ZALIN, Syria — Co-Chair of the Syriac Union Party Nazira Goreya told SuroyoTV on Thursday that the conviction of monk “Aho” Sefer Bileçen is a part of a wider policy of repression by the Turkish government to push the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people out of their native lands in Tur Abdin in southeastern Turkey.
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.
“The sentence handed down to monk Aho is a political ruling that serves only the interests of the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey that aims to systematically displace our people from their historic areas in Tur Abdin,” said Goreya, referencing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP).
“His conviction is part of a series of policies pursued against our people in recent years, starting with the confiscation of church land, the case of the Syriac Member of Turkish Parliament Tuma Çelik, and many other unjust acts against our people,” Goreya elaborated.
These policies are not new, she continued, they are the latest in a campaign lasting centuries aimed at emptying areas inhabited by Syriacs (Arameans–Assyrians–Chaldeans).
“As the Syriac Union Party and as Christians, we call on the United Nations and the international community to stop these practices and this exclusionary ideology which aims to eliminate and marginalize our people so that no other sword will be used against us,” said Goreya. “We call on our people to join hands with all possibilities and means and demand that the policies targeting us be abolished.”
“We will seek to undo this injustice and the release of monk Aho,” she concluded.