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Syriacs Demand to be Included in Iraqi Constitution to Secure their Future in Post-ISIS Era

The indigenous Syriacs (Arameans) of Iraq are deeply concerned about their rights and future in their ancestral land. The Nineveh Plain is close to be reconquered from ISIS, but the Syriacs fear to return home without international protection. The first step to ensure their future in their homeland begins with granting them recognition in Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution.

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Request to amend article 125 of Constitution and ID Card

Iraq’s Arameans express deep concern about the lack of constitutional recognition as a distinct ethno-religious people and their uncertain future in their homeland in the Nineveh Plain which soon may be retaken from ISIS. Unlike other populations in Iraq such as Turkmen, Chaldeans and Assyrians, the Syriacs are not mentioned in Article 125 of the Constitution. Therefore, they are now forced to identify themselves by one of these identities, or the Arab one, and thus adopt an identity that is entirely foreign to them in the ID Cards that have to be issued. This has caused serious concerns and angry reactions among hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s indigenous Arameans in and outside Iraq who refuse to identify themselves other than Syriacs or Arameans.

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) addresses this pertinent issue in a letter that has been sent by the WCA to Iraqi government officials and the media. The WCA and its Member Federations also sent the letters to Iraq’s Ambassadors across Europe, the USA and Australia, requesting them to share it with Baghdad and the dignitaries in charge of constitutional amendments and also requesting for meetings to further clarify the issue and the uncertain future of Iraq’s Aramean Christians in the post-ISIS period in Iraq, considering that the Nineveh Plains may be reconquered in the near future.

Scroll down below to download the letter of the WCA and the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Archbishops of Iraq. Also, view the video message of the WCA President and the Vice-Chairman of the Aramean Federation in the Netherlands. 

 The Syriac Catholic activist Isho' Majeed Hadaya (1954-2006) was murdered on 22 November 2006 in his hometown of Baghdeda (Qaraqosh), North Iraq, because of his Aramean Christian identity. At his funeral, the Aramaic flag was laid on his coffin.

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Report on kidnapped bishops in Syria 22 April 2013-2016

22 APRIL 2013-2016: THE NEGLECTED CASE OF
THE TWO KIDNAPPED ARCHBISHOPS OF SYRIA


Today it is three years since, on April 22, 2013, the two archbishops of Aleppo, the Syriac Orthodox H.E. Mor Gregorius Yuhanna Ibrahim and the Greek (also called Rum or Melkite) Orthodox H.E. Boulos Yazigi, were kidnapped by unidentified armed men in the north of Syria.

 

Since their abduction, we are still no closer to knowing what really happened to these prelates. Neither are we closer to confirming the identity and motives of the kidnappers. There has been no progress on this question and many people around the world, notably the Arameans (Syriacs), continue to think and ask about the whereabouts of their religious leaders. In light of the increasing victimization and decline of the Middle Eastern Christians, it is remarkable that this case has hardly received the necessary attention of governments and mainstream media alike.

Therefore, this report will first briefly summarize what reportedly has happened three years ago, then sum up the noteworthy chronological developments of this case, review the role of politicians and media, and end with some remarks and questions that still demand answers.

 

OUTLINE OF THE WCA REPORT, PUBLISHED ON 22 APRIL 2016:

I.     The abduction of the two archbishops of Aleppo, Syria
II.    Noteworthy Chronological Chain of Events
III.   The Role of the International Political Community
IV.   The Role of the Mainstream Media
V.    Final remarks: Abduction case a prelude to end of Aramean Christianity in Syria?
       ENDNOTES

 

Click here to read and download (.PDF) this 6-page summary Report !

Click also here for the WCA file of the kidnapped archbishops 

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WCA President Meets Turkish Prime Minister in The Hague on Turkey and Syria

Yesterday, 10 February 2016, the President of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) Mr. Johny Messo met with Turkey’s Prime Minister His Excellency Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu in The Hague, the Netherlands. They touched on Syria-related issues and discussed the future of Turkey’s indigenous Aramean minority group. 

Although aware that countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Greece carry the heavy burden of the refugee crisis that is still growing, the WCA requested the Turkish Government whether it is able to find ways to provide sufficient humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of Aramean refugees from Syria and Iraq who are scattered across Turkey. For they are not registered at the UNHCR refugee camps. The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the local Aramean refugee committees in Istanbul, Mardin and Midyat that help alleviate the refugee situation in the country. “We appreciate the Arameans,” he said, “and we will continue to do what we can to make the Aramean refugees from Syria and Iraq feel at home in Turkey.”

Since the kidnapping of the Archbishops of Aleppo, H.E. Gregorius Hanna Ibrahim and H.E. Boulos al-Yazigi, by a rebel group near the Turkish-Syrian border on 22 April 2013, nothing has been heard or seen from them. Asked about this situation, the Prime Minister explained that Turkey has no new information about this abduction case, which remains shrouded in obscurity. He assured: “We are still closely following this case and we are continuously trying to find out more about the kidnapped religious leaders.”

