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President Gul and Turkey's Assyrian Question

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President Gul and Turkey's Assyrian Question

Apr-08-2013 at 03:33 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul smiles during a visit to the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, March 11, 2013. (Photo by REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix)

President Gul and Turkey's Assyrian Question
Translated by: Sibel Utku Bila. Al-Monitor, April 03, 2013.

About This Article
During Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s recent visit to Sweden, a Swedish politician of Assyrian descent challenged Gul’s claims that Turkey would welcome the return of the minority population, writes Baskin Oran.
Publisher: Radikal (Turkey)
Original Title:
President Gul and the Assyrians
Author: Baskin Oran
First Published: March 27, 2013
Posted on: April 3 2013
Translated by: Sibel Utku Bila

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is someone I admire. He has been “an island of prudence” for the country during the grim period we have been going through. But I was seriously disappointed with his visit to Sweden, to which he took the acting Assyrian Orthodox Patriarch, Yusuf Cetin.

During the visit, an Assyrian member of the Swedish parliament, Yilmaz Kerimo, took the floor and made the following remarks in Turkish: “The Mor Gabriel monastery in Mardin is under occupation. Some churches, among them Hagia Sophia, have been turned to mosques. The Assyrians are not recognized as a minority and cannot benefit from any rights; they cannot learn their language at school.

Here is how Gul answered: “There were some problems in the past. But, frankly, I cannot agree that all you say is true.

Kerimo’s remarks, however, were perfectly accurate. Let’s take a look at all the points in question:

1. Gul says, “Our Assyrian citizens do not have minority status under the Lausanne Treaty .” Ever since 1994, I’ve been writing that the Lausanne Treaty defines the minorities only as “non-Muslims.” The related Article 143 mentions no minority group by name. The argument that only Greeks, Armenians and Jews were considered minorities is a gross lie fabricated by the Turkish nation-state aimed at downsizing the minorities.

“Letter of forfeit” myth

2. Gul says, “Those designated as minorities in the Lausanne Treaty were determined on a voluntary basis at the time.” This is to be found nowhere in the treaty. Gul implies that “the Assyrians forfeited their rights under the Lausanne Treaty,” an argument which is nothing more than an urban legend. The only “document” on the issue is a newspaper report, published in the Feb. 9, 1923, issue of the daily Ileri.

The Assyrian Orthodox Patriarchate was based in Mardin at the time. During a visit to Ankara, Patriarch Ilyas Sakir III said that they “do not want minority rights.

Here is the reason for those remarks: Western countries wanted to create a Great Armenia to serve as a buffer between them and Communist Russia, and during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference they completely ignored the unassuming Assyrians, who have never had a state throughout history. The Assyrians were left with no other option but to count on the “tolerance” of the Turks, just as they had done since 1071 and continue to do now.

So, what happened as a result? When Ilyas Sakir died in 1932, we exiled the patriarchate to Homs in Syria. And the current situation? We do not allow those people to open schools under Article 40 of the Lausanne Treaty; they cannot teach their language to their children.

Let us pause for a moment here and imagine that a meticulous historian produces a “letter of forfeit” signed and stamped by Ilyas Sakir III. It would be meaningless because:

First of all, ever since the time of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), minority rights are rights “granted to the individual to be used collectively.” It is impossible under international law for community leaders to forfeit those rights on behalf of individuals.

Second, the Lausanne Treaty is an international agreement signed by eight countries and cannot be changed with press remarks made by a spiritual leader. Moreover, Article 37 stipulates that clauses about the protection of minorities amount to a basic law and cannot be amended through laws.

Third, the Turkish state had initially accepted that because the Assyrian minority schools in Mardin continued to function until 1928, when they were closed under the pretext of the unification of education. Moreover, Assyrian minority foundations were formally recognized when they were included on the list that accompanied the cabinet decree of Jan. 24, 2003.

Then how come these myths are still being perpetuated? Firstly, the Assyrians are a very quiet people. Second, our nation has a tradition of making people “surrender” just as it makes people “confess” in police stations. Under Article 42.1 of the Lausanne Treaty, for instance, “The family law of minorities is implemented in line with their traditions and customs.” But when the Civil Code was legislated in 1926, our state created a commission, and its Armenian and Greek members who spoke against forfeiting their rights were detained and kept in custody until a “proper” decision was made. This is how non-Muslims “formally forfeited” their rights under Article 42.1 and gave up church marriages.

