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Author Topic: Attempts by Turkish authorities to confiscate Mor Gabriel Monastery  (Read 9347 times) Average Rating: 0
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dhinuus
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« on: December 11, 2008, 08:04:49 PM »

The attempts of certain influential Turkish groups to confiscate the land of the Syriac Orthodox monastery of St. Gabriel, founded in 397 A.D., has drawn widespread criticism among the middle-eastern Christian community worldwide. The Syriacs and other migrant Christian communities of the region has already submitted detailed reports to the European Union and various human right organizations seeking help and support.

Report from Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas, the Metropolitan of Mor Gabriel Monastery:
http://www.aina.org/reports/rotipftsmomg.pdf 

Appeal from H.H Ignatius Zaka I, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East:
http://www.socmnet.org/Bull_HH/Brev_Ignatius_Zakka_1_Iwas.pdf

Appeal from Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SOCM-FORUM/message/14297

Website of the Monastery:
http://morgabriel.org/en.html
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2008, 11:54:49 PM »

I had no idea they had their own website.  I suppose it's an example of an ancient community meeting the modern world.  This is one of the oldest centers of monasticism in the world.

Lord have mercy on them and protect them from their enemies.
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« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2008, 07:55:08 AM »

Lord, have mercy.
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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2008, 10:24:35 AM »

I had no idea they had their own website.  I suppose it's an example of an ancient community meeting the modern world.  This is one of the oldest centers of monasticism in the world.

Lord have mercy on them and protect them from their enemies.

I've been told by those with more experience (though I've briefly been through the area) that the cities/towns/villages are full of Syriacs with degrees from higher education, surrounded by illiterate tribesmen.

Lord save Thy people and Bless Thine inheritance!
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2008, 05:59:16 PM »

Lord, have mercy.
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2008, 07:58:46 PM »

Lord have mercy on them.  I hate to see others go through what the EO have had to endure in the Turkish state - I wouldn't wish it on anyone else, least of all the OO's.
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2008, 12:43:56 AM »

I just want to post here to show my support for St. Gabriel Monastery.  I've written my congressman and also Anna Eshoo who is the Congresswoman of the San Jose area I believe who is Assyrian and would be sympathetic to the cause. 
I would urge all my Orthodox brethren here to show solidarity for this 1600 year old institution of the Syriac Orthodox Church.  For us Syriac Orthodox this is our second Jerusalem.  I urge you all to help in any way shape or form to help, please write your congressman\woman get the word out.  Hopefully the Turkish govt will listen to reason and actually side with the law.  Unfortunately the local Kurdish population is also resorting to physical threats.  The mayor of one of the neighboring villages (who has taken the monastery to court) brazenly threatened to burn the monastery to the ground in front of government officials who did nothing.   
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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2008, 03:44:29 AM »

Sounds similar to the recent attempts of Muslims to take-over Abu Fana monastery in Egypt.

One of the greatest sights I witnessed in my last trip to Egypt was that of the crumbling Islamic mosque direcly in front of the monastery of St Pishoi in Wadi al-Natrun. There is no reason for which Muslims would need to have a mosque in the middle of the desert except to affront the Holy Monastic community of Scetis. Yet, since the early 1970's, every time the Muslims have attempted to raise the structure, God has directed nature to take it down, over and over again, until the Muslims finally gave up, abandoning the ruins of their evil once and for all. It's such strong symbolic testimony to the way in which the attempts of heretics to undermine God's Church are in vain. I will never forget it.
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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2008, 03:52:21 AM »

EkhristosAnesti your words are inspiring thank you.
Turkey as opposed to Egypt, is supposed to be a democratic country with a modern secular constitution which guarantees freedom of religion to all its minorities.  It is also an aspiring European Union member and receives hundreds of millions of Euros from the European Union every year to help in its membership bid.  The modern laws though are selectively enforced as needed it seems....
We're praying for our Coptic brothers in Egypt.  They're the most persecuted Christian group in the world today.  In Turkey, the persecution and earlier massacres in the early 20th century have driven every Syriac out of Turkey.  There are probably only a thousand Syriacs remaining in Turkey today.
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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2008, 10:18:55 PM »

