Turkey’s Chaldeans Heed Erdogan’s Call for Minorities to Return

[Iraqi Christians attend an Easter mass at the St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad, March 31, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)]

Translated from Taraf (Turkey).

The first to respond to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s call for Turkey’s non-Muslims to return to their homes with the launching of the peace process were the Chaldeans. They are coming back to their villages in Silopi.

In the Silopi district of the Sirnak province, a new Chaldean village is rising. The Chaldeans, who emigrated from the village of Silopi in 1991, following clashes in the region, are returning to their homeland. Until now, 27 Christian Chaldean families who were living abroad have applied to return to their villages.

Petros Karatay, a Chaldean who emigrated from Silopi to France, said that they are now working on resurrecting Aksu, the second largest village of the Silopi district. Karatay said their village was expropriated by Turkish coal companies between 1980 and 1990, and they were allocated new lands for their villages by the government. However, before they could move clashes in the region intensified, the Chaldeans refused to become village guards for the government and emigrated. About 4,000 Chaldeans from Aksu currently live in France, Belgium, Germany and Iraq. Karatay said if only 5% of them return, they will have 200 people in their village. He said, “We want to create a village that can be a bridge between the region and Europe, with its standards of life, arts, culture and language.”

Karatay said Chaldeans support the peace process with the Kurds. He added: “We find the calls of state officials for the non-Muslim population living abroad to return as very positive and valuable. The state now has positive approaches to Syriacs, Chaldeans and Armenians. In the old days, we were subjected to many unfair and wrong policies. State officials are aware of that. What is important is to repair the damages that can be repaired and avoid their repetition. Sadly, we can’t say that the local attitudes match those of the state.”

Karatay said for the time being three houses were under construction in their village. “With more houses, social facilities will be built. We expect officials to help with infrastructure work.”

Who are the Chaldeans?

The Chaldeans belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church and use the Syriac language in their religious assemblies. Originally called Nestorians, they aligned with the Catholic Church in 1304. Some say the name Chaldean did not follow their joining the Catholic Church, but has its roots in the Chaldean people of southern Mesopotamia. Today, some of their church masses are partially held in Arabic. For a long time, Chaldeans recognized Konak village in the Hakkari province as their patriarchate, but following their clashes with the Kurds in 1915-1918, they emigrated to Iran and then to Iraq.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2013/05/turkish-chaldeans-return-erdogan-peace-process-kurds.html#ixzz2UCbwvfcV