they held the two clerics in order to create religious-based clashes in Syria.

The issue has become controversial, as there are contradictory claims of whether or not they have been released and who the kidnappers are.

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition, said that the Bashar al-Assad regime may be responsible for the kidnapping, while the Syrian regime claims the men have been kidnapped by the “terrorists.”

Other claims made included the suggestion that the two men have been kidnapped by Chechen terrorists. However, Fawzi Zakri, a member of the SNC — a group within the national coalition — stated that no Chechen forces were situated in the area where they were taken hostage.