I just want to post here to show my support for St. Gabriel Monastery.  I've written my congressman and also Anna Eshoo who is the Congresswoman of the San Jose area I believe who is Assyrian and would be sympathetic to the cause. 
I would urge all my Orthodox brethren here to show solidarity for this 1600 year old institution of the Syriac Orthodox Church.  For us Syriac Orthodox this is our second Jerusalem.  I urge you all to help in any way shape or form to help, please write your congressman\woman get the word out.  Hopefully the Turkish govt will listen to reason and actually side with the law.  Unfortunately the local Kurdish population is also resorting to physical threats.  The mayor of one of the neighboring villages (who has taken the monastery to court) brazenly threatened to burn the monastery to the ground in front of government officials who did nothing.   
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I'm not sure congress will do anything about it.  The Syriac Orthodox would have better luck going to the European Union and appealing to them.  The EU has been telling the Turks they have to clean up their act with regard to their Christian minorities, if they want to join.  Perhaps they can put pressure on the Turks to protect the monastery.  Do you know if the Syriac Orthodox have approached the EU about this?
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« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2008, 03:11:28 AM »

I just want to post here to show my support for St. Gabriel Monastery.  I've written my congressman and also Anna Eshoo who is the Congresswoman of the San Jose area I believe who is Assyrian and would be sympathetic to the cause. 
I would urge all my Orthodox brethren here to show solidarity for this 1600 year old institution of the Syriac Orthodox Church.  For us Syriac Orthodox this is our second Jerusalem.  I urge you all to help in any way shape or form to help, please write your congressman\woman get the word out.  Hopefully the Turkish govt will listen to reason and actually side with the law.  Unfortunately the local Kurdish population is also resorting to physical threats.  The mayor of one of the neighboring villages (who has taken the monastery to court) brazenly threatened to burn the monastery to the ground in front of government officials who did nothing.   
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I'm not sure congress will do anything about it.  The Syriac Orthodox would have better luck going to the European Union and appealing to them.  The EU has been telling the Turks they have to clean up their act with regard to their Christian minorities, if they want to join.  Perhaps they can put pressure on the Turks to protect the monastery.  Do you know if the Syriac Orthodox have approached the EU about this?

Salpy, yes we have.  We had a demonstration in Sweden (we have a large community there) on the 14th to bring attention to the matter.  I think similar demonstrations are planned in Belgium and Germany.  Here is some info on EU attention on the subject http://www.aina.org/news/2008121292932.htm
The first court case is due to start tomorrow in Turkey the 19th. 

Every 10 years there seems to be a problem with one thing or another with these monasteries with the Turkish govt and the Kurdish population in the area.

This would be such a tragedy for the world and Turkey which touts its cultural heritage if this happened.  I mean a 1600 year old continuously used monastery can't be replaced.
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« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2008, 08:19:31 AM »

I just want to post here to show my support for St. Gabriel Monastery.  I've written my congressman and also Anna Eshoo who is the Congresswoman of the San Jose area I believe who is Assyrian and would be sympathetic to the cause. 
I would urge all my Orthodox brethren here to show solidarity for this 1600 year old institution of the Syriac Orthodox Church.  For us Syriac Orthodox this is our second Jerusalem.  I urge you all to help in any way shape or form to help, please write your congressman\woman get the word out.  Hopefully the Turkish govt will listen to reason and actually side with the law.  Unfortunately the local Kurdish population is also resorting to physical threats.  The mayor of one of the neighboring villages (who has taken the monastery to court) brazenly threatened to burn the monastery to the ground in front of government officials who did nothing.   
ܡܪܢ ܡܥܕܪ ܥܒ̈ܕܝܟ


I'm not sure congress will do anything about it.  The Syriac Orthodox would have better luck going to the European Union and appealing to them.  The EU has been telling the Turks they have to clean up their act with regard to their Christian minorities, if they want to join.  Perhaps they can put pressure on the Turks to protect the monastery.  Do you know if the Syriac Orthodox have approached the EU about this?

Salpy, yes we have.  We had a demonstration in Sweden (we have a large community there) on the 14th to bring attention to the matter.  I think similar demonstrations are planned in Belgium and Germany.  Here is some info on EU attention on the subject http://www.aina.org/news/2008121292932.htm
The first court case is due to start tomorrow in Turkey the 19th. 

Every 10 years there seems to be a problem with one thing or another with these monasteries with the Turkish govt and the Kurdish population in the area.

This would be such a tragedy for the world and Turkey which touts its cultural heritage if this happened.  I mean a 1600 year old continuously used monastery can't be replaced.

I once saw a Turkish tourism poster that proclaimed "Come to Turkey: the Land of 5 Civlizations." My Greek doctor took the words out of my mouth "Too bad none of them is Turkish."

