WikiLeaks: 2005-10-13: 05ADANA181: Letter from Syriac Christians in Southeast Turkey
Viewing cable 05ADANA181, LETTER FROM SYRIAC CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHEAST TURKEY
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADANA 000181 SIPDIS SENSITIVE NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION, STATE FOR EUR/SE,DRL E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SY TU ADANA SUBJECT: LETTER FROM SYRIAC CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHEAST TURKEY REF: ADANA 162 Following is AMCON Adana's translation of a letter that was passed to ConOffs on July 28, during a visit to (Syriac) Golgoze village. The letter was written by Semun Barmano, Chairperson of the Sweden Assyrian Federation Executive Board, a key Syriac diaspora organization in Europe, and was sent to other EU delegations. AMCON Adana has been reporting on Syriac Christian activities in southeast Turkey, see reftel and various Adana septels. Begin translation: TO THE AMERICAN CONSULATE IN ADANA The following are the current issues that require immediate attention in our villages in Mardin's Midyat district: 1) In our G|lgvze (Ayinvert) village, land survey studies have been going on nearly for three years. To date, the Muslim community and the Syriac community of the village were living together in peace. Since most of the Syriacs migrated to Istanbul and to European countries, the real estate, the vineyards and the fields, which belong to the Syriacs, are now being managed and used by the Muslim villagers. 2) Turkey, after being granted the candidate country status by the European Union in 1999, have brought about democratic developments, and many significant changes concerning the minority issues. Moreover, our former president, Mr. B|lent Ecevit, through a statement issued exclusively for the Syriac citizens on June 12, 2001, encouraged the Syriacs to return to their country. As a result of that, the idea to return to the region and to their villages, and to claim back the ownership of their land and property in these villages gained ground among the Syriacs. In the light of this development, land survey studies have been started in the villages. Since no land registry studies have been conducted to date in our region, the people do not own any of their real estates' title deeds. But, everybody knows who owns the rights to the real estate or property. That is exactly why the land registry studies have been started. Only when everybody gains rightfully the title deed to their real estate, then the improper act of breaching one's rights to the property will be prevented. Upon seeing these developments, the members of the Muslim community in Ayinvert (G|lgvze) started to construct nearly ten buildings on the property of the Syriacs. The efforts of the Syriacs in the village that aimed to settle the issue amicably did not produce any results. Syriacs, via their attorney, applied to the Midyat Subgovernor's Office (MSO) to issue an order to discontinue the construction activities and to prevent the breach of the Syriacs' right of ownership of their real estate. MSO, after receiving the case, stopped ongoing contsuction activities. MSO's 06/14/2005 decision prescribes that acts of breaching property rights through construction of buildings should be stopped. However, it (MSO) also decided that, according to item 16/c of the (Turkish) Land Registry Act, the decision about the real estate on which the construction of buildings had started, was up to the discretion of the State, because that real estate is comprised of land, which is rocky, bouldery, and bereft of owners. While on the one hand, the Syriacs have been placing demands to stop the ongoing construction and breach of property rights on their real estate, the MSO is claiming that such real estate belongs to the state (to the Treasury). All the owners of the real estate have filed suits with the Midyat Prosecutor against the perpetrators of the construction. This dispute has been going on. The persons who initiated the construction on the Syriacs' real estate, are the Village Guards. The village guards, with the boldness their titles afford them, are being threatening to the Syriacs. Unless this issue is resolved soon, it will be a serious blow to Syriacs' return from the diaspora, and this situation will begin to raise suspicion about Turkey, which made amendments in its laws to adopt the harmonization laws. In terms of the state's authority and the rule of law, we regard this situation as a great vulnerability (on the part of the state). Moreover, the persons, who initiated construction on Syriacs' real estates, following the complaints the Syriacs filed with the authorities, have begun to thwart the land registry studies, and have been attempting to register the Syriacs' land under their own names. These developments have almost held back the progress of the land registry studies. Syriac experts, who are participating in the land registry studies, are being threatened by the village guards. Therefore, the Syriac experts cannot go and take part in the studies. Muslim communities, who do not own real estate in the village, upon seeing that the Syriacs have been returning to the village, have embarked upon attempts to gain the ownership of the real estate through exploiting the situation of Syriacs' as having no title deeds, and scaring Syriacs away to prevent their return. Moreover, the people had their farm animals graze in our vineyards and gardens, causing great damage to our land recently. 3) A) In 1986, the real estate that belonged to the Mor Efrem Church and that was in Midyat's Bardakgi (Bote) village, was registered by the MSO as the property of the Treasury. At a time when no land registry studies had taken place in our village, it appeared to be a deliberate attempt for the MSO to register 250 acres of land, which belonged to the Mor Efrem Church, as Treasury land. As you already know, since the churches do not have juridical personalities nobody raises complaints against a breach of rights, as in our case. But, statements from non-Syriac Muslim citizens have also been justifying our claims about this 250-acre real estate as belonging to the Mor Efrem Church. MSO claims that it had registered this aforementioned land as State's Treasury land on the grounds that it was bereft of owners and nobody owned any title deeds to that land. MSO had, in a letter dated 05/09/2005, officially and clearly stated this view. Where even no land registry studies have been carried out, it is an arbitrary and unlawful act to register that land as belonging to the Treasury, and basing this act on the non-existence of title deeds to that land. Such developments should not occur in the Turkish Republic, which is a secular and democratic country committed to the rule of law. B) Again in Bote (Bardakgi) village, Meryem Ana Kilisesi (Mother Mary Church) has been used by the Muslim community as a mosque. We demand that the occupation of this church come to an end. The Christian Syriac community's dearest historical richnesses, which it tenderly takes care of, are its churches. The churches should immediately be evacuated and they should be handed over to the Deyrulumur Foundation. Even the Muslim citizens in the village have a common sense approach to the issue. In line with their beliefs, they are also expecting the State authority to take due action. If the State evacuates the Mother Mary Church and hands it over to the Syriacs, we are not expecting the Muslim community to take an opposing stance. We naturally are placing a demand regarding our own church. Land survey studies have been going on in Bote village. We urge the State to register this building as a church when this church comes up as an issue, and we demand a prompt evacuation and a quick hand over of the church to the Deyrulumur Foundation. This situation, which has been going on for years now, has actually breaches the 9th article of the European Convention on Human Rights and 1st article of the Supplemantal Protocol of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. C) The State, citing terrorism and security concerns, demolished with bulldozers Syriac houses on various plots of land. We demand that the State register that land as belonging to the Syriacs during land registry studies. As Syriacs living in the diaspora, we want Turkey to implement the requirements of the international agreements it signed. We love our country and we long for a Turkey which gains full EU member status. We beg you to consider this while evaluating our problems. It is not enough for Turkey only to introduce legal amendments in theoretical terms. One should see through the extent of implementation of these basic human rights and liberties as well. It is not enough to express our problems verbally and in writing, we really are expecting the state authority to find urgent solutions to our problems. In this respect, we remind you that much falls on your shoulders as being the EU members (Consulate Adana Note: Consulate assumes that copies of this letter were sent to other EU members; the writer probably changed the title of the letter without changing this line. End Consulate Adana Note). We really are looking forward to your approaching the problems we indicated above in a sensitive fashion, and we greatly appreciate your taking the time to look at these issues. With best regards, Semun BARMANO Norra Apollo V.9A 55466 Jonloping - Sweden Tel: + 46 707397076 Fax: + 46 36140661 End translation. REID