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Concerning the current security operations in Southeast Turkey, particularly in Diyarbakir, the WCA stressed the need to ensure safety measures in the region, and pay special heed to the final remaining Aramean families, churches and monasteries. The Syriac Orthodox priest of Diyarbakir Fr. Yusuf Akbulut and his family recently had to flee their home and the 1700-year-old St. Mary Church as a result of these operations. The Prime Minister, having received Fr. Yusuf last week at his office in Ankara and later again in the city of Mardin, understood the concerns of the Arameans, reaffirming: “We really value the Aramean Christians, who have always been good citizens of Turkey, and we have great respect for the Aramean cultural heritage. Our security forces have been instructed to protect both civilians and heritage sites.” 

The WCA President presented the Prime Minister a key document that summarizes what Turkey’s Arameans request from their Government. He noted that this paper was also given to Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Bülent Arinc, at the UN in Geneva last year (see here). Concerning a secure and bright future for the Arameans in Southeast Turkey, Mr. Messo noted: “We regard these ten points and the additional recommendations as a roadmap towards the potential reintegration of the Arameans in Turkey, their homeland. We realize that there is still a long road ahead of us to resolve existing questions that can and need to be turned into opportunities. Until then, however, we will continue to seek a constructive dialogue with Turkish state officials.”

The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for the WCA’s diplomatic approach and emphasized that the Aramean people should always remain connected with their homeland and, if possible, even return to Turkey. His Excellency Mr. Davutoğlu invited the WCA President for further talks in Ankara and stated: “Turkey is also your country. We invite you and our Aramean citizens in the diaspora countries to return home whenever they want.”

Mr. Messo thanked the Prime Minister for taking the time to meet with the WCA and discuss pertinent questions concerning the needs and challenges of the Arameans, despite his tight schedule during his one-day visit to The Netherlands. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Yalçın Akdoğan and the Turkish Ambassador to the Netherlands H.E. Mr. Sadık Arslan, whereas the WCA President was joined by the WCA UN NGO Director Ms. Sarah Bakir.

Click here to download and read this file in PDF

  

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Then Turkey's Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was welcomed at the Aramaic association of St. Peter and Paul in Cologne (Köln), Germany, on 4 December 2011. Click here to watch his speech and that of WCA President Johny Messo. The Minister was accompanied by Turkey's Incumbent Ambassador, the New Ambassador and the Counsel General. 

  


 

What do the Aramean (Syriac) People of Turkey want?

 

Meeting with His Excellency
Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
10 February 2016

 

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) welcomes the distinguished Delegation of Turkey, headed by His Excellency Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, to The Netherlands. As the indigenous people of Southeast Turkey, we request His Excellency’s Government to renew Turkey’s Constitution and to develop a comprehensive and all‐inclusive policy on minorities in compliance with international treaties, conventions and standards. We also would like to bring to Turkey’s immediate attention the following issues, recommendations and opportunities.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS: WE ASK TURKEY TO

1. Officially recognize the Arameans as a ‘minority’, in line with the Lausanne Treaty and the existing international treaties on minority rights that are especially guaranteed by the UN;

2. Officially recognize the Arameans as ‘indigenous people’ of Southeast Turkey, in keeping with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples signed by Turkey in 2007 and Resolution 1704 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;

3. End the delays of legal cases that ancient monasteries, villages and proprietors are facing, as noted by the European Court of Human Rights Annual Reports;

4. Stop the illegal expropriation of huge amounts of land that historically and legally belongs to the Aramean people, as affirmed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;

5. Accept its responsibility in restoring, safeguarding, developing and promoting the endangered Aramaic cultural heritage in Southeast Turkey;

6. Take historic steps in funding schools that teach Aramaic in the Aramaic language, train teachers of this language and prepare textbooks and materials that will be used at such schools;

7. Assist and sponsor the Aramean Diaspora that originates from Turkey in effectively preserving the threatened Aramaic language, culture and identity;

8. To invest structurally in its south-eastern region, particularly to improve the security, infrastructure, job employment and facilities for attractive life circumstances in the area;

9. Ensure that the Tur-Abdin region in Southeast Turkey continues to be populated by its original inhabitants and that measures are taken to increase the current Aramean population of 3,000 souls who are struggling for survival and a brighter future in Tur-Abdin.

10. Offer a sincere explanation for the loss of 500,000 innocent Arameans in its south-eastern territory between 1895-1923, which experts qualify as a ‘genocide’, and a solution for this issue.

 

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS OR OPPORTUNITIES

The WCA has five additional recommendations for Turkey which, if implemented, will improve the situation in our homeland and the dialogue between the Turkish Government and the Aramean people. There are indeed many opportunities which we should jointly pursue and work on together.

