Representatives of non-Muslims who have emigrated from Anatolia have responded to the call by Minister of Culture and Tourism Omer Celik for them to return home. They say they are hopeful but in practice, there are still many questions to answer.
President Abdullah Gul, while receiving a Syriac delegation, said, “Do not forget this land.” President Gul took Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yusuf Cetin with him on his recent visit to Sweden. Celik issued a call “to return home” to the non-Muslims who have left Anatolia. Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc had taken Laki Vingas of the Greek community with him to Germany in 2010 and 2013.
Minority representatives agree that their inclusion in official delegations and recent statements has given them hope, but that the reality is not quite so rosy.
Sait Susin, the president of the Syriac Virgin Mary Church Foundation, discussed President Gul’s visit to Sweden. Looking at the problem from a practical viewpoint, he said, “It is hard for a child who grew up in that culture to return.” Susin said there had been many complaints about land surveys carried out after 2006, noting, “There is the question of the Mor Gabriel monastery, where laws have broken the Lausanne Treaty, a situation which is well known in school textbooks. In order for minorities to return, these issues must first be resolved.” He agreed that there have been serious improvements in last 10 years, and added, “There are problems that can be solved through dialogue. We believe that the state and government are serious.”
Evgil Turker, the chairman of the Federation of Syriac Associations, evaluated what was said by Celik during his Moscow visit. Turker said Syriacs are disappointed by legal cases pertaining to the land surveys. Syriacs were particularly upset with the ruling on the Mor Gabriel monastery. Turker, who had settled in Midyat after living abroad for many years, said he believes the sincerity of appeals by politicians, but there remains one reservation: "Christian minorities in particular are seen as traitors. Starting with the bureaucracy, they have to understand and explain the problems of Syriacs. The state banned the use of the word ‘infidel,’ but the mentality remains.”
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