Turkey's Assyrians (or Syriacs) are an ancient Christian community that until several decades ago figured prominently in the southeast region, in an area close to the borders of Syria and Iraq. Although their numbers in the region have dwindled, due to a combination of political and economic factors, the community has experienced something of a slow revival in recent years, with Assyrians who had moved to Europe returning to live in historic Assyrian communities in the southeast.
Perhaps another indication of this revival is the launch this week of a new Turkish-Assyrian monthly publication, called "Sabro" (or "hope"). From a report in the Hurriyet Daily News:
“As Syriacs, we also maintain hopes about the future in Turkey, and thus we named our newspaper ‘Sabro,’” the journal’s chief editor, Tuma Çelik, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Çelik also said he could not learn the Syriac language due to Turkey’s policies toward its minorities. Turkish society is not sufficiently familiar with the Syriac community, and the general discourse in the country makes it seem as if the ongoing problems regarding the Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin constitute the community’s sole problem, he added.
“For that reason, we placed a greater emphasis on [using] Turkish. We are both going to inform our people about their culture while [providing them] with news and inform the people of Turkey about Syriacs and their problems,” he said.
Sabro will be based in Mardin’s Midyat district, the historical homeland of Syriac Christians. The paper will also maintain offices in Istanbul and the southeastern provinces of Hakkari and Şırnak, according to Çelik, who said the 25,000-strong population of Syriacs in Turkey was predominantly concentrated in Istanbul.
The paper, which will become a weekly journal in the months following its initial launch, will also feature the writings of Turkish, Armenian and Greek intellectuals.
“Syriacs always lived in the countryside. We had much difficulty getting our voice heard despite the many critical problems [we] experienced,” Çelik said.
Many Syriac Christians emigrated to Europe in three separate waves, the biggest of which was in the 1960s, due to the outbreak of political turmoil in their historical homelands.
“We could not [uphold] our intelligentsia until they left for Europe. Syriacs educated in Europe have begun to return in the past six years and bring our problems to the fore,” he said.