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The people you see on the photo are Hurmuz (71 years old) and Şimuni Diril (65), an Assyrian-Chaldean couple who went missing on January 11 2020.

On March 21 2020, Şimuni’s lifeless body was found by family members in a river near their village, on the 70th day following the disappearance.

As for Hurmuz, despite searches, cries and tears by his family, he has not been found in over 2 years now…

For this Syriac couple, members of the least numerous among the discriminated and oppressed minorities in Turkey, life was anything but a peacefully flowing river…

Formerly their village was known as Meer, in Chaldean. Renamed, it is now called “Kovankaya”, in Turkish. It was thus “turkified” as were the names of many other places having served or still serving as homes to minority people, constantly held in Turcity’s line of sight. Assimilation, destruction of cultures and languages other than Turkish, negation of the existence of peoples also carries over to village sign posts and street names…

Meer village Cumhuriyet

Beytüşşebap villagers forced into exile are looking for a way to return to their country. (Cumhuriyet newspaper archives) Click to enlarge.

Meer is located in the Beytüşşebap district of the southeastern province of Şırnak. The village was one of the 14 such villages set ablaze whose inhabitants were forced to move. Why? The excuse then was simply the villagers’ refusal to become ‘guards” (korucu) serving the State as both militiamen and informers…

The villagers were “evacuated in 1989 for the first time. Then four families returned in 1992. But in 1994, Meer was subjected to another evacuation.

You will recall that the nineties were the years that saw the relaunching of the notion of Turkey joining the European Union and its “values”. To this purpose, a certain François Mitterrand, French President, then met the Turkish President Turgut Özal in 1992. Yet one month earlier, the Kurdish Newroz of March 1992 had been severely repressed and had involved the death of dozens of people. The prisons were already full. Those were also the years when Turkey welcomed refugees from Bosnia Herzgovina, thus buying itself a fresh virginity on the matter of ethnic cleansing carried out by Serbian and Croatian nationalists. Hypocritical images for the outside world, and identical practices domestically, invoking the same nationalist arguments.

Let’s get back to Meer. It is also one of those villages emptied of its souls where cases of “disappearances under custody” have marked people’s memories.  The grandchildren of Şimuni Diril’s uncle have been declared missing since 1994. Ilyas and Zeki Diril, respectively 12 and 16 years of age at the time, had left for Istanbul with their family, following the evacuation of their village in 1989, had worked  there, saved up money and wanted to go back to the village to join their parents who had preceded them. Upon arrival in Şırnak, they were arrested on May 2 1994 at a control post and taken into custody. Since then, no news nor any further traces have emerged…

Investigations opened for each of the children resulted in charges being dismissed. Zeki’s family appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court ruled that the Turkish State was responsible for the disappearance of Zeki Diril and unanimously condemned Turkey. And… nothing happened.

The names of the two boys frozen in the springtime of their lives, are among the long list of the disappeared… On their 628th week the “Saturday Mothers” demanded accounts on their fate and of those of all the children “forcibly disappeared”.

Hurmuz and Şimuni who searched for their relatives for years, did not know that it would be their turn to disappear some day…

Hurmuz et Şimuni Diril

When forced into exile, does one not always dream of returning to the fold? Starting in 2011, Hurmuz and Şimuni began returning slowly to the village with their children, to spend about five months there, in the spring and summer. The couple resettled there permanently in 2014.

In the video, you can see them busying enthusiastically to bring life back to their village where more than 700 people were living episodically at the time. You have no trouble experiencing their happiness at reconnecting with their native land, even if only a few houses re-open their doors in summertime. In wintertime, theirs was one of the two still smoking in the village…

If you wish more information, you can watch this documentary titled “Meer narrated by our elders”, with French sub-titles, an excerpt of which you see above. It offers moving testimonials on this “Assyro-Chaldean Christian village in the north of Mesopotamia (northeastern part of current Turkey) that is said to have been founded by 6 families some 500 years ago, according to the elders.” Directed by Bedri Hurmuz Diril in 2015, it is also “a stirring homage to the dead and to the ancestors, telling  of their life and the village’s memorable history throughout the ages.” 

Si vous voulez en savoir plus, vous pouvez visionner ce documentaire intitulé “Meer raconté par nos aïeuls” sous-titré en français, dont vous venez de voir l’extrait ci-dessus. Il offre d’émouvants témoignages sur ce “village chrétien assyro-chaldéen dans le nord de la Mésopotamie (sud-est de la Turquie actuelle) qui aurait été fondé par 6 familles il y a environ 500 ans, d’après les anciens”. Réalisé par Bedri Hurmuz Diril en 2015, c’est aussi “un vibrant hommage aux défunts et aux aïeuls qui  racontent leur vécu et la mémorable histoire de leur village à travers le temps.”

There is also a website dedicated to the village of Meer:

Thus did the death of these two villagers join the long list of the “disappeared” in Turkey, even if one of the bodies was recovered. Every hypothesis has been considered, but the fact they were a couple considered as “in need of assimilation” when their ancestors were among the first to live in this location, obviously points toward a “racist” crime, given they are considered as “others”, in the eyes of the reigning nationalist Turcity.

This was only two years ago.


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste
Chat de gouttière sans frontières. Journalisme à l'Université de Marmara. Architecture à l'Université de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.