Dutch political party FvD raises case of Syriac monk Aho in parliament, asks Foreign Affairs Minister to bring the matter directly to his Turkish counterpart

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Member of Parliament for the political party Forum voor Democratie (FvD) Simone Kerseboom has asked questions in the Dutch parliament about the trial and the conviction of Syriac Orthodox monk Sefer “Aho” Bilecen. This week, monk Aho was sentenced by a Turkish court to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “aiding terrorists”.

The case has caused much outrage among Syriac political and civil society organizations and has now also raised concerns and questions in Dutch parliament. Forum voor Democratie says in a statement on its website it “is deeply concerned about the disappearance of Syriac culture and the oppression of Christians in the Middle East in general.”

The monk’s remote Mor Yahqub d-Qarno (St Jacob) monastery is located in inaccessible terrain on Tur Izlo – the nearest village is 20 kilometers away – where Kurdish PKK fighters and Turkish security forces often clash. The PKK has been in an armed conflict with the Turkish state for over 40 years. NATO member Turkey has designated the PKK a terrorist organization. And the Syriacs have been caught in between.

Two years ago, 2 unknown men came to the monastery in the middle of the night, the FvD statement says. They asked for food. The man of faith gave them food and water. The 2 men turned out to be Kurdish PKK fighters. Giving food and water has cost monk Aho dearly. The public prosecutor in Merdo (Mardin) had accused him of being a member of a terrorist organization. The judge followed this reasoning, albeit attenuated, and sentenced the monk to 2+ years in prison for aiding members of a terrorist organization.

The parliamentary questions to Minister Blok by MP Kerseboom of Forum voor Democratie are the following:

Question 1: “Have you heard the reports about the “Syriac monk sentenced in Turkey for providing food to Kurds””?

Question 2: “Are you willing to address the matter directly with your Turkish counterpart and do everything in your power to reverse the conviction of the monk in question? If not, why not? And if not, are you willing to do something else to get the monk released?”

Question 3: “Do you acknowledge that the position of Christians in Turkey is getting worse by the day?”

Question 4: “What are you going to do to improve the position of Christians in the Middle East? And, in this case, specifically in Turkey?”

Question 5: “Can you answer the questions in a timely manner and in separate answers?”