Stockholm, 6 August 2013
RE: REQUEST TO CLARIFY REPORTS ABOUT KIDNAPPED BISHOPS FROM SYRIA ALLEGEDLY HELD IN TURKEY
Your Excellency, Dear Mr. Davutoğlu,
We wish to draw your attention once again to the uncertain fate of the Greek and Syriac Orthodox Bishops of Aleppo, Msgr. Boulos Yazigi and Msgr. Yuhanon Ibrahim. Today it has been 106 days since they were abducted. All signs of life and their whereabouts are still lacking substantiation. Due to certain news reports, we request Your Excellency to clarify the position of the Turkish Government.
None of the efforts to trace the Archbishops have proven fruitful. We denounce the unconfirmed reports which recently have been spread by Turkish TV channels and newspapers, adding to the insecurity and fear that the abduction had already inflicted upon our people. It was reported that the Archbishops were killed, while their kidnappers were arrested and sent back to their countries.
This occurred a few days after You had received an Aramean delegation to which You purportedly ensured that the Bishops were still alive, which implies that more is known than hitherto disclosed.
To be sure, it is not the first time that the media (particularly Turkish media) have circulated unverified reports and even concocted stories about the aforementioned abduction. In fact, this Sunday al-Alam reported that, according to US and British top diplomats, the abducted Archbishops are being kept in Turkey (see “Armed groups affiliated to Istanbul Council and Muslim Brotherhood are holding both bishops in Turkey”).
It strikes us that the US State Department, which guarantees that the Bishops are still alive and well, also appears to believe, according to trustworthy sources who have been in direct contact with the US State Department, that the two men of peace are being held in Turkey.
On 29 April, we met with the interim president of the Syrian National Coalition Mr. George Sabra in Istanbul. Significantly, he stated explicitly that (a) he knew where the kidnappers were and with whom they were still negotiating, and that (b) they were neither Chechen or foreigners nor were the abductors related to the Syrian Government, but they were in fact a local Syrian rebel group.
In the subsequent period, leading members of the Syrian National Council, which is hosted by Turkey in Istanbul, stated a number of times that they were in touch (directly or indirectly) with the kidnappers and that a doctor had visited the Archbishops to ascertain their wellbeing.
It is utterly clear, then, that such rumors and reports ought to be elucidated once and for all in order to prevent the rumors from flying out of control. It is equally clear that more seems to be known about the case and still more can and must be done to release the two Archbishops. Hence we appeal to Your Excellency and the Turkish Government with the kind request to issue:
1. an official and unambiguous statement about this specific abduction case, which
a) strongly condemns this terrorist act,
b) confirms or denies reports that the Bishops are still alive and are being held on Turkish soil,
c) urges the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and affiliated rebel groups in Syria to step up their efforts in finding and releasing the Bishops and the other kidnapped priests.
2. from time to time statements about the fate of the abducted Bishops so that the (Turkish) media can hopefully be prevented from circulating unverified and unsubstantiated reports on this highly sensitive case and instead report conscientiously and truthfully about the matter.
We ask Your Excellency to join us in our determined mission to find the two kidnapped Archbishops and have them return home sound and well to their beloved ones.
We thank you kindly in advance for your consideration and support, and remain yours sincerely,
President World Council of Arameans (Syriacs)
Formerly "Syriac Universal Alliance"