21-4-2015: Austria Recognizes Armenian Genocide
Aramean people: Aramean people (not to be confused with ‘Armenians’) speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They are the indigenous people of what was called in ancient times Aram- Nahrin, in our days it is called ‘Mesopotamia’.
Some Arameans today identify themselves with “Assyrians”, because of the spiritual colonial hate generating activities of the Western missionaries and diplomats in the Middle-East in 16th and 19th centuries. Other Arameans became known as “Chaldeans”. However all of them are Arameans.
In Turkey, the Arameans are called: Süryani. In Arabic they are called Al- Suryan.
A article on the Aramean people of Tur Abdin
Synonymy: Aramean /Syrian.
Ancient Christian community looks to the future
Saturday, April 7, 2007TOMMASO NELLI
MİDYAT - Turkish Daily News
The Syriacs in southeast Turkey are celebrating Easter, with high hopes for the future. There are approximately 2,000 Syriacs left in the hilly region around Mardin and Midyat in southeast Turkey, bound in by the Tigris to the north and east, and by the Syrian border to the south. Most villages of Tur Abdin are desolate and decayed. Approximately, 300 to 400,000 Syriacs from Turkey live in Europe.
The area is called Tur Abdin in the Syriac language (Aramaic). It is an ethnic and religious mosaic where four languages (Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and Syriac) are spoken.
Syriacs are Christians whose gospels are written in Aramaic.
Troubled recent history:
During the government's efforts to flush out the PKK from the area in the 1980s and 90s, many Syriacs were caught in the crossfire and forced to abandon their villages, seeking a better life in Europe and the United States. Many suffered direct intimidation and outright violence from Kurds who wanted to occupy their homes, they claim. Kurdish village guards, fighting alongside government forces against the PKK, were granted many abandoned houses, they say.
In 2004, under pressure from the European Union, Turkey conceded that the village of Sare should be vacated for returning Syriacs.
However, a Syriac businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a further 70,000 euro liquidation from the owners had been demanded by the “lodgers.” Around fifty killings up to this day in the region remain unsolved, he claimed. Also, Syriacs who have lost their Turkish citizenship cannot register their land. “The Kurds have progressed immensely in the last ten years,” he added.
Some “Diaspora” Syriacs who made their fortunes abroad (mostly Sweden, Germany and Switzerland) have started returning. As conditions in the area improve, they are engaging in extensive building and restoration and re-settlement of abandoned villages.
The Syriac church has had a key role in maintaining the culture and language, which survives in the liturgy and is close to the spoken language (in Turkish, Süryanice).
God's own translators:
Father Gabriel, a father of thirteen, runs the church in Mardin, and about five families live in the complex around it.
“During the Prince of Wales' visit here four years ago, one of his aides asked me whether on Judgment Day Jesus would charge people in his own language. I said that we would translate!
“A mullah from Diyarbakır came some weeks ago with some questions about the Syriac language, because 25 of the Prayers of Ali Jel Jelutiye, a Muslim holy book, have Aramaic words that he could not understand,” said Father Gabriel
Aramaic, a Semitic language, has a 60 percent compatibility with Hebrew, 50 percent with Arabic, and 70 percent with Sabi (Mendeyin), according to Father Gabriel. “I got him to accept that the language of angels is Aramaic, but he said he would have to see about the ‘Question of the Grave'.” The “Question of the Grave” is an Islamic belief whereby sinners will retain some consciousness in the grave, a sort of pre-hell limbo.
The behavior of sister churches in the West reverberates on the Syriacs of Mardin, said Father Gabriel. “The [Regensburg] message of the pope was not good for us here. The Muslims were very sad and angry, and we live among them,” he said. “We obey the country's laws and rulers, because they are the vicars of God on earth.”
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Sept. 12, 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany, had quoted from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palailogos, implying that the only thing new in Islam was “the command to spread by the sword the faith [Prophet Mohammad] preached.”
The Syriac Church was instrumental in preserving a great part of the ancient Greek heritage at a time when the Western church was banning it, passing it on to the Arabs, who in turn fed it back into Europe. Large chunks of the book of Ezra and Daniel in the Old Testament are written in Aramaic. Father Gabriel says that civilization is like a river. “Everybody siphons water off, but we must also put some in.”
A choral community:
Music is an essential element in Syriac religious and communal life. “We teach the language so that we are able to pray. We cannot make a chorus without learning the language.” Saint Ephraim, in the fourth century, began to write hymns that are sung in Syriac churches by both women and men.
Syriac is not taught in schools, and the churches and monasteries fulfill important didactic functions.
“Mar Gabriel and Deyrulzafaran monasteries have been pillars of the Syriac cultural heritage from the 1960s to the present day,” says Bishop Saliba Özmen, bishop of Mardin and Dıyarbakır.
“Our aim is to build up our education situation, but we must have a place. We have established an association of 12 persons originally from Mardin who live in Istanbul, and have had very good projects approved by the Turkish authorities for the restoration.”
Due to emigration, the Istanbul Syriac community outnumbers the Syriacs in Mardin and Midyat. When Galatasaray won the UEFA cup in 2000, they offered a gift of their typical silverware, a traditional Syriac craft.
