Turkey Arrests Assyrian for Rebuilding His Village
By Bar Daisan
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Petrus Karatay. ( Ahval News)
Midyat, Turkey (AINA) -- A Few days ago Petrus Karatay, an Assyrian Chaldean Christian who returned from Paris to Herbol (Turkish Aksu), his acnestral víllage in the Turkish province of Şirnak, was detained for unknown reasons.

Writing in a Turkish website, an article titled Even one Chaldean was seen as too much for Şirnak, author Nurcan Baysal elaborated on Karatay's life story, his exile from the village he was born in and on his decision to return to rebuild his village.

Herbol was one three main Assyrian villages that survived the genocide in 1915 in the province of Şirnak. The other villages were Hassane and Besbin. Herbol had a population of about 4,000. In the fight against the Kurdish PKK in the 1980s, pressure increased on the village. In the 1990s the so-called village guards, mainly local Kurds, were imposed in the region. The Assyrian villagers did not accept them.

As the pressure mounted the villagers had to emigrate. Most went to France, Belgium, and Germany. Petrus' family emigrated to France. In exile, Petrus presided over the Assyrian-Chaldean Association for many years. But his thoughts always remained on his childhood village.

He initiated efforts to return and submitted an official request through Turkey's Consul in Paris in 2009. With the beginning of the so-called peace period with the PKK in 2013, he finally return to Herbol. But meanwhile his village had been confiscated by Turkey's Coal Enterprises.

Petrus Karatay, center. ( Al-Jazeera)

Herbol is under the control of the coal companies and the rulers of the region, the village guards.

The village, its houses, cemetery and church were formally buried under the mounds of excavation of the coal mines. A tough struggle for Petrus followed. He planted thousands of trees in the village. Despite receiving open threats, he even began construction of houses on his ancestral land. Videos posted on the Internet show that several houses were partially completed.

Petrus placed a sign at the entrance of the village. He said in an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera "you are welcome to Aksu-Herbol Village. Within the boundaries of the village: It is forbidden to hunt, to cut trees, to burn fire."

Baysal stated that the threats became increasingly intense and that Petrus appealed to the Governorship of Şirnak, the District Governor of Silopi and the prosecutor's office dozens of times for the threats he received.

While on the one hand, the village was struggling with the coal companies to protect its trees, Petrus draw the attention of the state on him too.

A great fire in July 2015 burned the village completely.

The government rejected the claim that the fire was started by soldiers. Petrus told journalists that he had witnessed the fire being started by soldiers. The Newspaper Evrensel cited him saying: "The return of some peasants to the village made the state act this way. I witnessed the lightning bullets being thrown by the soldiers."

Petrus was not afraid to speak the truth. This was confirmed in an interview on AssyriaTV with Simon Poli, himself a returnee from Sweden to Midyat, and who knows Petrus quite well. Simon said because Petrus was trying to save the village, he made some people angry, namely, the coal companies, the village guards and the rulers of the region

Nurcan Baysal ends her article by saying that this brave man, the last Assyrian-Chaldean in Sirnak, is now under arrest for being a "member of a terrorist organization." The state, hand in hand with the rulers of the region, regards even one Assyrain as too much for Şirnak.

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