I was told by a Syrian Monk (whose brother was the representative of the Syriacs in the parliament of Syria) that the majority of Syriacs are now in Sweden.  He showed me a modern Syriac dictionary published there (such things do not happen in Syria).
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« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2008, 08:27:37 AM »

Sounds similar to the recent attempts of Muslims to take-over Abu Fana monastery in Egypt.

One of the greatest sights I witnessed in my last trip to Egypt was that of the crumbling Islamic mosque direcly in front of the monastery of St Pishoi in Wadi al-Natrun. There is no reason for which Muslims would need to have a mosque in the middle of the desert except to affront the Holy Monastic community of Scetis. Yet, since the early 1970's, every time the Muslims have attempted to raise the structure, God has directed nature to take it down, over and over again, until the Muslims finally gave up, abandoning the ruins of their evil once and for all. It's such strong symbolic testimony to the way in which the attempts of heretics to undermine God's Church are in vain. I will never forget it.

I recall that with the flurry of mosques built all over Egypt in the 80's, with shoddy construction because of the haste, with the earthquake of 1992 they came tumbling down.  If I recall correctly, no Church suffered permanent damage.

The reason for the mosque: al-nikaayah.  In Malula, one of the few towns that still speak Aramaic, there is a small mosque with a TALL minaret at the entrance to the wadi in which the village is located.  The town is also odd for Orthodox in that it is the only place I've ever seen where the people speak an ancient language (Aramaic) in their personal life, but a modern one (Arabic) in Church.
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« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2008, 01:42:54 PM »

ialmisry, it's important to differentiate the Syriac Orthodox Church (SOC for short) from Syria.  The SOC isn't Syrian or Arab ethnically although we do have Arabic speaking members.  Neither is it the national state church of Syria.  We have a very large amount of members who speak neo-Aramaic in their everyday lives including myself.  Originally the term Syriac; Suroyo or Suraya depending on the dialect of the language was a term used during the first few years after the Birth of Christ, before Arabs and Arabic came into the area from the southern parts of the middle east.  Members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church all call themselves Suroyo or Suraya in their own language.  So, ethnically all these people were one and the same but became divided into different Churches because of political and other reasons in 2000 years.

Aramaic became divided in the years before and after Christ.  A West Aramaic emerged in Palestine and surrounding areas and an East Aramaic in the East (Iraq, Turkey etc.)  The people of Malula speak West Aramaic that's been influenced by Arabic a little bit, while members of the above mentioned Churches speak an East Aramaic version of the language.  The vernacular, or spoken language is not inteligble between these people anymore because they stopped having contact with each other and the languages deviated. 
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ialmisry
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« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2008, 02:13:30 PM »

ialmisry, it's important to differentiate the Syriac Orthodox Church (SOC for short) from Syria.
Yes.  Hence why I said Parliament of Syria, not Syrian Parliament, to avoid confusion.  Syriac/suryaanii.

Quote
The SOC isn't Syrian or Arab ethnically although we do have Arabic speaking members.
Actually, it is the original Syrian. Like Copts are the original Egyptian.

Quote
Neither is it the national state church of Syria. 
Unfortunately, that would at present be Islam.

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We have a very large amount of members who speak neo-Aramaic in their everyday lives including myself. 
Yes, I overheard a number speaking when I was in Syria, including on the ferry from Arwad to Tartuus.

Quote
Originally the term Syriac; Suroyo or Suraya depending on the dialect of the language was a term used during the first few years after the Birth of Christ, before Arabs and Arabic came into the area from the southern parts of the middle east.
Actually the Arabs were already there: the dynasties in Edessa/Orhay/Urhoy, in Jordan, Palmyra, Hatra and even Herod's own were Arabs, although using Aramaic as their offiical language.
 
Quote
  Members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church all call themselves Suroyo or Suraya in their own language.  So, ethnically all these people were one and the same but became divided into different Churches because of political and other reasons in 2000 years.

Since the Council Seleucia-Ctesiphon of 410.

Quote
Aramaic became divided in the years before and after Christ.  A West Aramaic emerged in Palestine and surrounding areas and an East Aramaic in the East (Iraq, Turkey etc.)  The people of Malula speak West Aramaic that's been influenced by Arabic a little bit, while members of the above mentioned Churches speak an East Aramaic version of the language.  The vernacular, or spoken language is not inteligble between these people anymore because they stopped having contact with each other and the languages deviated. 

