Turkey confiscates properties from Christian communities

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The twin spires of the Mor Gabriel monastery stand against a blue sky

The twin spires of the Mor Gabriel monastery stand against a blue sky

The twin spires of the Mor Gabriel monastery stand against a blue sky

Syriacs are one of Turkey’s oldest communities, descendants of a branch of Middle Eastern Christianity.

The Syriac Orthodox Church is united by a language derived from Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. 

It was founded around the year 512 by Patriarch Severus in Antioch, which was then part of the Byzantine Empire. 

Since then, Syriacs spread throughout the Middle East, and there are surviving communities in Iraq, Iran and Syria.  

There were 250,000 Syriacs when Ataturk founded Turkey after World War I from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Thousands of them were killed in massacres by Ottoman forces during the ‘Seyfo’ or the Year of the Sword, in 1915. Today they number 20,000. 

Syriacs migrated throughout the 20th century to Europe, fleeing first persecution by the new secular republic, and later to escape violence between Kurdish separatist rebels and the Turkish military in the southeast.

Their historic homeland is called Tur Abdin, the Mountains of the Servants of God, and is situated on a plateau between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 

This is studded with more than 80 monasteries, many of which are in ruins. 



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