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TURKEY/ Why don’t they want the Christian monastery of Tur Abdin?

The Turkish High Court of Appeals ruled against the Christian monastery of Tur Abdin, stating that the place founded in 397 does not own the land it stands on.

Demonstrations in Turkey  (Infophoto) Demonstrations in Turkey (Infophoto)

The government in Ankara is being tested on the question of the protection of minority rights. On Tur Abdin, the Mountain of the Servants of God the requirements for the pre-accession to the EU of the Turkish Republic, under the agreements of Copenhagen, are being tested. The European Council held in 1993 in the Danish capital, in fact, among the requirements for the acceptance of the nomination of a State for EU membership, established that there must be stable institutions that guarantee, in addition to democracy, rule of law and human rights, the respect for and protection of minorities.

The eyes of the international community in the past few days have been fixed precisely on Tur Abdin following the disputed ruling of the Supreme Appeals Court of Ankara, the highest level of the Turkish justice system. The ruling sided with the complaint filed years ago by three Kurdish Muslim villages of the Celebi tribe, who questioned the ownership of the land on which Mor Gabriel, the oldest Christian monastery in the world, has stood, for centuries the beating heart of the Syriac Orthodox community. Today, along with Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktash, three monks, eleven nuns and thirty-five young people live, and are absorbing the intangible treasures of the monastery, the ancient language of Aramaic (the language of Jesus) and the Syriac Orthodox tradition.

Camille Eid, a Lebanese journalist who has been an attentive observer of Middle Eastern affairs for years, helps us to better understand the history of that piece of land that lies along the border between Syria and Turkey, already known for the conflict between the armed separatist group PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and the Turkish army.

“That international interest is dwelling on this incident is a good thing. In this way, nothing is lost. Unfortunately, unlike the Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox community does not have sufficient protection. Certainly the memory of dramatic events like that of Don Andrea Santoro (the priest assassinated in Turkey, ed) are still vivid, but the Catholic Church is protected on an international level by the presence of the Pope and the Vatican. The Syriac Orthodox Church, instead, is left to fend for itself with no one supporting it except for those interested in artistic and cultural heritage.”

The religious, as well as being accused of illegally occupying the land (because they have no documents to prove their ownership of a place that was founded in 397), have been falsely accused of conducting “anti-Turkish” activities simply because they educate young people who are not Christians along with the Christians. At the news, the Turkish national press was indignant and now the story seems destined to reach the European Court of Human Rights, a path already successfully completed years ago by the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople for the restitution of the Orthodox orphanage building of Buyukada in Istanbul.