We have excluded from this online document our five unique ideas and proposals,
which we plan to implement and realize in 2016.

If the Turkish Government has the political will to work with the Arameans in order to turn existing issues into solutions and opportunities, the WCA is assured that we will improve the situation of the Aramean people and secure a bright future for them in their homeland. For Turkey, too, there is much to gain here. Everything boils down to Turkey’s willingness to recognize and appreciate our existence, in addition to equal rights that are constitutionally guaranteed and implemented.

 

Click here to download and read this file in PDF.  

# On 27 January 2015, the WCA met with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Bülent Arınç, at the United Nations Office in Geneva and presented this same key document to him and his high-level delegation. See here. 

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24-26 January 2011: Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe. Press Conference by then Turkish President Abdullah Gül (left) & Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, then President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2010 to 2012 (right). Then Turkey's Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu (left) was standing there as well as WCA President Johny Messo (right). 

 

 

 

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European Parliament Adopts Resolution: ISIS commits Genocide against Minorities of Iraq and Syria

The European Parliament just voted in favor of the Joint Motion for the Resolution “on the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’.” The WCA and other ISIS victims around the world warmly welcome the outcome of the vote. See also this important letter the WCA sent yesterday and this morning to the Members of the European Parliament. 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.

The European Parliament just voted in favor of the Joint Motion for the Resolution “on the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’” (2016/2529(RSP)), following its debate on 20 January 2016. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) and other ISIS victims around the world warmly welcome the outcome of the vote.

The European Parliament has shown that it closely follows the plight of the vulnerable ethno-religious minorities in the Middle East and that it is sincerely concerned about their dim future. In addition to the human rights abuses and the crimes against humanity, it also denounced “in the strongest terms the destruction of religious and cultural sites and artefacts” by ISIS. Thus, the European Parliament has shown moral leadership and courage. It has also given the forgotten minorities hope and a voice.

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With the adoption of this Resolution in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament has also given a clear and strong message to the rest of the international community, including the governments and parliaments of the 28 EU Member States, the institutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.

The Resolution calls upon each of these international institutions and power-holders to act without further delay in order to put an end to the ongoing genocide by ISIS and to find an urgent solution to the disappearing minority groups of the Middle East. The WCA President, Johny Messo, commented:

“Today’s recognition by the European Parliament is the first serious step towards justice and security. It has heard the never-ending appeals made by the vulnerable ethno-religious minority groups of Iraq and Syria, such as the Aramean Christians and Yezidis, who were among the first victims of genocide by ISIS and who still struggle for survival. Encouraged by this Resolution, we will continue our struggle for justice, recognition and the threatened existence of our people by the rest of the world community, spearheaded by the United Nations Security Council.”

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The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) is a worldwide umbrella organization and a United Nations NGO that represents the voice of the indigenous Aramean people of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. Since 2014, this Semitic people and its cultural heritage also fell victim to the ongoing acts of genocide committed by ISIS. However, many systematic mass murders by other Militant Islamic groups before ISIS emerged on the scene went underreported by the mainstream media.

Until the conflicted erupted in 2011, the Christians constituted 10% (2,3 million) of Syria’s national population. Hundreds of thousands of Arameans have already fled their war-torn homeland. The same holds true for Iraq, where the 1.4 million Aramean Christians in 2003 have dwindled down to a few hundred thousand in 2016.

The Arameans have retained their 3,000-year old Aramaic mother tongue, which is widely known as the language of Jesus, and they are indigenous to Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. However, in none of these countries they are officially recognized as a distinct people and they continue to struggle for recognition and survival. Therefore, your voice and support are much needed: www.SupportWCA.com.

Download, print and read this press release here in PDF.

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Syriac Orthodox Church under Attack in Diyarbakir, Southeast Turkey

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) has just received alarming messages from the final remaining Arameans in the Sur district of Diyarbakir in Southeast Turkey, that this unique heritage site is in great danger of being destroyed soon. The last Aramean family in the city, which once was inhabited by thousands of Arameans, was barely able to find a safe place.

 

24 May 2012: In front of the Syriac Orthodox St. Mary Church. H.E. Mor Gregorius Melki Ürek, the Bishop of Adiyaman and Urfa (Edessa); Fr. Yusuf Akbulut, the priest of the Church; the Sur District Mayor, Mr. Abdullah Demirbas; Aramean Committee Members in charge of the Church; the WCA Delegation, headed by Mr. Johny Messo.

Our local sources inform us that the area surrounding the ancient-old Syriac Orthodox St. Mary Church in the Sur district has been destroyed. One of its walls may possibly have been damaged. The WCA President, Johny Messo, spoke to the last remaining family and became extremely concerned about the ongoing developments in this part of the city. While speaking over the phone, one could even hear explosions and gunfire in the background.

