The uncompromising premise of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) is that the Aramean (Syriac) people and their Aramaic language are native to Southeast Turkey. Their historical presence in this region spans more than 3,000 years.
While we respect Turkey’s territorial integrity, we do believe that this Republic ought to recognize and appreciate the Aramean people and their cultural heritage as an enrichment to its nation. And in keeping with international law, standards and values, its Government should keenly support the Aramean people in safeguarding, developing and promoting their Aramaic cultural heritage.
There is a variety of conclusive evidence to substantiate the ancient presence of the Arameans and their language in Tur ‘Abdin, which is Aramaic for “the mountain of the servants [of God]” and an erstwhile densely populated Christian region in Southeast Turkey. A few examples from the writings of independent scholars will be cited to illustrate this undisputed fact:
“In the early Byzantine period and the first centuries of Islam, Tūr ‘Abdīn was probably inhabited almost entirely by Christian Arameans. Later, more and more Muslims (mainly Kurds) settled there.” The increase of the Kurdish population in this region occurred in the previous centuries, especially in the last one.1
“The area around the Tūr ‘Abdīn remained a main centre of speakers of Aramaic through centuries, and it is no hazard that Nusaybin and Mardin, to the south of the mountain, and Amida, to its north, were later important centres of the earliest Christian literature in Aramaic.”2
Regarding Beth Zamani, an Aramean city-state in the early first millennium B.C., it is widely known that “its capital city was then Amida, modern Diyarbakır.”3
“Tur ‘Abdin has a history of one and a half millennia before the conversion of its Aramean inhabitants to Christianity and is mentioned in several Assyrian records, such as Adadninari I (1305-1274) and Salmanassar I (1274-1244), in which wine regions, especially the good wine of the Mount Izala, a name still used for the southern part of Tur ‘Abdin, is mentioned.”4
Palmer rightly deduced from the Assyrian annals: “Not only are several of the village names still in use, even these types of farming and the same skill in metalwork are characteristic of the ancient Aramaic stock of Christians who are the hereditary inhabitants of the [Tur ‘Abdin] plateau.”5
“This confirms a certain continuity, if not a direct descent, between the Aramaean world, and the Syriac world, and the Church that would bear that name.” 6
- W.P. Heinrichs, “Tūr ‘Abdīn,” in P.J. Bearman et al. (eds.), in The Encyclopaedia of Islam Vol. X (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 666.
- E. Lipiński, “The Linguistic Geography of Syria in Iron Age II (c. 1000-600 B.C.),” in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (2000), 136.
- Idem, The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion (Peeters, 2000), p. 136; on Beth Zamani, see pp. 135-161.
- R. Macuch, “Tur ‘Abdin Through the Ages,” in Abr-Nahrain 29 (1991), p. 92.
- A.N. Palmer, Monk and Mason on the Tigris Frontier: The Early History of Tur ‘Abdin (Cambridge, 1990), p. 15.
- S. de Courtois, The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, The Last Arameans (translated from French by V. Aurora and published by Gorgias Press, 2004), p. 279.