Yes, there is also a form of Aramaic that the Jews used.

Arabic was my primary language for my doctorate, but Syriac was my second.  We have a Chaldean Ryondish who hopefully will be posting during his break again.
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« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2008, 03:04:15 PM »

It's nice to hear from somebody who knows the specific history of these groups:)

Suraya or Suroyo is in most likelihood a Greek pronunciation of Othuraya (Assyrian) denoting the children of the Assyrian empire.  Assyria had many different types of peoples in its Empire though including a very large number of Arameans the language of which (Aramaic) Assyrians eventually adopted completely because of its ease of use and by the birth of Christ, Assyrians original Akkadian language became extinct.  I personally consider myself the descendant of the Arameans\Assyrians.  Many Assyrian kings for example would take Aramean wives and during the middle-late Assyrian empires they would record their deeds in both Akkadian and Aramaic showing how much Aramean culture had been assimiliated in Assyria.  In a biblical sense Asur and Aram the two patriarchs of these peoples were brothers, the sons of Shem.

As far as the settlers in Urhoi\Edessa\Osroene today's Edessa, it was settled by Arameans in different waves of colonization.  Arameans, being originally from the southern parts of the middle east, moved northward in the 1000BC timeframe and colonized all of Syria and today's SE Turkey.  Jews are originally Arameans, as Abraham says in the OT, "my father was a wandering Aramean" from Ur or Urhoi.  Abraham's son Isaac eventually went back to the land of his father's to Harran to marry another Aramean; Rebecca.
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2008, 12:45:39 AM »

The first appeals proceeding regarding Mor Gabriel Monastery held on Friday, December 19 2008, in Midyat, Turkey, has once again been postponed.

This trial, originally to be held on 19 November 2008 but now scheduled for 11 February 2009, relates to the boundaries dispute with two neighboring villages regarding lands owned for many centuries by the Syriac Orthodox monastery that was built in 397 A.D.

The court case was attended by various people from all over the world, including members of the Swedish parliament, human rights organizations and international media outlets.

Unfortunately, this second delay of the trial marks a disturbing pattern in the politics of the Turkish state. The belief is that the judge in this case postponed the trial as a result of the huge international campaign against the human rights and property rights abuses against the Syriac Orthodox.

This is a recurring strategic attempt by the Turkish state to delay the trial as much as possible in order to diminish the overwhelming interest shown by EU
politicians, government officials, international human rights organizations and media outlets.

So it is important for the supporters of the Syriac Orthodox Church to remain diligent and forthright in their opposition to the continuing abuses of the human rights and propertyrights of the indigenous Syriac people.

For further information, you can contact Mr Daniel Gabriel (Director of Human Rights and NGO's) on +44 7795 602 078
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« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2008, 03:18:41 PM »

The first appeals proceeding regarding Mor Gabriel Monastery held on Friday, December 19 2008, in Midyat, Turkey, has once again been postponed.

This trial, originally to be held on 19 November 2008 but now scheduled for 11 February 2009, relates to the boundaries dispute with two neighboring villages regarding lands owned for many centuries by the Syriac Orthodox monastery that was built in 397 A.D.

The court case was attended by various people from all over the world, including members of the Swedish parliament, human rights organizations and international media outlets.

Unfortunately, this second delay of the trial marks a disturbing pattern in the politics of the Turkish state. The belief is that the judge in this case postponed the trial as a result of the huge international campaign against the human rights and property rights abuses against the Syriac Orthodox.

This is a recurring strategic attempt by the Turkish state to delay the trial as much as possible in order to diminish the overwhelming interest shown by EU
politicians, government officials, international human rights organizations and media outlets.

So it is important for the supporters of the Syriac Orthodox Church to remain diligent and forthright in their opposition to the continuing abuses of the human rights and propertyrights of the indigenous Syriac people.

For further information, you can contact Mr Daniel Gabriel (Director of Human Rights and NGO's) on +44 7795 602 078

Thank you very much for the update Dhinuus.  Yes, absolutely cowardly actions on the part of the judge at this point.  I would like to remind everybody here that Turkey is an EU candidate country.  How can the EU allow actions like this that are completely infringing on the rights of a tiny minority in the country. 

I guess it was not enough for them to massacre the majority of the Syriac population in cold blood in 1915 and want to continue with those same policies.

