Syriacs seek to regain Turkish citizenship

Vercihan Ziflio?lu
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The Mor Gabriel Monastery,The Syriacs’ most revered place of worship located in the southeastern city of Mardin has been the subject of a legal case since 2008. Hürriyet photo

Many Syriac Christians who have emigrated from Turkey to European countries are seeking to regain their Turkish citizenship.

The Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU) yesterday presented a report to the European Commission Directorate-General for Enlargement, demanding Turkish citizenship for the Syriacs who were deprived of their nationality without notice. Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News about the report, ESU Spokesman David Vergili said the report highlighted the problems Syriac immigrants face.

“There are many Syriacs who lost their citizenship and hence the ownership of their properties in Turkey,” Vergili said, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone. “Properties belonging to Syriac families who moved to Europe have been confiscated by the Turkish Treasury; we are talking about thousands of acres here.”

Vergili noted that the group does not have an exact idea how much land falls into this category, adding that thousands of Syriacs were deprived of their Turkish nationality after leaving Turkey.

Syriacs were caught in the crossfire during clashes between government forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast during the mid-1980s. Many of them consequently left for abroad. The current Syriac population in Turkey is estimated to be in the thousands.

The report also noted the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies towards Turkey’s minority groups. Vergili said the steps taken by the government were “important but not enough.”

“The AK Party has the majority in Parliament, but it still is ungenerous towards the Christian minorities in Turkey,” said Vergili.

Syriacs in Turkey still do not have legal guarantees, because they are not one of the minorities mentioned in the Lausanne Treaty, Vergili said, recalling the legal case regarding the Mor Gabriel Monastery, located in southeast. Vergili said the report also made note of attacks against Syriac villages and institutions, as well as the bureaucratic problems that Syriacs in Turkey faced.