Syriacs in Turkey and their rights
The Syriacs, also referred to as Arameans, in Sweden enjoy a privileged status and extensive rights in political parties and the bureaucracy. Five years ago, during the discussions over the Swedish national budget, the amount allocated to the king raised a controversy. A Syriac bureaucrat from Tur Abdin concluded that the amount allocated to the king was too much and thus opposed it.
See below for the WCA's appeal to the Members of the European Parliament, requesting them to vote tomorrow, 4 February 2016, in favor of the Motion for the European Parliament resolution on the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by ISIS. When ISIS emptied the Aramean people from the Nineveh plains in north Iraq, on 6/7 August 2014, the WCA published this press release and sent this letter to the UN Security Council that includes five recommendations.
Distinguished Member of the European Parliament,
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) urgently appeals to you and requests you to vote tomorrow, 4 February 2016, in favor of the Motion for the European Parliament resolution on the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by ISIS (2016/2529(RSP), which was debated on 20 January 2016.
After the Holocaust and since the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the world vowed “Never again” to allow crimes against humanity to occur. Ever since, this vow would be broken again and again, notably in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Cambodia. This also holds true for the ongoing genocide committed since 2014 by ISIS against the vulnerable ethno-religious minorities of Iraq and Syria, including hundreds of thousands of Aramean Christians.
In addition to many political and religious leaders, scholars equally condemn ISIS’ crimes as ‘genocide’. If there still exists any doubt about ISIS continuing the extermination of Christian, Yezidi and other ethno-religious groups from their millennia-old homelands in Syria and Iraq, the abundant evidence provided by ISIS itself and which can be seen with our own eyes today on YouTube, speaks volumes.
These communities continue to ask where the outcry, responsibility and action of the world leaders is. Tomorrow you have the chance to break this silence. You can give a hopeful response to these victims, a clear message to ISIS and to potentially new masterminds of genocide who will undoubtedly emerge if they keep witnessing that the “Never again” vow in the end was only mere words and empty rhetoric.
Tomorrow you can set the example for parliaments around the world and the United Nations Security Council. Let us, therefore, together speak up and speak out against ISIS and its ongoing genocide. Let us call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. Not to speak is to speak and not to act is to act.
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) is a worldwide umbrella organization and a UN NGO that represents the voice of the indigenous Aramean people of Iraq and Syria. Since 2014, this Semitic people and its cultural heritage also fell victim to the ongoing acts of genocide committed by ISIS.
Thank you for your understanding and support,
World Council of Arameans (Syriacs)
Today, 31 March 2014, His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim was elected as the 123rd Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East. The WCA expresses great joy upon the election of the former Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of America, and we wish him heavenly wisdom and strength in his new mission.
Click here to download the letter in Aramaic.
On 31 March 2014, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church, which convened under the patronage of Catholicos Mor Basalios Thomas I and Mor Severios Hawa the Archbishop Baghdad and Basra (earlier appointed as the Locum Tenens), elected Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim as the 123rd Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East as His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim.
The WCA expresses great joy with the election of the former Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of America (consecrated on January 28, 1996), and we wish him heavenly wisdom and strength in his new mission.
In a live broadcast on Suryoyo Sat, the Aramaic satellite channel of the Aramean people, His Holiness received on Monday 31 March the heartfelt congratulations from Mr. Johny Messo (WCA President), Mr. Halef Halef (Chairman Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicariate in Sweden) and Dr. Assad Sauma Assad (Aramean scholar). His Holiness participated by phone in the live program, which was moderated by Mr. Shlemun Ego, and stated among others that the patriarchal residence will remain in Damascus, Syria.
A WCA delegation will soon pay His Holiness a visit at his residence in New York City to ask for his blessings, just like his predecessor the late Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, who on many occasions expressed his gratitude with the service by the WCA to the Aramean people worldwide.
Click here for a Biography of the current Patriarch.