Fr. Yusuf and his wife are the last Aramean family who could barely escape the fighting. With a traumatized voice, he explained: “My wife and I managed to escape the Church just moments ago with great difficulty. Even the police could not help us when we contacted them, because they were not allowed to enter this part of the town. A few days ago, we already sent our children away in order to put them in safety. My wife and I, however, could not leave this ancient-old Church,” which symbolizes the last living presence of the Arameans in this once flourishing Aramean city.

He continued to explain that they were left no choice anymore, but to escape at once: “We heard the fighting coming closer to us and we felt the ground shaking more and more. Especially my wife got terribly afraid and then we both decided that we had to run for our lives. We ran outside with white flags in our hands and, thank God, we could barely find a safe place. Not even at home or church we were safe. Our psychology has been greatly impacted by what we have experienced lately.”

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24 May 2012: The Sur District Mayor, Mr. Abdullah Demirbas, speaking about why his Council decided to accept the WCA's request to rename a street after an Aramean street. Here he is also seen wearing his medal of honor, which the WCA gave him for his efforts to promote the ethno-religious diversity of the town.

Asked about the conditions of the ancient church, whether or not it is still intact, Fr. Yusuf answered: “When we escaped, we saw so many streets completely destroyed. Our hometown was unrecognizable and it looked like a war zone. We don’t know what has happened to our Church, because we didn’t dare to look while we were running for our lives. Now we have little hope left that there can be a future for us, Aramean Christians, to stay in the land of our forefathers.”

The WCA has immediately informed various Turkish Government officials, requesting their urgent intervention. The fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurdish PKK has seen a resurgence lately in many towns and cities across Southeast Turkey. The WCA has asked to immediately instruct the army units operative in Diyarbakir to spare innocent civilians and ancient heritage sites.

The WCA has visited the Arameans, the church, the governor, the mayor and the mayor of the Sur district in Diyarbakir more than once. On 24 May 2012, the WCA was able to get the street of the church respectfully renamed after one of the saints and scholars of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Jacob (Dionysius) Bar-Salibi (†1171). The Council of the Sur district approved the request and the then mayor, Mr. Abdullah Demirbas, and the WCA President both attached the Turkish street name sign to the wall of the St. Mary Church that has now come under siege. A few months later, again upon the request of the WCA, the same sign was added in the Aramaic language.

For more photos, see http://www.wca-ngo.org/multimedia/galleries/wca-images/opening-bar-salibi-street-in-diyarbakir-turkey-24-may-2012.

Download the current press release here in PDF. 

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24 May 2012: The courtyard of the St. Mary Church, filled with Aramean Christians from Istanbul and the WCA Delegation.

 

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24 May 2012: The WCA President, Mr. Johny Messo, is seen here confirming the street name sign to the Church Wall.

 

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24 May 2012: Fr. Yusuf Akbulut of the St. Mary Church, right behind the Church posing with the WCA Delegation, consisting of (right to left): Mr. Philip Hanna (WCA Legal Counsel), Mr. Sabo Hanna (WCA Cultural Heritage Director), Mr. Johny Messo (WCA President), Mr. Melki Toprak (Chairman of the Federation of Arameans in Switzerland), Mr. Nail Can (Vice-Chairman of the Aramaic satellite channel Suryoyo Sat). The sign above is written in Latin characters, but is Aramaic for: WELCOME. 

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New Bomb Attack kills Three Aramean Christians in Qamishli, northeast Syria

On Sunday evening, 24 January 2016, the formerly predominantly Aramean Christian city of Qamishli in northeast Syria has been attacked for the third time in less than a month time. Café Star in the largely Christian quarter of the city was bombed, resulting in the death of at least three Aramean young men and about 10 persons injured.

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Ongoing Kurdish Terror Attacks Against Aramean Christians in Syria

 URGENT APPEAL TO MEDIA, POLITICIANS, EMBASSIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

 

The Christians of Syria are under attack yet again. However, this time from those who until now have been perceived as victims themselves – the Kurds. In a shocking move, Kurdish YPG forces have unleashed a wave of ongoing intimidations, threats and assaults on the final remaining Aramean Christians in northeast Syria. The WCA condemns this campaign of terror against a vulnerable minority and calls upon the media, politicians and human rights organizations to speak out and help to cease the policy of covert demographic engineering.

The burial of Aramean martyr Gabi Henry Daoud has attracted hundreds of Arameans and others in Qamishli, Syria 

Buyono: hcomo al a Suryoye bi Qamishlo

U Huyodo Suryoyo Tibeloyo wa Huyodaydeh b-awyutho qwitho ne ‘am u Sootoro bi Qamishlo u lo kmaqbli ayna gabo, gayso aw ‘amo nukhroyo d-qoyem mqabel du ‘amo Suryoyo wa noturaydeh!

 

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