(AINA) -- Turkey's continued persecution of its remaining Assyrian population is most blatantly highlighted by the ongoing trial of Fr. Yusuf Akbulut (AINA: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). An Assyrian priest of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Fr. Akbulut was arrested following a newspaper interview in which he affirmed the Assyrian-Greek-Armenian Holocaust of 1915. The wider scope of the persecution, however, has been significantly more widespread and has included the lack of recognition of Assyrians as a people, the razing of dozens of villages, severe restrictions on religious and cultural education at the remaining Assyrian monasteries, as well as dozens of deaths. In an independent investigation into the condition of the remaining Assyrian population, the UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Abelfattah Amor, noted that the brutal conditions endured by Assyrians had led the population to precipitously decline from over 130,000 25 years ago to a current population of less than 5,000.
Although the remaining population of Assyrians poses no threat to Turkey, the continued persecution coupled by the schizophrenic denial by Turkey of its role in the 1915 Holocaust of Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians has served to galvanize the Assyrian community in two fundamentally unprecedented ways. First, the entire Assyrian diaspora has mobilized on behalf the Assyrians remaining in Turkey, signalling the alarm throughout the international community of the threat to the indigenous culture and people of northern Mesopotamia. Secondly, Turkey's strong arm tactics have served to draw Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians into unprecedented cooperation and strategic coordination.
This new Assyrian-Greek-Armenian cooperation has not escaped Turkey's attention. A Turkish State Security Court commissioned report (dated March 6, 2001) on Assyrian organizations and activities commented on "the increase of the activities to achieve their objectives and the close cooperation of the Assyrian, Syriani, Chaldean community with the Armenian and Greek organization..." The report also identified specific Assyrian organizations as spearheading activities described as "anti-Turkish" including the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), the Assyrian Syriani and Chaldean Union, the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies, and the European Assyrian Syriani Union.
An example of close cooperation between Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians was the enthusiastic championing of Fr. Akbulut's case by Armenian and Greek organizations and individuals. Most recently, Turkey has increased pressure on Greece to change Greek law describing the Holocaust as a "genocide" to merely a "devastation." The resulting outrage has led the Hellenic Electronic Center and the Genocide Action Committee into a combined Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek grassroots campaign (petition) appealing to the Greek government to maintain historical integrity and not bow to Turkish pressure.
For Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians greater cooperation is based on a deep bond founded on a shared common understanding of the historical facts surrounding their combined Holocaust by Ottoman Turkey. Still more, the intensely fervent determination of Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians is fueled by Turkey's continued denial of Ottoman Turkey's role as well as today's ongoing persecution of Turkey's remaining minorities. Pooling their resources and political clout in the capitals of Europe and North America, Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks figure to be a potent obstacle to Turkey's international aspirations. For its part, Turkey, torn by internal strife, political intrigue, and a faltering economy, now feels a desperate need to enhance its international standing and gain acceptance into the European Union. Now at a crossroads, Turkey will need to recalculate the moral, political, and economic cost of its refusal to reconcile with its bloody history as well as its current abysmal human rights record. European Union nations (AINA, 12-12-2000) have made it clear to Turkey that its entry into the EU is contingent upon improvements in its human rights record; this includes Turkey's acknowledgement of the Genocide it perpetrated against Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks in World War One.
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