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WikiLeaks: 2005-10-13: 05ADANA181: Letter from Syriac Christians in Southeast Turkey

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 at 06:54 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05ADANA181 2005-10-13 08:15 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Adana
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
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 
Begin translation: 
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, 
Norra Apollo V.9A 
55466 Jonloping - Sweden 
Tel: + 46 707397076 
Fax: + 46 36140661 
End translation. 

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