Turkey Targets the Only Assyrian Christian in His Native Village

The Assyrian persecution has continued after the genocide and the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, up until the present day.

Petrus Karatay, the only Assyrian Christian resident of a village in southeast Turkey, was arrested by Turkish soldiers on trumped-up “terrorism-related” charges on Jan. 10 and was released 12 days later.

Karatay, 63, is a descendent of victims of the 1914-1923 genocide of Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Christians perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey, including massacres, rapes, pillage, death marches and the destruction of churches. Around 750,000 Assyrians were murdered – nearly three-quarters of their prewar population.

A well-respected activist in his community and a member of the Chaldean Church, Karatay was forced to flee his native homeland in Turkey. He then lived in France for 30 years, where he founded the Chaldean Association of France and served as its president for eight years. He remains its honorary president.

Assyrians, also known as Syriacs and Chaldeans, are an indigenous people in the Middle East, living there since the beginning of recorded history. Once the rulers of Assyria, at one time the greatest empire in the world, and the builders of a magnificent civilization, Assyrians in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran are now a stateless community left to the “tender mercies” of the governments in the region. Every 50 years, there has been a massacre of Assyrians, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

Karatay was finally able to return to his native village of Harbole (Aksu) in Şırnak province in 2009, he said in an exclusive interview with the Haym Salomon Center.

“Before I moved here, I and my Assyrian friends spoke with many Turkish officials. They promised that we could safely return and would be provided with support in our efforts for building a new life in our indigenous villages. But we sadly see that they are not keeping their promises.”

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