WCA sends EU Turkey Rapporteur recommendations regarding Resolution

Stockholm, 4 November 2013 

Click here to download the letter

On Friday, 1 November 2013 the European Parliament's Turkey Rapporteur, Ms. Ria Oomen-Ruijten, and her delegation visited the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Istanbul and Ankara to review the situation of Turkey's native Arameans. Ms. Oomen-Ruijten was in the country to prepare a Motion for a Resolution on Turkey's 2013 Progress Report, which the European Commission published last month. This meeting had been arranged by the WCA, which also sent a letter to the Turkey Rapporteur that included the below recommendations concerning the future presence of the native Arameans in Turkey.

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) refers to the European Commission’s Turkey 2013 Progress Report (“Progress Report”) released on 16 October 2013.

As an NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, we are grateful for this Progress Report. We have carefully reviewed it and commend all efforts dealing with minority rights in Turkey. However, much remains to be done in this respect for Turkey to align its forthcoming Constitution, the implementation of its laws and the promotion of its core values with those of the European community.

In view of your Motion for a Resolution on the Progress Report on Turkey and your visit to our diocese in Istanbul, we are compelled to bring two crucial recommendations to your immediate attention pertinent for the survival of the native Arameans (Syriacs) in Turkey, particularly in the Southeastern part of our country.


Recommendation 1: Recognition by Constitution as Minority and Indigenous People

The WCA welcomes the recent ruling of the administrative court in Ankara, which allows the Arameans in Istanbul to finally found a kindergarten on the basis of the Treaty of Lausanne. Although this decision is a great step forward, we hope that this will pave the way to the official recognition of our people by law and ensure our continued presence in our ancient homeland.

The Arameans virtually do not exist yet within Turkish society, despite the fact that they are the native inhabitants of Southeast Turkey. This is a critical issue which has not been adequately addressed to date. Hence it is both just and reasonable, and even necessary for the survival of the Arameans in their ancestral lands, to request such recognition. We respectfully ask the European Parliament to make the following Recommendation to Turkey, along a similar line of Resolution 1704 adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January 2010:

“the European Parliament calls upon Turkey to have the forthcoming Constitution recognize, promote and protect the Aramean people as a minority, which moreover is indigenous to Southeast Turkey, in conformity with the Lausanne Treaty and related international conventions which guarantee their fundamental human rights and dignity; this shall include, but not be limited to, officially developing their education and carrying out religious services in their Aramaic mother tongue.”

Recommendation 2: Expropriation of Aramean lands beyond St. Gabriel Monastery

There is substantial evidence, including Turkish governmental records, illustrating that a significant amount of land has been, and continues to be, expropriated from the native Aramean people in Southeast Turkey. The WCA is currently finalizing an initial detailed report which provides evidence from more than 30 villages and towns faced with illegal expropriation of land which remains unresolved. This is a continuation of the same policy which has seen the much publicized St. Gabriel Monastery face several disturbing show trials in the recent years. Therefore, we request the following Recommendation is put to Turkey:

“the European Parliament continues to express concern about the status of the unlawful appropriation of significant amounts of land in Southeast Turkey historically and legally belonging to many ancient Aramean monasteries, churches and proprietors.”

We both agree that the quintessential values of minority rights and democracy are the underpinnings of a civilized society and are indispensable for European stability and progress. Our Recommendations are rather simple and merely a reflection of what is required in response to the deplorable realities faced by Turkey’s minorities, especially the vulnerable ones.

Although Arameans with time have become a minority, they are also native to Southeast Turkey, unlike other minorities which have fairly recently established themselves in our ancestral land. Threatened with imminent extinction in their ancient homeland, one would expect that the European Parliament would exert all efforts in avoiding this realistic catastrophe from occurring. Hence we call upon the European Parliament to monitor the precarious situation of the Arameans in Southeast Turkey by way of conducting annual reviews. This will ensure that policy and decision making at the higher levels of government is actually being implemented on ground.

We trust that you and your fellow Members of the European Parliament will critically address the urgent issues raised in our letter. Should you wish to discuss any of the points addressed herein, please do not hesitate to contact myself or Ms. Sarah Bakir, our Director of EU and Council of Europe Affairs.

Respectfully yours,

Johny Messo


Photo: EPA




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