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WikiLeaks: 2010-02-19: 10ISTANBUL62:
Finding Room for the Syriac Orthodox in Istanbul

by WikiLeaks. 10ISTANBUL62: February 19, 2010.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:31 AM UT


Viewing cable 10ISTANBUL62, FINDING ROOM FOR THE SYRIAC ORTHODOX IN ISTANBUL

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
10ISTANBUL62 2010-02-19 08:11 UNCLASSIFIED Consulate Istanbul
VZCZCXRO7474
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHIT #0062 0500811
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190811Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9517
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000062 
 
SIPDIS 
 
IRAQ TO PRT NINEWA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: OSCE PGOV PHUM PREL TU IZ
SUBJECT: FINDING ROOM FOR THE SYRIAC ORTHODOX IN ISTANBUL 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  The Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan for 
Istanbul and Ankara Yusuf Cetin February 7 discussed the need 
for more Syriac Orthodox churches and clergy in Istanbul 
following the boom in the community's population in the 
1990s. Cetin also noted that while some families are 
returning to their homes in the southeast following the 
community's exodus due to the anti-PKK raids in the 1990s, 
the numbers are not as great as the local municipalities 
suggest. Despite the challenges of the Syriac Orthodox in 
Turkey, the community in Iraq is facing much more significant 
problems, he said. End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) On February 7, the Consul General met with the 
Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan for Istanbul and Ankara 
Archbishop Yusuf Cetin.  According to Cetin - Metropolitan 
since 1986 - the current Syriac Orthodox community in 
Istanbul grew to nearly 20,000 after the forced relocation of 
many villages in the Southeast during anti-PKK raids in the 
1990s. The Syriacs have only one church in Istanbul which, 
Cetin says, is not sufficient to meet the needs of the 
community.  Currently, according to Cetin, they also borrow 
seven churches from other Orthodox denominations (nine during 
the summer, including two on the Princes' Islands) to provide 
services to their community.  While the community board 
requested permission to build another church in Yesilkoy, 
they have yet to receive notice from the municipality that 
there is zoning for a church in the district. The president 
of the community's layman council said that they face 
difficulties in identifying a site for a church because the 
Syriacs are not a "recognized religious minority" and do not 
have "foundation" status.  In addition to the need for 
additional churches in Istanbul, the Archbishop said there 
were insufficient clerics to provide services to the 
community in Istanbul. There are currently 28 Syriac Orthodox 
clergy and monks in Turkey, with seven in Istanbul. 
 
3.  (SBU) Following the relocation of many Syriac families 
from the Southeast in the early 1990s, some older families 
have returned to their homes.  Cetin said that the locals in 
the region exaggerated the number of families that have 
actually returned, when in reality the number had been 
insignificant.  Note: It is difficult for Post to get an 
accurate count of the number of families displaced or 
returned, and numbers vary widely depending on to whom we are 
speaking.  End note. 
 
4.  (SUB) The Archbishop commented positively on the 
community's relationship with the central government and 
local municipality mayors.  Community leadership meets 
regularly with GOT representatives from the MFA and State 
Minister Egemen Bagis. Cetin also emphasized the good 
relations with other minority religions and the Directorate 
for Religious Affairs. 
 
5.  (SBU) The Syriacs in Turkey are faring well compared to 
their Iraqi brethren Cetin confided. He reported that many 
are trying to flee Iraq now given the continuing rise in 
violence and poor treatment of the Syriacs and other 
Christian denominations in Iraq. 
 
6.  (SBU) Comment. While the conversation touched upon Mor 
Gabriel and Dareszarfulan Monasteries in Mardin and Midyat 
respectively, the Metropolitan did not mention the court 
cases involving Mor Gabriel. The Syriac Diaspora and several 
international human rights organizations highlight the 
cadastre court cases involving Mor Gabriel in Midyat (TDB 
July 29, 2009) as examples of encroachment on minority 
religious rights in Turkey. Cetin's choice not to mention the 
cases is consistent with his silence on the issue when 
meeting with President Obama in April 2009, and may indicate 
differing priorities among the metropolitans of the Syriac 
Orthodox Church in Turkey, who do not speak with one voice. 
End Comment. 
WIENER

 



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