Syriac families returning to Turkey facing problems

MARD?N – Hürriyet Daily News
Vercihan Ziflio?lu Vercihan Ziflio?lu
Around 12 Syriac families who returned to Elbe?endi Village near Mardin’s Midyat in southeastern Turkey face problems with fears over their security. ?srail Demir, a member of the Syriac families, claims that he was attacked in his property twice and file report to the local authorities about it

?srail Demir, a member of one of the Syriac families that has returned to Turkey, says they have security problems on their property. Syriac families have built houses in the Elbe?endi village of Midyat with their own efforts, he says.

A total of 12 Syriac families living in European countries have returned to Turkey, settling in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district despite fears for their security.

The Syriac families settled in the village of Elbe?endi, 100 kilometers away from Midyat, and referred to as Kafro by Syriacs. The families hold double citizenship, keeping their Turkish citizenship as they migrated to European countries from Turkey years ago.

?srail Demir, a member of one of the Syriac families, said in a recent interview that they had built their houses in Kafro close to each other due to security fears.

Demir told the Hürriyet Daily News that they had decided to return Elbe?endi village where their ancestors once lived saying that “each tree grows in its own soil; we wanted to live on our own soil.”

Attacker is free: Demir

Demir said he was attacked twice on his property last year when he urged a migrant not to damage his wheat fields.

“This person attacked me just because I urged him on not to damage my wheat field. This person is still free. I have been subject to another attack too. If there is democracy, how could this person be free? I have told the governor and prosecutor that I do not feel safe here. EU Minister Egemen Ba??? wished me a speedy recovery, but these are not important to me as long as the attacker walks free,” said Demir, speaking of his fears over security while living in Turkey.

Demir said many Syriac and Christian families left Mardin and other parts of Turkey back in 1970s due to the difficulties they faced in those years.

“My father was shot in 1972. I migrated to Istanbul in 1977 after this incident. In 1979, I left Turkey for Germany,” said Demir. Recalling that in 2001, the Turkish government led by late politician Bülent Ecevit called on Syriacs to return to Turkey, Demir said the families started to debate this issue for several years since then. After several meetings, they decided to return to their ancestors’ village, said Demir.

“There are still [unresolved] problems in this country [Turkey]. The difficulties of democracy, human rights and religion…,” said Demir.

Demir also criticized the situation of their monasteries recalling that the Mor Gabriel Monastery’s legal situation was not clear yet. “Turkey will not be rich or poor with the land of Mor Gabriel. They are doing this because they don’t want us here,” he added.

Demir said that other Syriacs would not return to Turkey if those returned could not enjoy their rights as citizens. He said they gave lands to the villagers in exchange for the land that they built their houses on in Elbe?endi village, saying that the state only provided water and electricity to their houses.

He said they were having problems with the European countries they were living in saying that they were accused of tax evasion because of building houses in Turkey.