Assyrian, Chaldean associations call on Turkish authorities to investigate disappearance of villagers

Chaldean and Assyrian associations in Europe, the United States, Australia and Iraq sent a joint letter to Turkey’s justice and interior ministers demanding a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Chaldean villager Hurmüz Diril and the murder of his wife Şimoni Diril, the Bianet news website reported.

In their letter the associations demanded that authorities conduct an effective investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. “The Diril family is one of the last Chaldeans in the southeastern region of Turkey, and it is imperative to find the perpetrators responsible for their suffering, if Christian minorities are to feel safe and protected,” the letter said.

The couple disappeared on January 11, 2020 from their village in southeastern Şırnak province. Şimoni Diril’s body was found by her family 70 days later about 800 meters from the village, but there is still no information as to the fate of her husband.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) brought the incident to parliament a month later and requested the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the issue. They have also requested information from the Interior Ministry. Both requests remain unanswered.

Chaldeans are a minority Christian group who share a common history with Assyrians but have a separate church. Many of them lived in southeastern Turkey, but most have left the region because of persecution and displacement, mainly due to the armed conflict between the Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union

The Dirils were one of the families who had to move from their village in 1989, and a year later it was allegedly burned to the ground by security forces because the villagers had refused to join the village guards to fight the PKK.

Hurmüz Diril’s nephews, İlyas Diril, 12, and Zeki Diril, 16, disappeared after being detained by gendarmes in 1994.

Hurmüz Diril was briefly arrested for making inquiries about his nephews’ disappearance, and 40 members of the family were held under house arrest.  The family appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which in 2006 found the Turkish state responsible of both boys’ disappearance.

Chaldeans and Assyrians in southeastern Turkey have suffered forced evictions, mass displacement and the burning down of their homes and villages. According to a report by the Assyrian Democratic Organization and Human Rights Without Frontiers presented at the Belgian Federal Parliament in 1994, 200 Assyrian villages had been destroyed in Turkey in the previous 30 years.

The report added that 24 Assyrians had been murdered in Turkey since 1990. Reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have documented that the persecution of Assyrians had continued right into the 1990s. Assyrian priests and several civilians had been abducted, and there had been instances of forced conversion to Islam through rape, forced marriage and murder.

According to a report published by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in 2020, many Assyrians living in southern Turkey still fear for their future as political and economic pressures increase.

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