Sunday, May 24, 2015

Syriac revival in Kafro, Turkey

SYRIAC WATCH: Reclaiming Syriac heritage: A village in Turkey finds its voice. Returning from Europe decades after fleeing war, ancient community asserts new multicultural identity in Aramaic, German (Dalia Mortada, Aljazeera America).
For Alptekin and Demir to be back in Kafro (known as Elbe─čendi in Turkish) is a dream come true. Along with all the other residents of the village, they fled to Europe from 1978 through the 1990s until the village was left empty at the height of fighting between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey. At that time, the PKK led the fight for an autonomous Kurdish state — a fight that tapered off through the 2000s until an official cease-fire in 2013 but has since still simmered and occasionally boiled over into violence.

The citizens of Kafro, however, aren’t ethnically Kurdish or Turkish but Syriac, an ancient Christian population. Their mother tongue is Aramaic, a variation of the same language biblical scholars say Jesus spoke. Their ancestors have been in the region for centuries, in southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria, but today they make up a tiny minority in the Turkish population. They didn’t want to get involved in the fight between the state and the PKK. “Our only option was to leave,” Alptekin said.

But now, taking advantage of the decline in the conflict, they are returning and taking with them the experiences of a wider world far beyond the old boundaries of the ancestral village. Though most of Kafro’s old residents still live abroad, many visit for the summer months, and along with Alptekin’s, 17 families of the original 50 have returned from places Germany and Switzerland to the live in Kafro full time.

They brought a generation that was born in Europe, and the influence of decades abroad can be seen and heard. They dress in European outdoor clothing, and residents, especially teens, speak a mix of German, Turkish and Aramaic.
More on Syriac in Turkey is here, here and here with many links.