Syriacs demand land back from BDP families

MARD?N – Do?an News Agency
According to Mor Avgin Foundation, the land actually belongs to the Mor Avgin Monastery(above) in the village of Eskihisar, but has been transferred to families of high-ranking BDP administrative members and their families. DHA Photo
An ongoing land dispute between a group of Syriacs and the families of Peace and Democracy (BDP) officials remains unresolved in the southeastern province of Mardin as Syriac foundations have taken the issue to court to retrieve lands they claim belong to a nearby monastery.

The land actually belongs to the Mor Avgin Monastery in the village of Eskihisar, but has been transferred to families of high-ranking BDP administrative members and their families, according to Mor Avgin Foundation, a Syriac organization formed in Sweden.

The foundation said the issue had been taken to court following failed attempts to reach a compromise with the BDP families, who reportedly refused to return the lands to their original owners. Several commissions were formed and dissolved in the process, but the issue remained unsolved due to the unwillingness of the families, according to foundation members.

The foundation has started the process by connecting with BDP officials and meeting with Mardin independent deputy Ahmet Türk, as well as BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirta?, who met with the foundation during his visit to Sweden.

The land belonging to the monastery was taken over by villagers following the departure of Syriacs from the region three decades ago, and contained caves and historical artifacts, according to a statement sent to Demirta? by the foundation. The statement added that one particular family, the Hac? Bahris, had returned the lands under their control, which the foundation hoped would set an example to the remaining families.

The reason attempts have so far failed to resolve the issue is that the lands are owned by BDP members and officials, as well as their relatives, “which makes solving the issue very difficult,” the statement said.

Demirta? said such taking over of properties was a frequent incident in places where people have been forced into exile, and claimed some village guards had taken over the deserted lands.

“We wish for the return of all lands to non-Muslim citizens who have been wronged for one reason or another. In any case, even though the mentioned families are BDP members, we have always stood on the side of the non-Muslims to see the return of what is rightfully theirs. We need a court decision for that,” Demirta? said.

The monastery is 1,700 years old; however, with the departure of the Syriac populations around 1970, the monastery had been deserted. The monastery was restored in 2008 and open to worship. The struggle to retrieve the reported lands has been ongoing since 2009.