Friday, August 05, 2011

Syriac news from Turkey

ARAMAIC WATCH—News on Syriac-speaking Christians in Turkey from Hürriyet Daily News:

First, congratulations to the 2011 graduates of the new Syriac course at Artuklu University:
Turkey’s first Syriac language course ends

Thursday, August 4, 2011
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency

In a historic achievement, 42 participants were awarded certificates Tuesday after completing Turkey’s first Syriac language course, run by a university in the southeastern province of Mardin.

In a speech at the graduation ceremony, the rector of Artuklu University, Serdar Bedi Omay, expressed his gratitude and said being able to teach the Syriac language in universities was an important accomplishment for the school.

“This is a historic step both for us and the academia,” the rector said.

Indeed. Background here.

Second, some political developments:
Syriacs outline problems to EU, ask for removal of obstacles

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

A Syriac group recently presented a report on the problems of Syriac community in terms of ethnic, linguistic, religious and other rights, as well as the right of return

Turkey should remove obstacles preventing Syriacs from returning to the country and provide constitutional protection for their status and identity, according to a Syriac group that presented a report detailing the community’s problems in Turkey to the European Commission last week.


Last week, the ESU presented a report to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement on Turkey detailing a number of problems experienced by Syriacs in Turkey in terms of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and other rights, as well as the right of return. The ESU also addressed the contentious topic of the “Seyfo” – the name Syriacs give to what they claim was genocide perpetrated against them by the Ottomans in 1915. The report is expected to make its way into Europe’s agenda in September.


“The case [of the Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin] is still underway. The monastery bears great significance for Syriacs. As the European Syriac Union, we recognize that this process is a political, rather than a judicial one. This view is further clarified both by the feudal village guard organization that makes itself felt in the region, as well as by the lack of enthusiasm in Ankara’s attitude. The Mor Gabriel Monastery case is a test of democracy, good will and the project to live together,” [David] Vergili [spokesman for the European Syriac Union] said.

I have been following the case of the Mor Gabriel Monastery for some time. Background here and links.
The fact that Syriac had entered UNESCO’s list of World Languages in Danger pointed to a vital problem, he added.
I knew that Mandaic was on the list, but not Syriac in general. That's good news.
“Our community of 15,000 in Istanbul cannot set up schools and has to make do with a single church. Our region has been the center of attraction for repressive, outdated policies of annihilation and denial for decades,” he said.

Turkey’s Syriac community also cannot use their Syriac last names due to the Patronymics Law enacted in 1934, Vergili said. “Syriacs have begun using Turkish names for a lack of any other options.”

A Turkish citizen of Syriac descent, Favlus Ay, filed a lawsuit last year to change his first and last names to Syriac. Ay requested permission to change his last name to “Bartuma” and his first name to “Paulus.” The suit was filed to annul a provision in the Patronymics Law of 1934 that bars Turkish citizens from adopting foreign names. The case was first brought before a court in Mardin’s Midyat district before being passed to the High Court where the appeal was rejected, with eight judges voting in favor and nine against.
I have noted earlier coverage of the issue of Syriac names in Turkey here.