A 91-year-old Syriac man has been killed in an armed attack by unknown assailants in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin in a development that raised concerns further about Turkey’s already declining Syriac community, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
The man, identified as Gevriye Akgüç (Gevriye Ego), was killed in front of his house as he was returning home from a visit to a neighbor in Yemişli neighborhood of the Midyat district late on Monday.
He was severely injured in the attack and succumbed to his injuries at the Midyat State Hospital.
The gendarmerie has launched a manhunt to capture the assailants, who fled the scene of the crime. Fifteen suspects including two village guards have been detained so far in connection to the murder.
Akgüç, who had reportedly been living in Europe, settled in İstanbul a while ago and recently travelled to Mardin to visit his relatives.
The WCA, the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs), released a statement condemning the old man’s murder while noting that the motive behind the murder and its perpetrators is still unknown.
“This barbaric attack represents a flagrant assault on the safety of Aramean Christians, the native inhabitants of Turabdin. In this region where they barely exceed 2,500 individuals, they still grapple with threats to their lives and the very existence of their community,” the WCA said in its statement.
Tur Abdin, meaning “mountains of the Servants” in Syriac is a region in southeastern Turkey famous for its Christian monasteries.
“The WCA urgently calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate a comprehensive investigation into this heinous crime and demands justice for the victim. Ensuring the safety and security of the last remaining Aramean Christians in the region is of paramount importance to the future survival of the Aramean people in their homeland, and must be addressed without delay,” the statement said.
Johny Messo, president of the WCA, said: “We are at a loss for words to describe this utterly cowardly and shameless attack on an innocent elderly man. The pain and loss experienced by our Vice President and his family are shared by all of us. We will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice and demand safety and security for the remaining Arameans in Turabdin.”
Akgüç’s son Süleyman Akgüç (Shleimun Ego), from Sweden, is vice president of the WTC and a host of Aramaic TV channel Suryoyo Sat, according to the WCA’s statement.
The Iraqi Christian Foundation also condemned Akgüç’s murder in a tweet, hinting that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) might be behind it.
The PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
So tragic! A 91-year-old Syriac Christian man has been murdered in Turabdin, SE Turkey. The elderly man was ambushed in front of his home & shot multiple times in the head. Syriac Christians are indigenous to SE Turkey but face threats by PKK to leave the area. Rest in peace! pic.twitter.com/olXHzqqGjF
— Iraqi Christian Foundation (@iraqschristians) November 7, 2023
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Mardin lawmaker George Aslan made a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, and said what happened to Akgüç is a murder and not an accident or anything else.
He said the killing of Akgüç is a source of great pain for every Syriac living in the region.
Once a sizeable ethnic minority during the Ottoman era, the Assyrians suffered a mass slaughter in 1915 that some refer to as a genocide. Subsequently, they faced pogroms in the early days of the Republic of Turkey, after which some of them fled to neighboring Syria.
Despite being a predominantly Christian minority, the Assyrians were not granted minority status under the Treaty of Lausanne, a provision from which other non-Muslim groups benefit, namely Armenians, Jews and Greeks.
Their number in Turkey is currently estimated at 25,000. Most of them live in İstanbul, having fled their hometowns in the southeast of the country due to the Kurdish conflict.