Since 1932, the population declined steadily, and the patriarchate moved to Syria.
In the early 70s, Syriacs from the region left for Europe and the United States.
“The most faithful preservers of tradition are in this area. We have preserved our Christianity here despite all difficulties. Unfortunately, periodic emigration left the place empty. The restoration of the monasteries must be the task of all Christendom because the monasteries and churches represent all Christianity.”
Saliba studied from 1999 to 2002 Syriology and Aramology at Oxford University before becoming bishop four years ago.
“We live in a very interesting and sometimes uncertain situation near the Middle East. We must keep this balance of ethnicity, language and so on,” he says. “Legally, there are no difficulties about property, but if you leave for 30 or 40 years and then decide to come back, you will find some difficulties. It is not dangerous to complain. We discuss it with the local government, but it is very difficult to achieve results. These difficulties can be got rid of, I think. The negotiation process of Turkey with the EU is very important. As a church and as a people we support this process and wish Turkey will work closely with Europe to solve these problems.”
Return to the villages:
The attitude of local Syriacs differs starkly from that of the 30-odd families that have chosen to return to the area. Some Syriacs from Europe claim that lack of recognition as a minority and dwindling numbers have made local communities increasingly inward looking. Wealthier, better educated, and accustomed to the more dynamic societies of Northern Europe, many of them are keen to make a difference in this area, known in their language as Tur Abdin.
Others return out of nostalgia, uneasy with being considered Orientals in the West, and Westerners in the East, and faced with the loss of tradition. Others still are more secular.
Linda Gabriel, secretary of the Sweden-based Europena Syriac Union, pointed out the modernizing effects of the “Diaspora” at a conference in Midyat last week, organized by the Accessible Life Association, where a high-ranking EU officer was present. Divorces occurring between “Diaspora” Syriacs had galvanized the church to open a dialogue about this practice.
Syriac women in the Middle East, she said, are constricted between the family and the church, and unable to achieve economic and social independence. She cited Anna G. Eshoo, a Syriac member of the U.S: Congress, as a source of pride.
Swedish-based Suroyo TV broadcasts via satellite to the area, and Syriac-Swedish dictionaries have been printed. “Our language is older than Christianity,” Gabriel told the Turkish Daily News on the sidelines of the conference.
Some Syriacs denounce the ascetic and monastic tradition of the church, and seek to build an identity on the basis of an ancient Mesopotamian culture.
The sectarian bloodshed in Iraq after the demise of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party has brought up the question of the Christians, created threats and opportunities for inchoate nationalism.
A Syriac politician from Mardin commented on pan-Mesopotamian identity. “They are dreaming. Assyrians, Chaldeans and Iraqis do not care what happens to the people of Tur Abdin, but the people from Tur Abdin who migrated to Europe feel responsible for whatever happens to those people. They have been infected with philanthropy, that Western disease.”
The new Jerusalem?:
Nothing can illustrate the difference in approach between locals and exiles than the construction style of the new houses.
The village of Enhill stands on a hill 20 minutes outside of Midyat, above a quarry. Only the rumble of a wheelbarrow and the scraping of a builder's float break the eerie silence of what appears to be a ghost town. Brand new “triplex” buildings dwarf the small municipal school.
The houses are impressive architectural achievements, built, with variants, in a uniform style: stone mansions combining neo-classical and Sumerian influences, they are both the product of civic competition and uniform design, and have something of the suburbs about them. They all stand near the church.
“The people who left here years ago see building bigger and better houses in their villages as a form of revenge,” says a local Syriac politician.
The Kurdish population is concentrated over at the other end of the town, once inhabited by Syriacs. Osman, a Kurdish village guard, who only gave his first name, has been living with his wife and four children there for fifteen years. The eldest is seriously disabled, and a younger boy lies in the sun, having apparently lost his appetite.
Osman still keeps the Kalashnikov he has been issued, owns a donkey, and receives YTL 500 per month from the government.
Somewhere in between these two sectors stands an unfinished gray cement construction. Nostalgia, not utopianism, drove its owner, who worked in construction in Germany, back to his village. The framework of his house is made of unadorned gray cement, and is not styled in the ambitious architecture of the houses near the church. Like some other families, he entertains civil relations with the village guards.
Communication between the settlers in the stone mansions and the Kurds, however, appears minimal, though the handiwork is mainly Kurdish.
A bomb attack on a Syriac's garden in the area was reported three weeks ago to the European Delegation to Turkey in Ankara.
A foreman of works from the next town, Kafra, spent a long time in Dortmund and speaks German. He is not keen on journalists. “Journalists only take pictures of the big houses, and never show the state of the roads and the infrastructure, which the government should repair,” he said. There are 18 houses that have been built already, and the total will be 24. Each house has a solar panel for hot water. There are also plans for cattle farming and fruit orchards in the area. “The whole project,” said the foreman, “could take up to four years, depending on the people.”
Focusing on these building projects might get Syriacs' refugee status in Europe revoked, said the foreman.
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20-5-2009: Aramean Organizations sent a letter to the President and Prime Minister of Turkey on the Aramean Monastery St. Gabriel and recognition of the Aramean indigenous people as a distinct ethnic minority.