I regret to say something even grimmer: Last year we did not exhibit any shame in “formally” ridiculing those Assyrian citizens. They had submitted an application in Istanbul for their schooling right under Article 40 of the Lausanne Treaty. The reply they received on July 26, 2012, said: “You are not a minority but a principal component . Since you are not a minority, you cannot teach in a foreign language in the kindergarten you want to open.” (Sabro newspaper, Sept. 7, 2012)

Usurpation of monastery land

3. Gul further says, “The Mor Gabriel Church is not under occupation. It remains open. There is a dispute related only to surrounding land. And the lawsuit on the issue will undoubtedly be resolved under the principle of the rule of law.

I’ve written repeatedly on this issue as well. In 2009, the treasury opened a lawsuit over lands registered under the monastery’s proprietorship, however, the court in Midyat rejected the claims. The treasury then went to the Appeals Court, which ruled in favor of the treasury in 2010, on grounds there were no documents to certify the monastery’s proprietorship. The monastery, however, had presented tax payment records of many years to the court in Midyat. While the mystery over the ruling lingered, it emerged that those tax records were absent from the file at the Appeals Court! The Monastery Foundation lodged an appeal, but this merely resulted in rejection!

The number of court cases launched against the Assyrians has now exceeded 300 in the area, where Suleyman Celebi, a parliament member from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is a clan leader, and has a son heading the local (government-armed) village guard. Kurdish villagers are first occupying monastery land and are then filing lawsuits. In the meantime, they are also tipping off the authorities: “They (the Assyrians) are inciting and agitating the people. They are carrying out all kind of activities to destroy the spirit of national unity and togetherness. Money of unknown origin is flowing here.” Celebi is known also for having said that the thousands of Assyrians who had emigrated from the region did so “for their own pleasure.”

4. Gul also says, “If you go to Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia museum is open for everybody to tour. It is the first time I hear (that churches have been turned to mosques).” Kerimo, however, refers to something else. When the Hagia Sophia in Iznik was re-opened as a mosque in 2011, the head of the Foundations Directorate, Adnan Ertem, said, “The small Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been re-opened to worship, and this one is now being re-opened, too.” That edifice is now called “the Hagia Sophia (Orhan) Mosque.”

Kerimo refers also to what Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in July 2012: “During the last Eid al-Adha, we opened the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Iznik to worship. Our second good news is, God willing, the re-opening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon.” Kerimo refers also to the deputy chairman of parliament’s appeals commission, Halil Urun, who said that a significant number of the petitions they received concerned the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul and that “Hagia Sophia should be definitely opened to (Muslim) worship. This is the desire of 75 million people.

Lastly, President Gul said, “Come to Turkey to see your lands and spend your holidays there. Everyone should take care of their properties.” But what if those properties have been occupied for years by village guards? Who is going to remove them from those properties? Can the Assyrians do that when their lands are still being seized by the treasury on the one hand and by Kurdish villagers on the other?

Gul may be a true statesman, but I wish someone had briefed him on those issues before he went to Sweden.


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1. Cumhurbaşkanı Gül ve Süryaniler (Turkish)

Apr-08-2013 at 03:43 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #0
Patrik İlyas Şakir in vefatından sonra Diyarbakır Meryem Ana Kilisesi nde yapılan ayin ertesi çekilmiş bir fotoğraf. Fotoğraf: Mart 1932-Adnan Palako
Cumhurbaşkanı Gül ve Süryaniler
BASKIN ORAN. Radikal 2 / 24/03/2013.

Mallarına bir yandan Kürt köylülerin, bir yandan Hazine'nin el koyduğu Süryaniler ne yapsın?

Cumhurbaşkanı Gül’ü çok beğeniyorum. Bu tatsız dönemde memleket için gerçek bir “sakin liman”. Fakat, Süryani Ortodoks Patrik Vekili Yusuf Çetin’i de yanına alarak gittiği İsveç gezisini yakından izledim, cidden üzüldüm.