St. Gabriel Monastery produces a very large portion of priests, monks, deacons and teachers for the Syriac Orthodox Church.  Losing this monastery would be a devastating blow to the Syriac people.
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« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2009, 01:56:40 AM »

Reuters has printed an article about the situation:

http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE50L08720090122?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
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« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2009, 02:03:28 AM »

Let's pray for the best outcome in favor of the monastery.   Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2009, 10:57:54 PM »

A large demonstration was held in Berlin Sunday, to bring attention to this important topic.  10,000 Syriac Christians protested in Berlin these actions that are taken against St. Gabriel Monastery.  Another demonstration was held in Bern Switzerland a few days ago.  Another demonstration was held in Brussels a few weeks ago.

http://www.morgenpost.de/berlin/article1021806/Tausende_demonstrieren_fuer_Kloster_in_der_Tuerkei.html

http://www.dk-online.de/index.php?artikel=5513960
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2009, 02:09:09 AM »

I am glad our Syriac brothers in Europe are doing this.  It's a show of unity and this is the sort of thing that gets attention.  Let's hope the European Union does something about the situation.
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« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2009, 03:04:33 AM »

It looks like the Turkish government is once again showing its true colors in this case...  Until now, outsiders could blame the local villagers for harassing the St. Gabriel monastery by opening legally dubious court cases against the monastery.  In the past few weeks, the Turkish Government has itself started court proceedings against this 1600 year old monastery (established in 397) for illegally appropriating lands for itself.  The Turkish state now claims 276 Hectares of Monastery land belongs to the Turkish treasury.  This claim would remove most of the land that this monastery owns and which it uses for its sustenance.  Mor Gabriel Monastery has evidence of paying taxes for this land going back to at least the 1930s.

You can read the story here: http://www.aina.org/releases/20090206160829.htm

Due to the extreme interest in this case by outside observers, including European politicians, the judge presiding over the case has delayed the case 3 times.  They're obviously trying to whither the scrutiny of the outside world by constantly delaying and possibly decreasing the amount of observers during the court proceedings.


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« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2009, 02:32:42 PM »

To rejuvenate this topic.  Yesterday, the 22nd, the court in Turkey has delayed for the 8th time a decision on this case. 

To put this matter into context with the Syriac community in Turkey.  There are approx. 50 cases (lawsuits) ongoing in Turkey today between Syriac Christians in SE Turkey and the government.  All these lawsuits relate to Turkey trying to confiscate lands owned by Syriac Christians to add to the government treasury.  Turkey cites the fact that because these lands haven't been developed or farmed that they belong to the Turkish Govt.  The law in Turkey deems all forest lands are the property of the Turkish Treasury....  Another slight fact, the Turkish Govt. requires deeds for these properties to be renewed every 20 years...  I haven't heard of any law like this in another developed country....  So for example, when Syriac Christians fled during the 90s from the fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military, their lands were forfeited to the Turkish Treasury.  Whole villages and towns were confiscated and later auctioned by the Turkish Treasury to other interested parties.
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« Reply #24 on: April 23, 2009, 02:49:40 PM »

To rejuvenate this topic.  Yesterday, the 22nd, the court in Turkey has delayed for the 8th time a decision on this case. 

I'm glad you're giving us updates.  Unfortunately, if they're willing to delay this case more and more often, then their "stall tactic" (to get international observers away from the case) may indeed work out.
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« Reply #25 on: April 23, 2009, 04:48:52 PM »

This really makes the Turks out to be monsters.
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« Reply #26 on: April 23, 2009, 06:36:10 PM »

Lord have mercy!
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« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2009, 06:49:44 PM »

This really makes the Turks out to be monsters.

Fascism is a monster, especially when it's government sponsored.
What's really heartening are the few Turkish intellectuals who see what's happening and speaking out against these policies.  Unfortunately, the Nationalists and the government usually are able to silence them.
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« Reply #28 on: April 27, 2009, 01:21:31 AM »

A large demonstration march was held yesterday in Cologne Germany against Turkey's handling of the "Mor Gabriel" Monastery.  Thousands of protestors marched together.  Other minorities from Turkey such as Alevi Muslims and Yezidis joined in the march.  Minorities are in the same boat in Turkey and it's great to see mutual support. 

