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Cablegate: Letter From Syriac Christians in Southeast Turkey

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


Following is AMCON Adana's translation of a letter that was
passed to ConOffs on July 28, during a visit to (Syriac) Golgoze
village. The letter was written by Semun Barmano, Chairperson
of the Sweden Assyrian Federation Executive Board, a key Syriac
diaspora organization in Europe, and was sent to other EU
delegations. AMCON Adana has been reporting on Syriac Christian
activities in southeast Turkey, see reftel and various Adana

Begin translation:


The following are the current issues that require immediate
attention in our villages in Mardin's Midyat district:

1) In our G|lgvze (Ayinvert) village, land survey studies
have been going on nearly for three years. To date, the Muslim
community and the Syriac community of the village were living
together in peace. Since most of the Syriacs migrated to
Istanbul and to European countries, the real estate, the
vineyards and the fields, which belong to the Syriacs, are now
being managed and used by the Muslim villagers.

2) Turkey, after being granted the candidate country status
by the European Union in 1999, have brought about democratic
developments, and many significant changes concerning the
minority issues. Moreover, our former president, Mr. B|lent
Ecevit, through a statement issued exclusively for the Syriac
citizens on June 12, 2001, encouraged the Syriacs to return to
their country. As a result of that, the idea to return to the
region and to their villages, and to claim back the ownership of
their land and property in these villages gained ground among
the Syriacs. In the light of this development, land survey
studies have been started in the villages. Since no land
registry studies have been conducted to date in our region, the
people do not own any of their real estates' title deeds. But,
everybody knows who owns the rights to the real estate or
property. That is exactly why the land registry studies have
been started. Only when everybody gains rightfully the title
deed to their real estate, then the improper act of breaching
one's rights to the property will be prevented. Upon seeing
these developments, the members of the Muslim community in
Ayinvert (G|lgvze) started to construct nearly ten buildings on
the property of the Syriacs. The efforts of the Syriacs in the
village that aimed to settle the issue amicably did not produce
any results. Syriacs, via their attorney, applied to the Midyat
Subgovernor's Office (MSO) to issue an order to discontinue the
construction activities and to prevent the breach of the
Syriacs' right of ownership of their real estate. MSO, after
receiving the case, stopped ongoing contsuction activities.
MSO's 06/14/2005 decision prescribes that acts of breaching
property rights through construction of buildings should be
stopped. However, it (MSO) also decided that, according to
item 16/c of the (Turkish) Land Registry Act, the decision about
the real estate on which the construction of buildings had
started, was up to the discretion of the State, because that
real estate is comprised of land, which is rocky, bouldery, and
bereft of owners. While on the one hand, the Syriacs have been
placing demands to stop the ongoing construction and breach of
property rights on their real estate, the MSO is claiming that
such real estate belongs to the state (to the Treasury). All
the owners of the real estate have filed suits with the Midyat
Prosecutor against the perpetrators of the construction. This
dispute has been going on. The persons who initiated the
construction on the Syriacs' real estate, are the Village
Guards. The village guards, with the boldness their titles
afford them, are being threatening to the Syriacs. Unless this
issue is resolved soon, it will be a serious blow to Syriacs'
return from the diaspora, and this situation will begin to raise
suspicion about Turkey, which made amendments in its laws to
adopt the harmonization laws. In terms of the state's authority
and the rule of law, we regard this situation as a great
vulnerability (on the part of the state). Moreover, the
persons, who initiated construction on Syriacs' real estates,
following the complaints the Syriacs filed with the authorities,
have begun to thwart the land registry studies, and have been
attempting to register the Syriacs' land under their own names.
These developments have almost held back the progress of the
land registry studies. Syriac experts, who are participating in
the land registry studies, are being threatened by the village
guards. Therefore, the Syriac experts cannot go and take part
in the studies. Muslim communities, who do not own real estate
in the village, upon seeing that the Syriacs have been returning
to the village, have embarked upon attempts to gain the
ownership of the real estate through exploiting the situation of
Syriacs' as having no title deeds, and scaring Syriacs away to
prevent their return. Moreover, the people had their farm
animals graze in our vineyards and gardens, causing great damage
to our land recently.

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3) A) In 1986, the real estate that belonged to the Mor
Efrem Church and that was in Midyat's Bardakgi (Bote) village,
was registered by the MSO as the property of the Treasury. At a
time when no land registry studies had taken place in our
village, it appeared to be a deliberate attempt for the MSO to
register 250 acres of land, which belonged to the Mor Efrem
Church, as Treasury land. As you already know, since the
churches do not have juridical personalities nobody raises
complaints against a breach of rights, as in our case. But,
statements from non-Syriac Muslim citizens have also been
justifying our claims about this 250-acre real estate as
belonging to the Mor Efrem Church. MSO claims that it had
registered this aforementioned land as State's Treasury land on
the grounds that it was bereft of owners and nobody owned any
title deeds to that land. MSO had, in a letter dated
05/09/2005, officially and clearly stated this view. Where even
no land registry studies have been carried out, it is an
arbitrary and unlawful act to register that land as belonging to
the Treasury, and basing this act on the non-existence of title
deeds to that land. Such developments should not occur in the
Turkish Republic, which is a secular and democratic country
committed to the rule of law.

B) Again in Bote (Bardakgi) village, Meryem Ana Kilisesi
(Mother Mary Church) has been used by the Muslim community as a
mosque. We demand that the occupation of this church come to an
end. The Christian Syriac community's dearest historical
richnesses, which it tenderly takes care of, are its churches.
The churches should immediately be evacuated and they should be
handed over to the Deyrulumur Foundation. Even the Muslim
citizens in the village have a common sense approach to the
issue. In line with their beliefs, they are also expecting the
State authority to take due action. If the State evacuates the
Mother Mary Church and hands it over to the Syriacs, we are not
expecting the Muslim community to take an opposing stance. We
naturally are placing a demand regarding our own church. Land
survey studies have been going on in Bote village. We urge the
State to register this building as a church when this church
comes up as an issue, and we demand a prompt evacuation and a
quick hand over of the church to the Deyrulumur Foundation.
This situation, which has been going on for years now, has
actually breaches the 9th article of the European Convention on
Human Rights and 1st article of the Supplemantal Protocol of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

C) The State, citing terrorism and security concerns,
demolished with bulldozers Syriac houses on various plots of
land. We demand that the State register that land as belonging
to the Syriacs during land registry studies.

As Syriacs living in the diaspora, we want Turkey to
implement the requirements of the international agreements it
signed. We love our country and we long for a Turkey which
gains full EU member status. We beg you to consider this while
evaluating our problems. It is not enough for Turkey only to
introduce legal amendments in theoretical terms. One should see
through the extent of implementation of these basic human rights
and liberties as well. It is not enough to express our problems
verbally and in writing, we really are expecting the state
authority to find urgent solutions to our problems. In this
respect, we remind you that much falls on your shoulders as
being the EU members (Consulate Adana Note: Consulate assumes
that copies of this letter were sent to other EU members; the
writer probably changed the title of the letter without changing
this line. End Consulate Adana Note). We really are looking
forward to your approaching the problems we indicated above in a
sensitive fashion, and we greatly appreciate your taking the
time to look at these issues. With best regards,

Norra Apollo V.9A
55466 Jonloping - Sweden
Tel: + 46 707397076
Fax: + 46 36140661

End translation.


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