İsveç parlamentosundaki Süryani milletvekili Yılmaz Kerimo söz alıp Türkçe diyor ki: “Mardin’deki Mor Gabriel Manastırı işgal altında. Bazı kiliseler ve Ayasofyalar camiye çevrildi. Süryaniler azınlık olarak kabul edilmedikleri için hiçbir haktan yararlanamıyorlar, okullarda dillerini öğrenemiyorlar”. Gül cevap veriyor: “Geçmişte sıkıntılar oldu. Ama doğrusu, söylediğiniz şeylerin hepsine de doğru diyemem”. Oysa, Kerimo elifi elifine doğru. Hiçbirini atlamadan ele alıyorum:

1) Gül diyor ki: “Süryani vatandaşlarımız, Lozan’a göre azınlık statüsünde değiller”. 1994’ten beri yazıyorum: Lozan’da azınlıklar, sadece “Gayrimüslimler” diye geçer. 143 maddesinin hiçbirinde hiçbir azınlık grubunun adı geçmez. Yalnızca Rum, Ermeni ve Yahudilerin azınlık sayıldığı iddiası, Türk ulus-devletinin azınlıkları azaltmak için ürettiği devasa bir yalandır.

‘Feragatname’ efsanesi

2) Gül diyor ki: “Türkiye’de kimlerin azınlık olacağı Lozan’da o zaman gönüllü olarak belirtilmiş”. Bu da Lozan’ın hiçbir yerinde yok. Gül, tam bir şehir efsanesi olan “Süryaniler, Lozan’daki haklarından feragat ettiler”e atıf yapıyor. Bunun tek “belge”si, bir gazete haberi: 9 Şubat 1923 tarihli İleri. O zamanlar Süryani Ortodoks Patrikhanesi Mardin’de. Patrik III. İlyas Şakir Ankara’ya geldiğinde, “Biz hukuk-i ekalliyet istemiyoruz” (azınlık hakları istemiyoruz), diye demeç vermiş.

Durumun sebebi de şu: Batılılar, Komünist Rusya’yla aralarında tampon bir Büyük Ermenistan istiyorlar ama, tarihte hiç devleti olmamış, kendi halinde Süryanilerin 1919 Paris Barış Konferansında suratlarına bile bakmıyorlar. Onlar da çaresiz, Türklerin “hoşgörü”süne sığınıyorlar; 1071’den beri (ve şu anda da) yaptıkları gibi. Sonucu soruyorsanız: İlyas Şakir Efendi 1932’de ölünce Patrikhane’yi Suriye’deki Humus’a sürüyoruz. Bugünü soruyorsanız: Bu insanlara Lozan Md. 40’taki okulları açtırmıyoruz. Çocuklarına dillerini öğretemiyorlar.

Bu noktada, bir saniye: Farz edin ki, kıymetli bir tarihçimiz çıktı, III. İlyas Şakir’in pullu-mühürlü bir “feragatname”sini buldu. Hiçbir şey ifade etmez. Çünkü:
Bir kere, Azınlık hakları Hobbes’dan (1588-1679) beri, “kolektif olarak kullanılmak üzere birey’e verilmiş” haklardır. Cemaat liderlerinin bu haklardan birey adına vazgeçmesi uluslararası hukukta mümkün değildir. İkincisi, Lozan sekiz ülkece imzalanmış bir uluslararası antlaşmadır, bir ruhaninin gazete demeciyle değişmez. Kaldı ki Lozan Md. 37, Azınlıkların Korunması’yla ilgili hükümlerin temel yasa olduğunu, yasayla bile değiştirilemeyeceğini ilan etmiştir. Üçüncüsü, zaten devletimiz de bunu başta böyle kabul etmiştir çünkü Mardin’deki Süryani azınlık okulları (idadi) tevhid-i tedrisat diye 1928’de kapatılana kadar faaliyet göstermiştir. Üstelik, Süryani azınlık vakıfları, 24.01.2003 tarihli kararnameye eklenen listeye alınarak resmen tanınmıştır.

