KIDNAPPED ARCHBISHOPS FROM SYRIA ALLEGEDLY HELD IN TURKEY
London, 6 August 2013 - Today it has been 106 days since the abduction of the Greek and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Msgr. Boulos Yazigi and Msgr. Yuhanon Ibrahim. Rumors about their fate and alleged location in Turkey are still circulating like wild fire. Signs of life and reports about their whereabouts call for an immediate confirmation or denial by Governments.
The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) denounces the unverified 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 the Aramean (Syriac) people. It was reported that the two Bishops were killed, whereas their kidnappers were arrested and immediately sent back to their countries.
This occurred a few days after Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, had received an Aramean delegation to which he purportedly ensured that the Bishops were still alive, which implies that more is known than hitherto disclosed.
It is not the first time that the media (particularly Turkish media) have circulated unconfirmed 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 kidnapped Archbishops are being kept in Turkey (see “Armed groups affiliated to Istanbul Council and Muslim Brotherhood are holding both bishops in Turkey”).
It is striking 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, the WCA met in Istanbul with the then interim president of the Syrian National Coalition, Mr. George Sabra. Significantly, he stated unambiguously 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 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 abduction case and still more can and must be done to release the two Archbishops.
“It is hard to tell,” according to the WCA President, Mr. Johny Messo, “what is really going on. Hence we ask governments to release official statements in order to confirm or deny what is being published by the media. Today we have addressed the Turkish Foreign Minister, hoping that he will clarify the matter on behalf of the Turkish Government. We will again contact other Governments and request Members of parliaments and Congress to do the same and to assist us in this puzzling abduction case.”
Photo: US Gov.