Hebrew, Syriac to be taught at Turkish university for first time

Mardin Artuklu University (MAÜ), which has been tasked with the job of preparing teachers to educate in the Kurdish language, has begun to accept applications for its newly established certificate programs in Hebrew and Syriac.

Anyone interested in applying to the university’s Living Languages Institute can do so between Aug. 22 and Sept. 7. Courses will start on Sept. 17 and each level will last three months. Successful participants will receive a certificate of completion at the end of each level.

Serdar Bedii Omay, the rector of MAÜ, said people in the province are excited due to the fact that Syriac will be taught in the country again after at least 2,000 years.

“We are reviving an ancient culture in a Turkish university. This is an important step,” he said.

Father Gabriel Akyüz from the K?rklar Church of Mardin said the initiative is important for Arameans in Turkey and the region.

“I believe MAÜ will become the university of the Middle East with this initiative,” he said.

In addition, the department of Kurdish language and culture is part of MAÜ’s Living Languages Institute. The university will accept 500 postgraduate students into its Kurdish language department for the 2012-2013 academic year. Graduates of the program will be designated Kurdish language teachers.
No cemeteries for ?anl?urfa’s Jews

Meanwhile, although there are some positive initiatives in the direction of servicing Turkey’s minorities, some backward practices continue to persist. One example of this was reported by the Taraf daily on Aug. 23, telling the story of a Jewish community that has been struggling to establish a Jewish cemetery in ?anl?urfa province, but officials have denied their request.

Eyüp Badem, a member of one of more than 50 Jewish families living in ?anl?urfa, wrote a letter requesting the municipality create a Jewish cemetery for the province’s Jewish citizens. The municipality denied his request and said that it is not possible to have a separate cemetery for religious minorities according to regulations despite the existence of separate cemeteries for religious minorities in some of Turkey’s other provinces. Municipality officials told him that burial services are available at Muslim cemeteries but that they cannot provide non-Muslim religious services.

Badem applied to the municipality again with a similar demand, but this time requesting the municipality provide land that the Jewish community would be willing to purchase in order to construct a Jewish cemetery. When the response was again negative, he wrote to the Prime Ministry, which responded by backing the municipality’s response.