Turkey hopes to bring Syriacs back to Mardin

As the southern province of Mardin emerges as a new hub for touristic and cultural activities, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism aims to bring nearly four million Syriacs (Arameans)to the historic city, which was once home to thousands of Syriacs who migrated to other countries during the early republican period.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has stepped up its efforts to complete the transformation process of the historic city, which has a multiethnic and multicultural community. The physical landscape of Mardin is undergoing a great transformation since the ministry decided to demolish most of the city’s multi-storey apartment buildings. Mardin is known for its unique stone houses and mansions, which attract a lot of attention from foreign tourists.

Along with other minorities, Syriacs faced challenges during the early republican era and decided to emigrate; two million Syriacs live in India, while another two million were scattered across Europe. Every year, a festival is held in Stockholm to keep Syriac traditions alive. Turkey will organize a similar festival in Mardin’s Midyat district, home to thousands of Syriacs.

Güven Ta?ba??, an official at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said 25,000 Syriacs live in Turkey. Some 3,000 of them live in Mardin.

The number was much higher at the beginning of the twentieth century, but substantially dropped later.

Ta?ba?? said most of the Syriacs who currently live in Stockholm originally came from Turkey. According to Ta?ba??, the Syriac community has made an enormous contribution to Mardin’s art and cosmopolitan culture. It is crucial to preserve Mardin’s multicultural community, Ta?ba?? says, and for that reason it is necessary to preserve the Syriac presence in the city.

“This tells Syriacs around the world: ‘Your ancestors lived in these lands, in Mardin.’” Initially, Ta?ba?? said the ministry will financially support the festival in Stockholm, in which Ministry officials will make presentations about the cultural and touristic features of Mardin, with the aim of attracting the attention of Syriacs.