Read about it here:
http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&js=n&u=http%3A%2F%2Fde.indymedia.org%2F2009%2F04%2F248357.shtml&sl=auto&tl=en Translated by Google.

and here:

http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&js=n&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.radikal.com.tr%2FRadikal.aspx%3FaType%3DRadikalHaberDetay%26Date%3D%26ArticleID%3D933167&sl=tr&tl=en Translated by Google

It seems the case has reached the attention of the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Read about that here:
http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/domestic/11517723.asp?scr=1

Pushing for a solution doesn't mean the injustice will be corrected though. 
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« Reply #29 on: May 12, 2009, 12:34:01 PM »

As the legal cases continue against the monastery, the international attention that's being brought on the case is increasing.  As I mentioned earlier, along with the cases brought against the monastery there are dozens of ongoing cases against Syriac villagers where the government has confiscated their land.  A very informative report on the issues can be found here:
http://www.aina.org/releases/20090512002447.htm
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« Reply #30 on: May 12, 2009, 12:59:51 PM »

...the international attention that's being brought on the case is increasing. 

Thank God!
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« Reply #31 on: May 14, 2009, 05:31:54 PM »

No decisions have been made at this point.  It's premature to be happy about anything.  The president of Turkey has said he wants peace between the parties and to negotiate a settlement. 
The question is this, if somebody came to your home and said that part of it doesn't belong to you anymore and it's partly his now, do you negotiate with him as to how much he can take??? 

I'm going to also show the longstanding problems the Orthodox Church of Constantinople is having with the government.  Please read this story: http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=15229&size=A
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« Reply #32 on: May 15, 2009, 12:16:14 AM »

Recent News on Mor Gabriel Monastery

Christians urge Turkey to protect ancient monastery

A leading Syriac Christian group urged Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoðan on
Monday to protect a fifth-century Christian monastery in eastern Turkey from
local officials claiming land the monastery has owned for centuries.

The dispute over the boundaries of Mor Gabriel, one of the world's oldest
functioning Christian monasteries, has raised concerns over freedom of religion
and human rights for non-Muslim minorities in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim
country and European Union aspirant.

The row began when Turkish government land officials redrew the boundaries
around Mor Gabriel and the surrounding villages in 2008 to update a national
land registry.

The monks say the new boundaries turn over to the villages large plots of
monastery land and some as public forest.

A court ruling on the case, which has become a rallying cry for Christian church
groups across Europe, has been postponed several times, the last time until May
22.

In the letter, the Syriac Universal Alliance, a leading Syriac group based in
Sweden, asked Erdoðan to protect the rights of Syriacs in Turkey.

"We strongly believe that a united approach to Aramaic rights in Turkey will
result in a number of benefits -- not only for the Aramaic people, but also for
Turkey," it said.

Syriacs are one of the oldest communities in Turkey and still speak Aramaic, the
language of Jesus Christ. But they are not officially designated a minority in
Turkey like the Greeks or Armenians, so have no special protection under the
1923 Treaty of Lausanne's provisions for non-Muslim minorities.

Erdoðan's ruling AK Party government has said it has expanded the rights of
minorities. But the EU and U.S. President Barack Obama, during a trip to Turkey
in April, have urged Ankara to do more to promote religious freedom.

11 May 2009, Monday

REUTERS ANKARA

http://www.todayszaman.com/

----

Arameans want prime minister to mediate over Mor Gabriel

Today's Zaman: 12 May 2009, Tuesday

Arameans have appealed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan in a
letter seeking his mediation in a land dispute between the Mor Gabriel Monastery
and the surrounding villages that has already been heard in court.

The Arameans underlined that they are aware that Erdoðan wants a "friendly
solution" and has instructed state officials to that end. However, state
officials are not "in a hurry to resolve these matters or to push for a just
solution," the letter states.

The conflict between the Arameans and three villages in the region started in
2008, when the Land Registry General Directorate redrew the boundaries of the
land around Mor Gabriel and the surrounding villages. At the end of the
re-demarcation, the directorate established that 244 out of the 1,227 hectares
of land on which Mor Gabriel stands belong to the Treasury, while 285 hectares
qualify as "woodland." The Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation built walls around
the land and the forested area years ago.

The three surrounding villages, Çandarlý, Yayvantepe and Eðlence, would like to
see the monastery's five-kilometer wall brought down as villagers say their
animals used to graze on that land. The village heads consequently applied to
court, but observers say their action was manipulated by some to appear like a
Muslim-Christian conflict. Neighboring villages have complained that the monks
have engaged in "anti-Turkish activities" and alleged that they are illegally
converting children to Christianity and that the Mor Gabriel Community
Foundation settles wherever it chooses, without
having the requisite permits, and violates the Unity of Education Law. Villagers
have also accused the monastery of taking land they need for cattle. The Aramean
priests have also filed complaints against the villagers, saying that the
monastery's vast lands have been their property for centuries and have been
illegally appropriated by the villagers.

The Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA), a worldwide umbrella organization of
national federations of Aramean people, in their letter to Erdoðan, indicated
that they wanted him to mediate in the conflict. The SUA also asked the prime
minister to "ensure that the decisions of the relevant Turkish authorities are
reversed and relevant cases are resolved to the benefit of the Aramean people in
order for the current public condemnation of Turkey to end."

The SUA added that they don't want this case to end up in the European Court of
Justice, noting their other requests as follows: "Focus your attention on the
large number [between 10-15 villages and growing] of towns and villages where
the cadastral, forestry and Treasury systems will effectively take more land
from the indigenous Aramean population; ensure through your public
statements that the Aramean people who wish to return to their ancestral lands
have a guarantee that their property rights are protected by the Turkish
government and all relevant government bodies."

The SUA also demanded Erdoðan's official recognition of the Aramean people under
the Lausanne Treaty. The founding treaty of the republic in 1923 outlines the
rights of the non-Muslim minorities of Turkey -- without indicating specific
group names -- but, practically, these rights are applied only to the Jewish,
Greek and Armenian minorities of Turkey, according to a recent report from the
Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV). The SUA, in their
letter, pointed out that if Arameans were recognized in accordance with Lausanne
Treaty, "their basic protection and development in Turkish society, including
the Aramaic language, religious, cultural and property rights" would be ensured.

The letter stressed that the SUA wishes to cooperate with Turkish
authorities but "as long as the Mor Gabriel Monastery trial remains
unresolved, the SUA will keep advising its worldwide federations to continue to
take action against this."

AYÞE KARABAT ANKARA

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay
<http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=174984&bolum=101>
&link=174984&bolum=101
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« Reply #33 on: May 23, 2009, 01:11:45 AM »

Christian monastery in Turkey wins back land

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-39823220090522

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - One of the world's oldest functioning Christian monasteries has won a legal battle to have land it had owned for centuries restored to it, after a Turkish court ruled on Friday it could not be claimed by the state.

The dispute over the boundaries of Mor Gabriel, a fifth-century Syriac Orthodox monastery in eastern Turkey, had raised concerns over freedom of religion and human rights for non-Muslim minorities in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country and European Union aspirant.

In a statement, the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA), a leading Syriac group based in Sweden, said a Turkish court in Midyat had reversed an initial decision by the land registry court to grant villages some 110 hectares (272 acres) of monastery land.

But it added another three cases relating to the monastery's former land remained open, two of which had been postponed.

The row began when Turkish government land officials redrew the boundaries around Mor Gabriel and the surrounding villages in 2008 to update a national land registry.

The Syriac Orthodox monks said the new boundaries turned over to the villages large plots of monastery land and some designated as public forest.

The case became a rallying cry for Christian church groups across Europe, and had been postponed several times.

Syriacs are one of the oldest communities in Turkey and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. But they are not officially designated a minority in Turkey like the Greeks or Armenians, so have no special protection under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne's provisions for non-Muslim minorities.

The ruling AK Party government has said it has expanded the rights of minorities. But the EU and U.S. President Barack Obama, during a trip to Turkey in April, have urged Ankara to do more to promote religious freedom.

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« Reply #34 on: May 23, 2009, 06:08:35 PM »

This is good news.  Do you think this is the end of it?  Will the Turks appeal it?  Also, the article mentions a couple of open court cases.  Are those of significance to the matter?
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« Reply #35 on: May 24, 2009, 03:06:20 AM »

Hi Salpy, it is a bit of good news in that we've won one of the cases.  There are two other cases ongoing against the monastery.  The case that was won was between the monastery and villagers in the surrounding villages.  The two remaining cases now are between the Turkish government and the monastery.

My question is this, as a "secular" government, what does Turkey have to do with opening court cases against the few remaining churches\monasteries in the country?
I'm trying to not be too pessimistic considering past treatment of Christians in Turkey...  The result of this case though does say something for justice in this specific case though, I can speak more confidently when all the court cases are cleared against our monastery.

