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Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
 Archdiocese of the Western United States





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Syriacs in the Ottoman Period

From the 10th grade textbook – Published by the MoNE 2011 (unofficial translation) Authors: Vicdan Cazgır, İlhan Genç, Mehmet Çelik, Celal Genç, Şenol Türedi

Syriacs is one of the communities lived in the Ottoman State. There are different views on the ethnic origins of the Syriacs. According to one, the origins of the Syriacs are linked to Arameans and according to the other it is linked to Assyrians. Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, founded a church in Antioch in A.D. 37, thus disseminated Christianity in the region. This was the first time when the Syriacs met with Christianity.

Syriacs left the Roman Church due to pressures imposed by the Church and established Syriac Jacobite Patriarchate called Patriarchate of Antioch in 543. However due to the Roman Church’s ambition to be the sole power as well as due to continued pressures, they had to leave the Antioch and migrate to South-eastern Anatolia. In the meantime, some Syriacs joined different sects. Syriacs had their toughest times during the Byzantine Empire. The assimilation policy of the Byzantines turned into pressures and massacre. During the Byzantine period Syriacs mainly dealt with trade and agriculture in the South East. Syriacs used their religious places for education purposes too.

In XI’th century there were many Syriacs in Anatolia. Due to the Armenian influence on Syriacs, the Syriac population started to decrease rapidly. In the initial years of Seljuk raids to Anatolia, Syriacs were under the pressure of Byzantines and Armenians. When Kılıçarsalan 1st besieged Malatya Syriacs wanted to leave the city to the Turks because they were fed up with the pressures imposed by the administrators of the city. The Seljuk State did not intervene in the religion and faith of the Syriacs under their rule and did not impose any persecution or pressures.

During the Ottoman period freedom of faith for all non-Muslim elements was also granted to Syriacs, their religious lives were not intervened. Churches which belonged to the Syriacs were attached to the Armenian Patriarchate, thus their relations with the Ottoman State were regulated.

During the 1st World War with the provocations of Russians and the European States Syriacs revolted however, having failed in these revolts majority of the Syriacs left the Ottoman territories. England provoked the Syriac minority in 1924 in order to dominate the routes leading to oil reserves. The incidents further escalated in a short time. The rebels took hostage the governor of Hakkari. The revolts which broke out in August could only be dispersed in early October. After this revolt the minority called Nasturis left Turkey completely.

According to the Lausanne Treaty, Syriacs were considered as the citizen of the Republic of Turkey. Therefore they enjoyed the right to equality before law. Syrian migration increased in recent years due to economic factors. Particularly Syrians that have migrated abroad remain inert in the face of the political and religious manipulations of those states in order to enjoy economic prosperity of the West. During the World War 1st, Syriacs took side with Russians. Fight against Syriacs took place under conditions of war therefore genocide is not a matter in question.

Syriacs have pursued their religious and societal activities without any hindrances. Today our non-Muslim citizens mostly live in cities. They are able to freely pursue their economic activities. Syriac population has decreased due to migration abroad and they mainly live around Mardin.

Press statement


30 September 2011
Syriacs are a Christian people, legacy of the organic culture of the ancient Mesopotamia. Throughout history they have nourished the Eastern-Western culture and contributed significantly to the humanitarian philosophy as the main dynamic of the Eastern culture.

Within the borders of Turkey, Syriacs is a reality of a different faith and culture. Never in history have they demonstrated any adverse approaches or stances against the state. On the contrary they have acted honestly and sincerely under every circumstance.

We believe that, in order to ensure co-existence of different cultures in the Republic of Turkey within the mainframe of universal values of fraternity, these differences need to have the right knowledge about one another.

Education is the key to ensure that different cultures on this geography know each other well. The fact that differences are the realities of our country as well as its wealth, should be taught to people in practice.

We hope that, as part of the synergy generated by the societal change and openings that our country has been going through, the policies ignoring, melting these differences and creating prototypes will all become a thing of the past. The mental trauma caused by these policies which have been pursued for years can only be treated by honestly facing these wrong policies, accepting all differences as they are and attaining universal standards.

We consider that the democratizations steps which have particularly been accelerated as part of the full membership process to the EU, are very important and we support these steps. Amendment to laws is a beginning however not enough. What matters is the change of mentality. Unfortunately this mentality still considers the minorities as a potential threat.

Racist and provocative statements against the Syriacs included in the History Text Books of Grade 10, which have been covered by the press recently, is a tangible example to this mentality. We shall not touch upon the unrealistic and subjective interpretation of history that is included in these books. However the grave issue is that the students are explicitly provoked against Syriacs. It is deliberately and purposefully imprinted into the subconscious of the students that Syriacs are actually a potential threat. The statements in the book fall under the scope of hate crimes. Text books should provide objective information rather than ideological interpretations. Moreover they should infuse living in friendship with different identities, as well as fraternity and love.

We demand that these text books are immediately excluded from the curriculum. If Syriacs will be described in text books we would be pleased with that. However this should be about the language, literature and culture of the Syriacs and Syriacs should be consulted for this purpose.

The country has been going through a sensitive period. We need positive approaches more than ever. As an indication of the need to act responsibly and in common sense we would like to announce our sensitivity on the matter in order to contribute positively to the societal perception in view of avoiding negative effects.

Mardin Syriac Metropolit - Deyrulzafaran Monastery
Midyat Syriac Churches Foundation
İdil Syriac Ancient Foundation
Mesopotamia Culture and Solidarity Association İstanbul
Midyat Southeast (Turabdin) Syriacs Culture and Solidarity Association
Anıtlı (Hah) Syriac Mother Mary Monastery and Churches Association / Midyat
Midyat Syriac Youth Culture Association
İdil Syriac Culture Fraternity, Love and Tolerance Assoc.
Nusaybin Syriac Culture and Solidarity Assoc.
Elbeğendi (Kafro) Development and Solidarity Assoc. / Midyat
Öğündük (Midin) Village Development and Culture Assoc. / İdil
Gülgöze (İvardo) Syriac Culture, Development and Solidarity / Midyat
Yemişli (Enhil) Assoc. for Village Development and Reconciliation and Protection of Churches
Keldian -Assyrian Solidarity Assoc. KADER / İstanbul



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The Western Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, providing spiritual guidance and leadership to the Syriac Orthodox community, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization comprised of 10 churches and parishes in 17 western states. It was established in 1952 as the Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church encompassing the entire United States and Canada. In November 1995 by the Holy Synod, the Western Archdiocese was formed to exclusively serve the 17 states of the western half United States.

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