Statement on Assyrians/Syriacs in Turkey and Iraq
Signed by four European Parliament Members
It is of utmost importance that the European Union directs its attention
to the alarming situation as regards violations of the political and
religious freedom of Christian minorities in the Middle East. At stake
In particular, one of the ancient ethnic groups in Turkey and Iraq, the Assyrians/Syriacs, is near the point of extinction. Before the Gulf War 1,5 million Assyrians/Syriacs populated Iraq. Today this number has decreased to 0,5 million inhabitants. There are currently estimated 10-15,000 Assyrians/Syriacs left in Turkey.
The Assyrian/Syriac people have a precious cultural heritage of great importance for the entire civilized community. Nonetheless, Assyrian churches and monasteries are being systematically confiscated or even destroyed.
With every international crisis in the Middle East, the Assyrians/Syriacs as well as other Christian minority groups have been targeted by both fighting sides, as they found themselves caught in the middle of different political and religious power-constellations. At present, there is strong concern about the situation of Assyrians/Syriacs in Northern Iraq.
On the other hand, Turkey has not improved its record as regards the
religious freedom and property rights of Christian minorities, in spite
of recent changes in national legislation. The Commission states in
its Strategy Paper on the enlargement that Turkey has made noticeable
progress towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria. This is
not enough. It is time that the EU made clear to the Turkish administration
The Assyrians/Syriacs represent an original Christian group in the Middle East. Along with other religious minorities, they need to be officially recognized and be allowed to effectively enjoy their basic human rights by governments and national authorities. It is therefore of great importance that the EU demonstrates stronger concern for the plight of the Assyrian/Syriac people, by bringing the issue of their political and religious rights and indeed of their very existence to the main political agenda.
The situation of the Assyrians/Syriacs was raised in an open hearing in the beginning of October 2002 in the European Parliament arranged by the Nordic Christian Democrats.
Mr. Anders Wijkman, Member of the European Parliament
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|Last Update: December 3, 2002|