Syriacs apply for elementary school

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Vercihan Ziflio?lu Vercihan Ziflio?lu
Syriac is one of the languages at the highest risk of being forgotten in UNESCO’s “endangered languages” list. DHA photo
Syriacs have officially applied to the Turkish National Education Ministry to open a Syriac elementary school in the southeastern province of Mardin.

The Turkey Syriac Associations Federation made an application to Mardin’s Provincial Directorate for National Education on Sept. 25 to open the school, after Syriacs were given permission to open a kindergarten a few months ago.

Evgil Türker, the head of the Turkey Syriac Associations Federation, told the Hürriyet Daily News that Ankara’s 3rd Administrative Court’s decision on allowing Syriacs to open a kindergarten in Istanbul had affected their decision to apply for an elementary school.

“We plan to open a school with eight classrooms. There will be no kindergarten as our children will go to the church and monastery for half a day every day to learn their mother tongue,” Türker said.
The school, which will educate in the Syriacs’ mother tongue, is planned to be built in Mardin’s Midyat district. The last Syriac school in Turkey was closed down in 1928 and the first school to open since then will be the Syriac kindergarten.

Türker said that because the number of people who could teach Syriac was very low, they would be cooperating with Artuklu University in Mardin for the school project.

“The teachers we have are not university graduates. We plan to cooperate with Artuklu University on this issue,” he said, adding that it was more important for them to teach their children the Syriac language than to care about the number of students they have.

Syriac is one of the languages at the highest risk of being forgotten in UNESCO’s “endangered languages” list. Around 15,000 Syriacs live in Turkey, with the most significant number of them in Istanbul.

Türker said that although Syriacs had undergone hard times at the end of the Ottoman Empire and the early years of the Turkish Republic, substantial steps were being taken.

“We believe that the lands belonging to the Mor Gabriel Monastery will be returned within the scope of the democratization package. [Deputy Prime Minister] Bülent Ar?nç has brought this topic up too,” he said.