Peki, bu şehir efsanesi hâlâ nasıl sürüyor? Bir kere, Süryanilerin ağzı var dili yok. İkincisi, bizim ulus-devletimizin karakollarda “itiraf” ettirmenin yanı sıra, böyle bir “feragat” ettirme geleneği var. Mesela, Lozan Md. 42/1’e göre, “azınlıkların aile hukuku, bunların gelenek ve görenekleri uyarınca” uygulanır. Ama 1926’da Medeni Kanun çıkınca devletimiz bir komisyon tayin etmiş, buradaki Ermeni ve Rum üyelerden feragat karşıtı konuşanları gözaltına almış, “uygun” karar çıkmadan salıvermemiştir. Böylece Gayrimüslimler 42/1’den “resmen feragat” ederek kilise nikahından vazgeçmiş olmuşlardır…
Daha tatsızını üzülerek söyleyeyim: Biz bu Süryani vatandaşlarla geçen yıl “resmen” dalga geçmeyi bile kendimize yakıştırabildik: Lozan Md. 40’taki okul hakkından yararlanmak için İstanbul’da dilekçe verdiler, 26.07.2012 tarihli şu cevabı aldılar: “Siz azınlık değil aslî unsursunuz. Azınlık olmadığınız için de, açmak istediğiniz anaokulunda yabancı dilde eğitim yapamazsınız” (Sabro gazetesi, 07.09.2012).

Manastır arazisinin gaspı

3) Gül diyor ki: “Mor Gabriel Kilisesi işgal altında değil. Açık. Sadece, çevresindeki arazilerle ilgili bir ihtilaf var. Bununla ilgili dava da, hukukun üstünlüğü çerçevesinde, muhakkak ki çözülecektir”. Bunu da döne döne yazdım: Kadastro’nun bu Manastır’a tescillediği araziye T.C. Hazine 2009’da dava açıyor. Midyat mahkemesi reddediyor. Hazine Yargıtay’a gidiyor ve orası “belge yok” gerekçesiyle 2010’da Hazine’yi haklı buluyor. Oysa, Manastır yılların vergi kayıtlarını Midyat mahkemesinde sunmuş. Bu nasıl iştir denirken bir de bakılıyor ki, Yargıtay dosyasında bu kayıtlar yok! Manastır Vakfı karar düzeltmeye gidiyor, sonuç ret!
Şu anda Süryanilere bölgede açılan davaların sayısı 300’ü aştı. Çünkü civardaki Kürt köylüsü, oğlu korucubaşı olan AKP Mardin Milletvekili Süleyman Çelebi’nin ağa olduğu bu bölgede Manastır topraklarını önce işgal ediyor, sonra dava açıyor. Bir yandan da Manastır’ı ihbar ediyor: “Tamamen halkı isyan ve galeyana getirmektedirler. Milli birlik ve beraberlik ruhunu parçalamak için her türlü faaliyet içindedirler. Buraya menşei meçhul paralar gelmektedir.” Çelebi, “Binlerce Süryani keyiflerinden göç etti” demesiyle de tanınıyor.

4) Gül diyor ki: “İstanbul’a giderseniz, Ayasofya Müzesi’ni herkes gezebilir. İlk defa sizden duyuyorum”. Oysa Kerimo bundan bahsetmiyor. Vakıflar Genel Müdürü Adnan Ertem’in Kasım 2011’de, “İstanbul’daki küçük Ayasofya ibadete açılmıştı, burası da açıldı” dediği İznik Ayasofya’yı kastediyor; artık buranın adı “Ayasofya (Orhan) Camii”. Kerimo, Arınç’ın Temmuz 2012’de söylediklerine gönderme yapıyor: “Geçtiğimiz kurban bayramında İznik Ayasofya Camii’ni ibadete açtık. İkinci müjdemiz Trabzon’daki Ayasofya Camii’nin ibadete açılmasıdır inşallah”. Kerimo, TBMM Dilekçe Komisyonu’na yapılan başvuruların önemli bir bölümünün İstanbul Ayasofya Müzesi için verildiğini bildiren Başkanvekili Halil Ürün’ün, “Ayasofya kesinlikle ibadete açılmalıdır. 75 milyon bunu istiyor” demesini hatırlatıyor.

Cumhurbaşkanı Gül son olarak şunu söylemiş: “Gelin Türkiye’ye gidin, topraklarınızı görün, gezin, tatillerinizi orada geçirin. Herkes malına, mülküne sahip olsun”. İyi de, o mal-mülklere on yıllardır korucular oturmuş; onları kim çıkartacak oradan? Mallarına bir yandan Kürt köylülerin, bir yandan T.C. Hazine’nin el koyduğu Süryaniler mi? Gerçek bir devlet adamı olan Gül İsveç’e giderken, bunları birileri anlatsaydı kendisine, keşke.


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Assyria \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.)   3:  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 — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
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Assyrian \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.   3:  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. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   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.

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