Mardin is located on the slope of a hill looking down south to the Mesopotamian plains.
Government's move expected to help save Assyrian language With the opening of private Assyrian schools in Turkey, Assyrian children will have the chance to keep their mother tongue from becoming extinct. by Menekse Tokyay for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- October 22, 2013.
UNESCO listed Assyrian as one of the "definitely endangered languages" of the world. It is one of the oldest languages in the Middle East and a dialect of ancient Aramaic.
But the number of Assyrian speakers fell sharply throughout the years due to internal politics, conflicts, migration and oppression in the region.
A recent decision by the education ministry aims to help preserve the Assyrian language and culture through opening of private schools that will teach in Assyrian.
Assyrian children study their mother tongue at Sunday school in Mardin.
Assyrian community schools were closed 85 years ago.
The Lausanne Treaty already gives minorities the right to receive education in their mother tongue but Assyrians in Turkey could not benefit from this since they were not officially recognised as a minority group by the Turkish government, unlike Jews, Armenians and Greek Orthodox.
Education Minister Nabi Avci said the government is facilitating what was already written in the law.
"Assyrians were not able to benefit from the law. They went to the court to gain their right to receive education in their mother tongue and they won. We (the government) agreed with the court's decision. We said 'you are right.' Preparations for a private school are under way in Midyat, Mardin," Avci told reporters in Ankara.
Assyrian residents of Mardin applied to Mardin's Provincial Directorate for the National Education Ministry to open a primary school, but since the school term for 2013-2014 already started, the new school will open its doors in September 2014.
"The preparations will be done just before the school year starts in 2014. According to our laws, the application to open a private school has to be received within a month before the school term starts. Schools started on September 16th. We received the application late. We told them to get ready for the next school year," Avci said.
Assyrian families are excited about the opportunity. Apart from Sunday schools, Assyrian children do not get language training in their mother tongue.
Sabo Boyaci, editor for an Assyrian website, welcomed the recent development and called it "bittersweet."
"It was a bleeding wound for me to not being able to attend an Assyrian school. I can't read or write in my mother tongue. I'm so happy that my son, who is now at preschool age, will not live the same trauma as I did. I hope he teaches me Assyrian with the education he will receive at the new school," Boyaci told SES Türkiye.
Tuma Celik, the representative of Turkey within the European Syriac Union and the founder of Turkey's first Assyrian newspaper, Sabro, remembered how things were back then when he was a child.
"I remember a money box we had in school," Celik said. "We were not allowed to speak our own language and we were obliged to put money in the box for each Assyrian word we used in class."
The lack of native speakers who are eligible to train young people in Assyrian is a problem. In response, Mardin's Artuklu University announced that it will invite fluent professors of Assyrian origin from countries like the Netherlands, UK, Lebanon and Iraq to help train teachers.
Erol Dora, the first Assyrian member of parliament, said that although it is a small step in a long-term process, opening Assyrian schools is a promising move to recognise the rights of the Assyrian community.
"It will encourage the diaspora members to return to their homeland and enjoy this right for their children," Dora said.
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.