SYRIA/ The dramatic situation of Syriac Christians and the possible role of Turkey

Persecuted by Assad, threatened by Jihadists, and fleeing the war that is raging in the country: this is the sad fate of Syriac Christians, a people living between Syria and Turkey. Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ankara has suggested granting citizenship to all Syriac Christians who have Turkish citizen as relatives and who are in danger from the revolution taking place in Syria. However, as noted by Evgil Turker, head of the Federation of Syriac Associations, “Turkey itself does not fully recognize the rights of our community, to the point that many of us have had to emigrate. The only solution is an intervention by the international community in Syria. I believe that NATO and the Arab League bear a great responsibility which must be addressed as soon as possible.”

What do you think of the plan of the Turkish government to grant Turkish nationality to all the Christian Syriacs of Syria?

Up until now, officially there is no decree to grant nationality to the Syriacs who fled Syria. But during some of our meetings, some state authorities have expressed an intention to grant nationality. Thus, the issue looks like more as a rumour. Moreover, granting nationality to the Syriac people does not solve our issue, because most of the Syriacs with Turkish nationality have migrated abroad and even those remaining in Turkey do not their entire fundamental rights and their problems remain unsolved. Even those who have returned from Europe face bureaucratic, legal, and local pressure. It is not easy task for the Syriacs of Syria to re-construct their lives in Turkey. There should be cultural and social rights for new arrivals. If they do not have legal and personal security, it will be impossible to stay for long in Turkey. We support a solution for the Syriacs of Syria in their own settlements and places. Until now, Turkey does not grant the rights of the Lausanne Treaty to the Syriac people.

How is the situation of the Christian Syriacs in Syria? What are their main difficulties and troubles?

Generally, the situation of the Syriac people in Syria is neutral. Some of the political establishments and intellectuals are in the opposition. A small minority which benefits from the Baath regime still support Bashar Al Assad. But as the regime atrocities increase day by day, the Syriac people disconnect from the regime. At the beginning, the church hierarchy was grateful to the regime, but as the conflict has been prolonged and created victims, the Church has stayed silent. Thus, the Syriac people are desperate and in big danger. For this reason, many of them choose the way of exodus. In light of the deterioration of the situation, some of the Syriacs have organised and taken up arms in order to defend themselves. This is common in the Al Hasake region. The Syriac people are indigenous in Syria, thus they demand their rights and they do not want to be considered only as Christians. Because with our Christian identity, we are also a nation, and we have an ethnic identity as do the Arabs, Kurds and other groups.

Are they targeted as Christians or persecuted by the jihadists or by the Assad government?