The Syriac society outside Turkey has reacted against recent remarks by Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış, who said on June 21 that the historical Mor Gabriel Monastery, an issue of debate between the government and Syriacs, was worth even less than the EU Affairs building in central Istanbul.
The Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU) said in a written statement last week that Bağış’s stance was insulting.
“Bağış’s approach that only looks at the monetary value of the monastery is not a result of senselessness, but a reflection of ignoring the beliefs of people from other religions,” it said. The statement condemned Bağış’s wording and asked for a correction.
ESU spokesperson David Vergili told the Daily News by phone that Bağış’s remarks were mocking. If the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) really wanted Syriacs to return to Turkey, it should first find a resolution for the confiscated lands, and monasteries including Mor Gabriel, he said. The government has called on members of minorities who have fled Turkey to come back. The economic and social hardships behind the comeback should be removed, he also said.
Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old historic monastery located in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Cadastre Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence, sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier.” The case was then brought to the European Court of Human Rights.