Syriacs Send Their First Deputy to Parliament

A Syriac Christian has entered Parliament for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic following Sunday’s general elections.

Many community members hope Erol Dora, an independent deputy who ran from the southeastern province of Mardin with the backing of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, will give a voice to one of Turkey’s least-recognized minorities.

“The Syriac community will be transformed into a more active and dynamic structure, rather than [remaining] an inward-looking community. In short, [the Syriac community] will break out of its own shell,” Şabo Boyacı, a prominent figure in Turkey’s Syriac community, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Dora’s election to Parliament is highly significant not only for Syriacs but for all minorities in Turkey, Boyacı said, adding that Dora’s success will have a positive effect on the Syriac community. “Minorities’ problems have been ignored for years. The public will now gain awareness of minority issues from the Parliament’s benches,” Boyacı said, calling Dora’s election “an important step in the direction of fraternity, democracy and freedom.”

Dora demonstrated his courage by running with the pro-Kurdish party’s backing, said Turgut Alaca, the president of the Mesopotamia Culture Association, which counts the new deputy as one of its founders. The BDP is a party that entered Parliament through the will of the people, even though the prime minister portrayed it as a “terrorist party,” he added.

“It is said in the Constitution that all citizens of the Turkish Republic are equal. We, on the other hand, cannot even benefit from our citizenship rights, let alone those rights that were granted to us by the Lausanne [Treaty.] Christian minorities can find no work in public institutions,” Alaca said, adding that the Turkish public will become more aware of Syriac Christians’ problems thanks to Dora’s election.

“If I manage to enter Parliament, I will become the voice of the Syriac community, as well as all other ethnicities in the southeast,” Dora told the Daily News before the election.