March 2013 in New Jersey, USA: Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim (Archbishop of Eastern United States), Mr. Johny Messo (WCA President) and Ms. Fay Shabo (Chairwoman of the Aramaic American Association, “AAA”) at the opening of the AAA Center in New Jersey, USA.
Interestingly, ca. 10% of the speech given yesterday on 13 March 2013 by Turkey’s President at the Swedish Parliament concerns the Aramean (Syriac) people! Below follow first his 212 (out of a total of ca. 2100) words, then a few comments by the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) as regards his key message:
On Thursday 9 April 2015, the WCA and its partners provided 400 Aramean families in Qamishli, in northeastern Syria, with food packages as an Easter Gift (see photos below). Today, on Friday 10 April, this Aramean alliance sent the letter below (download the Arabic version below) to their people in need in Qamishli, stressing that they are not alone in their struggle for survival in the homeland and that this Easter Gift is only the beginning of more help to our people in need of both humanitarian aid and a political voice.
Shlomo, hubo w-Iqoro to our dear People in Qamishli,
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”), its National Federations and Local Associations, and its partners mentioned below, extend their warm greetings to you and wish you and all our people of Syria and Iraq a Blessed Easter celebration with family and friends in the risen Christ, our life and our hope.
ܡܫܝܚܐ ܩܡ ܡܢ ܩܒܪܐ܄ ܫܪܝܪܐܝܬ ܩܡ ܡܢ ܒܝܬ ܡܝܬܐ܂
APPRECIATING OUR PEOPLE FROM QAMISHLI
This year in which we all commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Sayfo, we deemed it fit to donate food packages as Easter gifts to 400 Aramean families in Qamishli. It was this city that was built up by your and our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who escaped the aftereffects of the Sayfo in Tur-Abdin and its region in the newly founded Republic of Turkey in 1923. It was this city that became the new beacon of light of the Suryoyutho in the first half of the 20th century, defending, strengthening and developing our Aramaic (Syriac) language and identity. We cannot and we will never forget this fact.
During these difficult trials and tribulations of the past years, we have tried our best to help our people in need in Syria and Iraq as best as we could. We are dedicated to continue our service as long as needed. Since our foundation, we have been privileged to receive the trust and support of the Aramean people worldwide and we will make sure that this support will also reach our people in Qamishli.
OUR SYRIA AND IRAQ RELATED WORK
As you are aware, in these past years we have given various forms of aid to certain regions and families in Syria and Iraq, but also to our refugees abroad. That is why Arameans from Qamishli, who spoke on behalf of your churches, organizations and Sootoro, have contacted us for help in the past months. They expressed that they have a strong faith in the work, integrity and strength of our organizations to help our forgotten people in Qamishli. We are committed to not let them down for placing good trust and faith in us.
We have been and we continue to work on a number of things for our people in the diaspora and Tur-Abdin, but regarding Syria and Iraq we should briefly mention that, regarding humanitarian aid, we work with and through governments and NGOs. Our biggest achievement so far is that the WCA and its Member Federation in Germany have convinced the German Government to send more than 2,5 million euro from September 2013 until today to our Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus to help our people there in many ways. We continue to do the same for other regions in Syria and Iraq, and also in other countries like Switzerland.
We ask you to join us in commemorating these specific dates with us:
- On 22 April 2015, we commemorate the two-year abduction of our dear Archbishops of Aleppo, H.E. Gregorius Hanna Ibrahim and H.E. Boulos al-Yazigi. Since there is still no evidence about their situation, we continue to push the international community to provide honest information and clarity about this strange case.
- On 24 April 2015, we commemorate the Sayfo together with our Armenian friends and neighbors. This year, we have had and will continue to have many Sayfo activities, from a recent congress to lectures, exhibitions and publications. We have also cooperated on a documentary together with one of the biggest Dutch TV Channels that we will show first on 20 April to 425 Arameans in one of the big cinemas in the Netherlands and which will be shown on 22 April on the Dutch Channel 2. After this, we will translate this film into different languages and show it also in other countries. We will do our best to provide an Arabic version of the movie and send it also to you in due time.
