News in Bet-Nahren, Assyria

Case opened over church converted to mosque
by Kurdish Observer - Oct 14, 2000
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2000 04:22 am CST



A church that had been used by the Assyrians-Syriacs years ago in the village of Bate in the Midyat district of Mardin was converted into a mosque. The garden of the church, in which the cemetery was located, meanwhile, was filled with the corpses of animals.

Assyrian villager Yusuf Bozkurt, who resides outside the country and noticed this situation after 16 years had passed, filed a complaint with Diyanet (the state religious affairs administration) to correct this situation.

Bozkurt's attorney Seyhmus Miroglu stated: "My client said that he could have tolerated this situation if it had been done by the village guards, but he could not tolerate it [being carried out] by a religious official who receives a monthly salary from the state." After learning that the incident would be reflected to the European public and press, Diyanet withdrew the imam it had officially posted to the church. Assyrian Yusuf Bozkurt and his family, which had been living alone in the Bate village, finally abandoned the village as the result of pressure from state forces and settled in Switzerland in 1984.

Bozkurt, who came back to visit his village last summer, abandoned his plans to return to the village after seeing that the church had been converted into a mosque. Bozkurt's attorney Miroglu has first petitioned Diyanet Director Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz and will apply to other legal recourses if the problem is not resolved. Diyanet first of all withdrew its staff imam from the church in order to hinder this situation from being reflected in the media and putting Turkey into a difficult position vis a vis the European Union. It is now expected that the church will undergo restoration to be reconverted to its original function.

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