TUR ABDIN: Syriac churches and monasteries nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

TUR ABDIN, Turkey – Eight heritage churches and monasteries of the ancient Syriac region of Tur Abdin in southeastern Turkey have been nominated by Turkey for UNESCO’s Tentative List, reports pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah. With the addition of these Syriac churches and monasteries and the nomination of the historical town of Kemaliye (Eğin) in the province of Erzincan, the number of cultural assets in Turkey on the Tentative List of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites increases to 85. The Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which a country intends to consider for nomination.

The following monasteries and churches in Tur Abdin were added: Mor Gabriel Monastery (est. 397 AD), the Saffron Monastery (493 AD), Mor Sobo Church, Yoldat Aloho Church, Mor Abai Monastery (near the Syriac village of Qelleth), Mor Lazarus Monastery near Hapses, the Churches of Mor Quryaqos in Urdnus and Mor Azozoel in Kfarze, and St Jacob of Saleh Monastery in the Syriac village of Saleh.

Turkey retains a lot of flexibility with regard to the indigenous Syriacs. In the same month, Turkish authorities may sentence a Syriac monk to 2 years and 1 month in prison, send its US ambassador on a charm offensive, deny the Armenian and Sayfo Genocide of 1915, push the Syriac Orthodox Diocese of Istanbul to self-censorship, and nominate 8 late antique and medieval Syriac sacred places to a tentative list.

Read Also: A Farewell to Tur Abdin by Susanne Güsten

There are some 2 thousand Syriacs left in Tur Abdin. Many Syriacs emigrated in the 1960s-1980s to Europe and, many as guest workers, swapped their ancient homeland Tur Abdin for factory work in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland. An estimated 400 thousand Syriacs now live in Europe.