Tel Tamr: An example of cultural and linguistic diversity and co-existence in North and East Syria

TEL TAMR, Syria — The town of Tel Tamr, situated in the Khabur River Valley of North and East Syria, has long been an example of diversity and coexistence in Syria. West of Hasakah city, Tel Tamr is home to Christians and Muslims, Syriacs (Arameans–Assyrians–Chaldeans), Arabs, and Kurds. Friendships cross ethnic and religious boundaries. It is not uncommon for the residents of the town to speak at least one other of their neighbors languages.

SuroyoTV correspondent Ahmed Samila travelled to Tel Tamr and conducted several interviews with residents, painting a picture of a town of cultural and linguist diversity.

Khama um Danka, an Assyrian man speaking in Kurdish, told SuroyoTV:

“My name is Khama um Danka. I am an Assyrian in Tel Tamr. I speak good Kurdish and our neighbors are Kurds. I do not see a distinction between Assyrians and Kurds, I have a good relationship with the Kurdish people. Recently the difficult conditions of the region ruled the people here, but I am sure that safety and stability will return to our country.

All the youth of Tel Tamr are my sons and daughters. I learned Kurdish in my childhood through my friends. We work together in agriculture, we celebrate weddings together, and share one another’s sorrows. And Jesus Christ teaches us that all religions are the same. For me, I will not let my Kurdish or Arab brothers leave, as are we Assyrians, because the beauty of the region stems from its diversity.”

Ibrahim Mahmoud Khalo, a Kurdish man speaking Syriac, said:

“My name is Ibrahim Mahmoud Khalo, a Kurd from Tel Tamr. We have been living here for 40 years with the Assyrians. We and the Assyrians are brothers here. I remember 40 years ago, we had a house in the village of Tel Shanan, three kilometers away from Tel Tamr. My sister was born there, and I was born here in Tel Tamr. Since then, we — like one family — share customs, traditions, and celebrate together. We have studied together here in Tel Tamr, and through our lives with each other I have learned the Syriac language. I speak Syriac in the dialect of Tel Tamr, and I am proud of that. Arabs, Kurds, and Assyrians have lived together in Tel Tamr for a long time.

In 2015, when the Islamic State came to our areas, it did not distinguish between Kurds, Assyrians, or Arabs, but targeted everyone and every building indiscriminately. We all united and stood up to our terrorist enemy.”