- In the coming months, you will be hearing a lot more about us, our views, principles and work.
SIGNATORIES TO THIS LETTER
- Founded in 1983, the WCA is a global umbrella organization of Federations in Europe, Australia, America and the Middle East. Since 1999, it is a UN NGO (Non-Governmental Organization).
- Suryoyo Sat is the Aramaic satellite channel founded in late 2005 by the WCA, its Member Federations and the Syriac Orthodox Diocese of H.E. Mor Dioscorus Benjamin Atas in Sweden.
- We Are Christians - Aramaic Charity Organization e.V. is a proud member of our Federation in Germany. It is active in Iraq, but from now on it will also offer help to our dear people in Qamishli.
- Founded in 2002, the Syriac/Aramaic Academic Federation (SAAF) is the umbrella organization of our students in Sweden. It has associations at 14 universities and over 2300 registered members.
- Founded in 1992, our Syriac/Aramean Youth Federation (SAUF) is the umbrella organization of our youth in Sweden. It has 26 member associations and more than 10.000 registered members.
- The Syriac Orthodox Diocese of H.E. Mor Dioscorus Benjamin Atas in Sweden and its Youth Federation known as SOKU are also part of our united efforts to support our people in Qamishli.
Today, 21 March 2014, His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, passed away at a hospital in Germany at the age of 81 (1933-2014). The WCA learnt with profound sadness about this news and sent the church leadership a condolence letter in Aramaic.
Click here to download the letter in Aramaic.
On 21 March 2014, the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) sent a letter of condolence in Aramaic addressed to the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, the clergy and the pious faithful, on the passing of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.
The WCA expressed great sorrow about the loss of this great leader, who served his flock as Patriarch since 1980, and led the Syriac Orthodox community through various crises in the homelands, particularly in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Our conversations and cooperation with His Holiness gave the WCA, in addition to his blessings, much strength and inspiration to continue serving the Aramean people.
In due honor of the 34-year long services to the Aramean (Syriac) people by the late Patriarch, we also produced this short video in his memory. We sincerely admired and loved His Holiness, and we will always remember him as a righteous shepherd.
What Do Aramean (Syriac) Christians Really Want in Syria?
By Daniel Gabriel, Human Rights and UN NGO Director, World Council of Arameans (Syriacs)1
Syria is at a critical impasse. While the so called “Arab-Awakening” has called for increased democracy and freedom across the Middle East, countries like Syria are now experiencing the complete opposite. We are seeing calls for the shedding of more blood and we have seen the demise of society, the fear of all, a horrific future for minorities and an imminent sectarian war.
Tomorrow, 27 March, there will be a Special Meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC), that discusses the situation of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. The WCA sent all Members a critical letter that contains three important recommendations and called upon them "to take a leadership position" on this neglected issue. The meeting will be chaired by France who convened the meeting after repeated calls from Russia, Lebanon and the Holy See. The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church from Baghdad, His Holiness Louis Raphaël I Sako, has also been invited for a historical opportunity to address the UNSC on behalf of the endangered Christians of the Middle East.
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
I refer to the UNSC meeting to be held on 27 March 2015 in relation to the near death of the Christians of the Middle East. Our UN NGO representation of Christians in the affected region compels us to urgently request your adoption of a clear RESOLUTION that includes the assurance of the survival of Eastern Christianity in its birthplace. To accomplish this critical aim, we make the following three (3) recommendations.
- Appoint a UN High Commissioner for or a Special Rapporteur on the threatened Christians of the Middle East to monitor their alarming and deteriorating situation in their ancient homeland. The mandate of this Office shall include meeting with representative organizations, visiting affected areas in countries such as Syria and Iraq (including refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey), the publication of letters, press releases and semi-annual progress reports as well as the hosting of public awareness events such as conferences, hearings and seminars, which aim to effectively represent the voice of the voiceless Middle Eastern Christians.