Following the case, I was struck with the writing on top of the court house "Adalet devletin temelidir" "Justice is the foundation of government".  Hopefully justice applies to all Turkish citizens regardless of their religious, cultural affiliations.
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« Reply #36 on: June 24, 2009, 05:29:08 PM »

Turkish Court Rules Against Syriac-orthodox Monastery

Midyat, Turkey (06-24-2009) -- The Turkish court issued two decisions today in
the case of the embattled Syriac-orthodox monastery St. Gabriel and postponed
until September 30 another decision. The dispute is over the so-called forest,
land that lies within the monastery grounds and which is comprised of half grown
bush.

According to today's court decision this land is now owned by the Forestry
Department (a Turkish authority). The monastery lost some 34 hectares of land
(136 acres). The court decided that the Forestry Department, on behalf of the
Turkish State Government, now owns the land and can do whatever it wants with
it. Despite the fact that the protective wall that shields the monastery staff
and its guests lies on that land. The great surprise for the most of the
international representatives was that the Turkish state involved itself in such
a "minor" matter that is vital for a religious community and affects a historic
monument.

The case against the director of the monastery foundation, Mr Kuryakos Ergün,
was held in another court room; he was charged with intentionally violating the
law by building the protective wall that surrounds the grounds of the monastery.
This case has been postponed to 30th September.

The Turkish State Treasury Authority lost its other case against the monastery.
Twelve parcels of land both inside and outside the wall of the monastery,
amounting to some 24 hectares of land (96 acres) remain in the possession of the
monastery, though the board of the monastery believes this decision will be
appealed.

The Monastery of St. Gabriel was founded in 397 A.D. and is a great and
historically important Christian symbol in the middle of Turkey; it is for the
Syriac-orthodox faith what St. Peter's in Rome is for the Catholics.

The Turkish state and three village leaders are trying to expropriate land that
is legally are owned by the monastery.

International interest in the case is so great that the local court authorities
had to refurnish the court rooms. As in the previous trials politicians,
diplomats and NGO:s where present from the entire European Union. The local and
national press of Turkey were also there in force.

Rudi Sümer, one of the monastery's lawyers, said "we will appeal to Ankara and
if we wont win there we will go to the European Court."

Reported by Nuri Kino

For complete coverage of the St. Gabriel Monastery case.
http://www.aina.org/releases/20090120141229.htm
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« Reply #37 on: June 24, 2009, 05:33:55 PM »

What an awful setback.  Lord, have mercy!
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« Reply #38 on: June 24, 2009, 07:17:18 PM »

It is a sad day today. 
It seems Turkey wants to continue with its fascist actions despite all the pretension to reform and civil liberties that it its seemingly fooled the EU with.
These laws were specifically created to confiscate the lands of non-Turks in Turkey.  Look what happened after the genocide of 1915; the government said well these homes don't have owners anymore, even though they perpetrated the killings and deportations, they belong to the government at this point.  They were auctioned off one at a time with the proceeds going to the Turkish treasury.

What is the logic when a land owner can not do anything he wants to his private property???  If I have 1 acre or 100 acres, it's my property, I can choose to plant and cultivate my property or I can leave it the way I want.  If I don't cultivate my land does that mean it belongs to the state???  Why has this been targeted towards minorities?  It's a sad day indeed, these people should be ashamed of themselves.
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« Reply #39 on: June 25, 2009, 01:09:29 AM »

Turkey has a losing streak in the EU High Court.

On Appeal to that body, the injustice will hopefully be righted.

Lord have Mercy.
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« Reply #40 on: February 25, 2011, 01:01:28 AM »

Another article about the unfortunate situation:

http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2011/02/another-gross-example-of-the-repression-of-christianity-in-turkey/

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« Reply #41 on: March 11, 2011, 09:50:42 AM »

Sad and should bring tears to our eyes. It is so dear for me as a member of the Orthodox Church in India whch had the relationship with the Syrian Church to read of the monastery. May God grant strength and let us pray
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« Reply #42 on: March 11, 2011, 11:12:24 AM »

Thank you for sharing this. I think Turkey seems a peaceful country compared with other middle eastern countries; hopefully this situation will be resolved peacefully.
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« Reply #43 on: March 11, 2011, 07:24:13 PM »

Very sad.  This is just the continuation of 500 years of oppression of minorities within Turkish society.  The monastery had proven that it was paying taxes on the confiscated land since the early 1900s but this doesn't make a difference I guess.  Democracy inded.  They used tactics like delaying the court hearings dozens of times to remove public scrutiny.
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« Reply #44 on: June 18, 2012, 08:24:18 PM »

Another update on the situation:

http://www.aina.org/news/20120618185420.htm
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