MERDO (MARDIN) / TUR ABDIN, southeast Turkey — Syriac Orthodox monk Sefer (Aho) Bileçen of the Mor Yahqup d-Qarne Monastery has been sentenced by a Turkish court to two years and one month in prison.
Monk Aho was arrested on 9 January 2020 on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” but released on parole also after public pressure. He was charged with having given food and water to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is designated a terrorist organization in Turkey. In his testimony the Syriac monk does not deny having given food and water but that he did not know that the people were members of the PKK organization.
After his arrest and a meeting with members of the Urfa Bar Association and Human Rights Commission, monk Aho shared the following message through his lawyers:
“In 2018, two organization members came to the monastery. They asked me for food which I gave them. This incident was later determined and the Commander of the Metropolitan Gendarme at the time met with me. I did not deny the incident. I asked for security measures to prevent the incident from happening again, but no security measures were taken.
I thought the matter was closed after my testimony was recorded. I will give food and water to anyone who comes to my door. I have to give it out of my religious and philosophical beliefs. I cannot lie because I am a monk-priest. I gave food not to help any organization, but out of my beliefs. From a religious and philosophical perspective, I cannot report it. I can’t leave the monastery anyway.”
Monk Aho left his secular life in metropolitan Istanbul behind to take care and revive, on his own, the Syriac Orthodox Mor Yahqub d-Qarne monastery in the mountains of Tur Izlo.