- Create a UN Fund for the threatened Christians of the Middle East. In the absence of state sponsored aid to the indigenous Christian groups in the Middle East, it is of critical importance to create a Fund that covers both humanitarian aid and development aid. Further, due to the mass exodus of the Christians in the past decades, targeted help to the diaspora communities in order to organize themselves, safeguard their endangered cultural heritage and protect their communal identity. In the case of the Aramean (Syriac) Christian people, for instance, their Aramaic mother tongue, which is widely known as the language of Jesus, is severely endangered, in their homeland as well as in their worldwide diaspora.
- Call for and observe an International Day of Solidarity with the threatened Christians of the Middle East on 7 August, the day on which in 2014 more than 160,000 Aramean Christians were uprooted overnight from their ancestral land in Mosul. Such an easy to implement proposal, as in the case of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, will help to increase public awareness of their hitherto neglected plight. It will also enable the Christian populations to more effectively seek and obtain help from governments, who often do not dare to publicly support the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, due to known reasons.
We ask the UNSC to take a leadership position on this critical issue and look to the long term future of the indigenous Christians in the region. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) requests your help to ensure that the Christians remain in their homeland to continue their role as peace makers, cultural entrepreneurs and ambassadors who carry the values and ideals that were the foundation for Western civilization.
We believe that the UNSC has now the last chance to repair the broken ethno-religious mosaic of the Middle East. Otherwise, we fear that in the next decade the New Middle East will descend into a horrific battlefield between ethnic and religious groups, including Jews and Muslims in general and Sunnis and Shiites in particular.
The Aramean Christians, who are the indigenous people of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, look anxiously forward to the outcome of your critical meeting. We hope that you will take firm decisions and find a solution to the critical question of the survival of the endangered Christian populations in the Middle East, who continue to suffer from genocide, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity.
We thank you kindly in advance for your urgent consideration and support, and remain yours sincerely.
Hengelo, 13 december 2013
ETNISCHE ZUIVERINGEN CHRISTENEN IN SYRIË: OPROEP TOT HULP EN INFORMATIEVERGARING BZ?
Geachte leden van de Vaste Commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken,
Namens de World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) en onze dochterorganisatie de Suryoye Aramese Federatie Nederland (“SAFN”) vragen wij wederom uw dringende aandacht voor de aanhoudende etnische zuiveringen, de sluimerende genocide en de massale exodus van de inheemse christelijke bevolking van Syrië, waar wij hetzelfde ervaren als eerder in Zuidoost-Turkije en Irak.
1. Op 9 juli 2013 was er een Aramese delegatie naar Den Haag afgereisd om het ministerie van Buitenlandse zaken (vertegenwoordigd door dhr. H. Quarles van Ufford, plaatsvervangend directeur Noord-Afrika en Midden-Oosten) in te lichten over de voornoemde punten.
2. Op 17 oktober jl. vond hetzelfde plaats. In samenwerking met Kerk in Actie werd ditmaal de Syrisch-orthodoxe bisschop Z.E. Dionysius Jean Kawak uit Damascus uitgenodigd om de Vaste Commissie (voorgezeten door CDA-Kamerlid dhr. P. Omtzigt) alsmede de Directie Stabiliteit en Humanitaire Hulp (onder leiding van mw. M. Jansen) hierover te informeren. Zie: Syriac Orthodox Bishop from Damascus asks Dutch and German Parliaments, Media and Christian NGOs for Help
3. Tijdens deze ontmoetingen en in de daaropvolgende periode hebben wij, evenals onze zusterorganisatie de Aramese Beweging voor Mensenrechten (ABM), u allen en Z.E. dhr. F. Timmermans (Minister van BZ) afdoende documentatie doen toekomen via onze websites en mailinglijsten over de hachelijke positie van de Aramese christenen in en rondom Syrië.
Edesa Mutlu (SAFN) overhandigt de petitie betreffende de situatie van christenen in Syrië aan de Vaste Commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken