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WikiLeaks: 2006-05-02: 06ANKARA2387: Turkey: Diyarbakir Syriacs Threatened, Local Imams Encourage Anti-Christian Sentiment

by WikiLeaks. 06ANKARA2387: May 02, 2006.

Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 03:39 PM UTC


Viewing cable 06ANKARA2387, TURKEY: DIYARBAKIR SYRIACS THREATENED, LOCAL IMAMS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ANKARA2387 2006-05-02 08:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy
Ankara
VZCZCXRO0395
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #2387/01 1220814
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 020814Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5203
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5// PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH// PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 002387 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/02/2021 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: DIYARBAKIR SYRIACS THREATENED, LOCAL IMAMS 
ENCOURAGE ANTI-CHRISTIAN SENTIMENT 
 
 
Classified by Consulate Adana Principal Officer W. Scott 
Reid, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (U) This message is from Consulate Adana. 
 
2.  (C) Summary:  A group of men recently entered the 
compound of Diyarbakir,s ancient Syriac Christian Church and 
uttered threats and insults at the Syriac members.  Despite 
requests from the Syriacs and other residents in the 
neighborhood of the church, the Turkish National Police (TNP) 
did not send officers to the area to provide security until 
the church,s attorney was roughed up by some of the group 
members the day after the initial incident.  After repeated 
calls to the TNP and mayor, the TNP also agreed to send a 
patrol to the area during the Syriac Christian Easter 
celebration on April 23.  Local Religious Affairs Directorate 
officials have been unresponsive to complaints by the 
church,s attorney regarding unauthorized inflammatory 
sermons by local imams encouraging anti-Christian sentiment. 
Syriac Christians reproached Protestant counterparts, 
claiming that Protestant missionary activities had been the 
cause of the Syriacs, recent troubles.  The Syriac Bishop 
for the region, whose seat is at a Syriac Christian monastery 
near Midyat, is worried that government efforts to stop 
anti-Christian activities are inadequate, and that the 
government is ratcheting up anti-Christian pressure.  End 
summary. 
 
Syriacs Threatened and Insulted 
-------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) During a recent Adana consulate trip to Diyarbakir, 
Diyarbakir Syriac Church priest Yusuf Akbulut told us that on 
April 15 a man roughly 35 years old accompanied by 7-8 
teenagers entered the Syriac Church compound.  Some members 
of the 5-6 Syriac families who live there stopped the men 
from entering the chapel because they were smoking.  Akbulut 
said that at this point the older man started swearing at the 
Syriac children loudly and denouncing Christianity and the 
U.S.  When Akbulut came out of a nearby office to investigate 
the noise, the older man swore at him about Syriacs being 
Christian crusaders, America,s presence in Iraq, etc. 
Akbulut said the man kept reaching behind his coat as if he 
were concealing a weapon.  Several youths with him did so as 
well, but no one actually saw any weapons.  The intruders 
continued to make statements to the effect that the Syriacs 
would be made to pay for their faith, and threatened to cut 
the Syriac Christians, throats in sacrificial fashion. 
Akbulut said that the Syriacs refused to open the locked 
church sanctuary door and, after a few minutes, the intruders 
left by walking around the city-block-sized church compound 
wall while screaming insults at the Syriacs.  No one was 
injured in the incident. 
 
4. (C) Akbulut told us that he immediately called the TNP, 
but they responded that the intruding group had left the area 
and that many citizens in the district had called asking for 
security, but the police were swamped with requests.  The TNP 
told Akbulut that they would not send a patrol to the area 
since the immediate threat had passed.  (Note: This 
neighborhood is almost 100 percent Kurdish, very poor and 
flanked by a neighborhood which featured many clashes between 
demonstrators and security forces during the civil unrest two 
weeks earlier.  TNP are not seen there often.  End note.) 
 
5. (C) Akbulut said that on April 16, some of the teenagers 
from the intruding group pushed around and hit several times 
the Syriac church,s attorney, Muhammet Akar, who is a 
Diyarbakir Justice and Development Party (AKP) Provincial 
Board member.  After Akar called, a TNP patrol came to the 
area.  After further calls by Akbulut and Akar to the local 
mayoral office, the TNP offered to send a patrol to the area 
for the upcoming Syriac Easter celebration.  The local Bar 
Association and the Human Rights Association released press 
statements condemning the attacks. 
 
Imams Preach Anti-Christian Sentiment 
------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) In an April 20 meeting we had with Akbulut, attorney 
Akar criticized the slow reactions of the TNP and offered his 
 
ANKARA 00002387  002 OF 002 
 
 
opinion that recent Friday sermons delivered in Diyarbakir 
were encouraging anti-Christian sentiment, particularly 
against missionary activity.  Akar said he had asked the 
Diyarbakir AKP Chairman, Abdurrahman Kurt, to seek more 
responsive TNP engagement, producing a promise for TNP 
protection of the Syriac church when it celebrated Easter on 
April 23.   TNP did send a unit, for which Akbulut expressed 
gratitude to Akar and us.   Akar also said that he had 
complained to local Diyanet (Religious Affairs Directorate) 
officials about the inflammatory sermon, which he said 
deviated from the Diyanet-issued text, but found them 
unresponsive and encountered several new arrivals, who were 
retired, but recalled to Diyanet service, who were adamant 
about their intent to continue such calls. 
 
Christian Groups Divided Over Missionary Work 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) In a recent letter by Diyarbakir,s Protestant Church 
Pastor Ahmet Guvener to a U.S. Congressman,s staffer, which 
was forwarded to us, the pastor mentioned that their Syriac 
Christian neighbors reproached the Protestants, implying that 
their missionary activities were the cause of the Syriacs, 
recent trouble.  In the letter, the Protestants told the 
Syriacs that they were compelled to continue proselytizing, 
and called on the Syriacs to pray for understanding to 
overcome the &coldness8 that had come between the two 
Christian groups. Guvener independently raised these tensions 
in discussions with us, indicating his intent not to change 
his activities. 
 
Syriac Monastery Also Worried 
----------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Syriac Bishop Samuel Aktas of Dayrul Umur Monastery 
told us he was worried about recent threats against 
Christians in the region and about pressure he was feeling 
from the government and the jandarma.  Aktas said that 
Christians in the region were scared that the government was 
not doing enough to stop anti-Christian threats.  He 
explained that Syriacs were slowing their return from the 
U.S. to re-build homes in the Midyat region after being 
dislocated during government anti-insurgency operations in 
the early 1990s.  Aktas compared the current situation to 
incidents in 1997, when the Syriacs received pressure from 
the government to abandon the Dayrul Umur Monastery.  Aktas 
said that difficulties he had had with the government at that 
time had caused a two-year delay in the monastery's 
reconstruction and restoration efforts.  He added that land 
deed problems continue between the GOT and recently-returned 
Syriacs seeking to re-establish ownership rights after being 
expelled. 
 
9. (C) Aktas told us that a local jandarma officer recently 
came to the monastery and warned him that the region was 
experiencing a resurgence of activity by the PKK, Hizbullah 
and other Islamic extremist groups.  (Comment: This was a 
common line of the Syriacs during the clashes of the 1990s, 
when the GoT tried to sway the Syriacs to act as adjuncts to 
the village guards and serve as GoT informants.  End 
Comment.)  Aktas added that the Dutch Ambassador to Turkey, 
who had recently visited the monastery, told him FM Gul had 
told the Ambassador that the reason the GOT did not support 
giving full rights to Christians in Turkey was because it 
would set a bad precedent for giving similar rights to other 
groups, such as Kurds, Alevis and Arab minorities. 
 
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/ 
 
WILSON

 


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