European Syriac Union holds demonstration in Brussels in support of Syriac monk Aho Bileçen

BRUSSELS — Since the conviction of Syriac Orthodox monk Sefer (Aho) Bileçen of the Mor Yahqup d-Qarne Monastery to 25 months in prison on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” by a Turkish court, a number of Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) organizations and political parties, including the European Syriac Union (ESU), have advocated for his immediate release.

Today, in front of the European Union headquarter in Brussels, ESU and the Syriac Youth Union organized a demonstration demanding that the charges be dropped and the court’s unjust decision be overturned. The demonstration adhered to all recommended coronavirus preventive measures,

The demonstration, which began at 09:00, included a speech in English by the ESU Co-Chair Fehmi Vergili, translated into French by ESU member David Karaga.

Vergili stated that the aim of the demonstration is to draw international attention to the case of monk Aho and secure his release. The ESU will continue to inform European governments and institutions of developments in the case and push them to pressure Turkey into releasing monk Aho.

Monk Aho was arrested on 9 January 2020 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.

Monk Aho released the following statement through his lawyers at the time of his initial arrest:

“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.”