TUR ABDIN: HDP Women’s Council meets with Syriac women in Ainwardo. “We are even afraid to say in public there was a genocide”

This article was originally publish in Turkish by Gazete Sabro on August 7, 2021. @gazetesabro

TUR ABDIN, Turkey – The Women’s Council of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) met with Syriac women in the village of Ainwardo, Tur Abdin, as part of its “Justice for Women” campaign. National and local HDP Women’s Councils hold regular meetings all over Turkey to address issues women face in today’s authoritarian and patriarchal society and to spread the message that women need to fight together against these issues.

The delegation of the HDP Women’s Council consisted of spokesperson Ayşe Acar Başaran, Member of Parliament for Diyarbakır Semra Güzel, party Spokesperson Ebru Günay, and HDP Co-Chair of the Labor Commission Şaziye Köse. The delegation met with Syriac women in the traditional Syriac village of Ainwardo (Turkish: Gülgöze), Midyat municipal area.

“There are Syriacs in this country!”

Speaking about the purpose of their visit Ayşe Başaran said to the assembled Syriac women in Ainwardo in her introduction;

“We want to talk about the difficulties women experience. We live in a diverse and rich cultural country, and we need to be unified in our resistance against the mono-cultural and nationalist Turkish regime. We believe differences make us stronger. That’s why we wanted to meet with you. We know that you too face many difficulties in this country. We believe that we can grow when we share and talk about our problems. It cannot be denied that there are Syriacs in this country.”

Başaran emphasized that the HDP and its Women’s Council believe in the power of change and transformation of Syriac women, and touched the common problems women experience.

Syriac women: “Syriac people are very afraid”

After Başaran’s speech, the Syriac women drew attention to the fact that only 4-5 Syriac houses remain in the Syriac village of Ainwardo today.

“We have been threatened to leave the village and region. Some of us have emigrated because of the threats and the persecution. That’s why the Syriac people are very afraid.”

“Now we want to break this fear. We have suffered a lot both as a people and as Syriac women,” they told the HDP delegation.

“We are even afraid to say in public there was a genocide”

Barbara Akay was one of the Syriac attendees. She shared with the group that people in the city center of Midyat – which is now overall majority Kurdish – insult here by saying “I wish you weren’t Syriac,” and that such insults are not uncommon. “They insult and fight our children when they go to school.

“You are not going to heaven,” and “why are you Syriac?” they shout to our children explains Barbara Kaya. Most Syriac people are afraid. “We are even afraid to say in public there was a genocide,” Kaya said.

Kaya refers to the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks and Kurds which caused hundreds of thousands of Syriacs to lose their lives or were forced to convert to Islam and made Kurds or Turks.

“We are forced to sell without telling we are Syriacs”

Kaya notes that the non-Syriacs do not buy their cheese and milk only because they are Syriac.

“Are the animals Syriac too?”

“The economy in this area is based on farming and animal husbandry. We harvest and prune our vineyards. We make molasses and fruit pulp and sell in secret. We are forced to sell our products without telling we are Syriacs.”

“We are having a hard time economically. We cannot sell anything. There are people who do not eat Syriac food. This mentality needs to change,” Barbara said.

Listening to the problems and demands of Syriac women, HDP Women’s Council spokesperson Ayşe Acar Başaran concluded and reiterated that they are strong enough to overcome the problems if they struggle and work together in solidarity.