News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
Kurds were not the only targets of state violence during the campaign of villages evacuations and state-sponsored murder which peaked in Kurdistan in the 1990s, and relatives of Syriac Christians murdered by the Turkish state and its allies recently spoke to Sedat Sur about their own experiences, their struggle to reclaim their land and their desire to achieve justice for their loved ones.
In a report for ANF, Sur brings attention to scores of murders committed by ‘unknown assailants’ (faili meçul) connected to or working with the Turkish state and directed against the Syriac Christian Community. Sur also brings attention to the forced evacuation of Syriac Christian villages and the seizure of theirs lands by the state.
According to David Vergil of the European Syriac Union close to 60 Syriacs were assassinated by state agents between 1987-2000. These murders were part of a larger campaign of violence and intimidation organized by elements of JİTEM (Jandarma Intelligence and Anti-Terror) and designed to force Syrians to flee their villages in the districts of Mardin Province.
BDP Marin MP Erol Dora submitted a motion in Turkish Parliament this past February that state violence against Syriac Christians be investigated and the facts around the murders be brought to light. ANF spoke with the relatives of two victims: Aho Gabriel (Erdinç) was killed in 1987 and among the first murdered within the Syriac community. The second, Fehmi Yarar, was killed by the police in 1998.
Aho Erdinç was only 37 years old when he was killed and had been involved in the resistance to the Turkish state’s attempts to empty Syriac villages, according to his younger brother Diba Gabriel. “My brother was killed by Counter-guerrilla units organized by the state which wanted to evacuate Syriac villages on Bagok mountain.” Fehmi Yarar was killed by police in front of his home, according to his 80 year old father Maxsimenco Yarar, who told ANF that “I have come to the end of my life and I want to hold my son’s murderers to account before I die.”
Both families also reasserted their right to the lands taken from them by the state after they were forced to leave their villages.
Murdered In Front Of His Children
Aho Erdinc was killed in June, 1987 in the village of Arbo (Turkish: Taşköy) around the foot of Bağok Mountain the district of Nusaybin. His brother Diba explains how Aho was killed front of his mother, father, and eight children on the roof of their family home where Kalashnikov carrying men assumed to be working with the Counter Guerilla found him.
Aho had been a community leader and was organizing fellow villagers to resist state attempts to empty the village. He was for this reason, his brother says, that he became a target. “He wouldn’t leave the village and was struggling so that other villagers wouldn’t leave the village. The objective of those who murdered my brother was to empty Syriac villages by eliminating the villagers.”
Shortly after Aho’s murder his father, mother and eight children sought refuge in Sweden. His parents were later buried in the village in accordance with their wishes, but his widow and children continue to live in Sweden. Diba explained that “my family was forced to migrate after my brother was killed. The others couldn’t resist any more. A short time after my brother was killed a boy was shot and killed in the house of our village mayor (muhtar). After this event my mother, father, all my brother’s children and all the villagers left the village.”
‘We Are Principal Owners Of This Country’
Diba went on to explain how the state seized their lands after they were forced to migrate under the pretext that they were no longer productive. The state continues to hold these lands as “forested lands’ but Diba remained adamant that the villagers continue to the rightful owners, and called the state seizures a further massacre and injustice.
Diba Gabriel called for the murders of Syriacs to be investigated, saying “these murders need to be brought to light. We are principal owners of this country – we were born here and will die here. We aren’t going anywhere. We will never accept the statute of limitations on these cases. We want the JİTEM murderers to be punished. We want our lands that have been expropriated from us returned. If we are going to talk about living in a free country then let these events come to light, let the perpetrators be judged and let our seized lands be returned to us.”
My Son Died In My Arms
Fehmi Yarar, the father of nine children, was killed in 1998 by police in front of his home one night in the center of Midyat. His father Maxsimenco explained the events of that night, saying “my son was shot by police in front of the door to our home as he was coming from a cafe. He door wouldn’t open and my son called us to come open it, but before we could open it police came from behind my son and shot him. I will never forget the pain I felt that night. We lost him on the road as we were taking him to the hospital. My son died in my arms. None of us filed a case out of fear.”
Following his murder the family split up, Maksimenco explained, and settled in Sweden, Germany and America. He himself however decided to remain. Maksimenco said that he was pleased with BDP MP Erol Dora’s motion to investigate the crimes, saying ‘ have come to the end of my life and I want to hold my son’s murderers to account before I die.” Erol’s motion to open a parliamentary inquiry is based on the 98th article of the Constitution and 104th and 104th articles of the standing procedures and is designed to create a legal order by which to bring these murders to light and reveal the social and political reasons behind the killings.