Will Syriac villages be renamed with package, NGO asks

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Historical Mor Efrim Monestery in Mardin’s Midyat is seen.
Vercihan Ziflio?lu Vercihan Ziflio?lu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

A European-based Syriac organization has asked in a statement whether Anatolian villages would be given their Syriac names or Kurdish names that were given after the 1915 incidents when these villages were evacuated, as part of a reform package in Turkey.

The Swiss-based NGO, Syriac Democratic Union (SDU), praised the Turkish government’s decision to rename the Anatolian villages with their original names but asked whether they would be given their Syriac names too in a statement released on Oct. 4.

“It is a good development to name residential places with their old names, but we could not get a signal that it would be positive for the Syriac name. Four hundred and fifty Syriac villages were evacuated in the Mardin and Hakkari provinces in 1915. Now the Turkish names will be replaced with the Kurdish names given to the Syriac villages [after the 1915 incidents],” SDU deputy leader Fikri Aygür told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that this would legitimize the demographic situation caused by the 1915 the incidents.

“If [Syriac] names of the villages before 1915 were not given, then this [reform] means that the state’s policies about Kurds will be officially approved 98 years later,” said Aygür.

“We believe it is unfair to name these villages in which Syriacs used to live with Kurdish names,” said Aygür adding that the government’s democratization package was prepared for the problems of Kurds and lacked policies for other minorities. He also said that the return of the Mor Gabriel Monastery lands in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district to the Syriac Foundation was an “artificial problem.” “This issue is an artificial problem created by the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP… Efforts for the return to evacuated Syriac villages can be a positive step,” he added.

Many Armenians living in Anatolia were killed during the tragic event of 1915. The Syriac community maintains that they also suffered significantly during that period.

The current Syriac population in Turkey is said to be around 15,000, most of whom live in Istanbul. A large number of Syriacs migrated to Europe during the 1990s.