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Assyrian MP Verbally Harassed in Turkish Parliament for Christmas Greetings in Assyrian
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George Aslan, an Assyrian member of the Turkish parliament.
A Syriac [Assyrian] MP was verbally harassed by nationalist Good (İYİ) Party members as he extended Christmas greetings to Syriac citizens in his mother tongue during yesterday's parliamentary session (video)

George Aslan, a Peoples' Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party MP representing Mardin, who is also the sole Christian member of Turkey's Parliament, noted that this would be his last speech in 2023 and extended his Christmas greetings in advance.

"I congratulate all Christians, especially our citizens of Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian Syriac descent, living in Turkey," he remarked.

Related: The Assyrian Genocide

Subsequently, addressing Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder, also a DEM Party member, he said, "Mr. Speaker, I would like to say the same words about Christmas in the Syriac language to my Syriac people who do not know Turkish, if you allow," which he allowed.

When Aslan started speaking in Syriac, reactions came from İYİ Party ranks, with MP Lütfü Türkkan asking Aslan to speak in Turkish and provide a translation of his remarks. "This is the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and Turkish is the official language of Turkey. You must speak Turkish here!" he said.

Aslan responded, "Look, we didn't come here from another planet; we are the indigenous people of this land."

Intervening in the quarrel, Deputy Speaker Önder reminded a recent prayer in Arabic recited for a deceased MP and said, "Verses from Baqara [a section of Quran] were being recited here; did any of you ask, 'What's the translation?'" receiving applause from DEM Party ranks.

When Türkkan said it was a Quranic verse, Önder replied, "Mr. Türkkan, let me read another verse: 'Your languages are also the signs of Allah'."

Meanwhile, in the parliamentary minutes, the Aslan's remarks in Syriac were recorded as "..."

Syriacs in Turkey

Syriacs are a semitic Christian minority in Turkey. Once a large ethnic minority in the Ottoman Empire living in southeastern Anatolia, most Syriacs were murdered during Sayfo, also known as the Assyrian genocide, from 1915 on, and the rest were forced to emigrate to join fellow Assyrians in northern Iraq, northeast Syria, and northwest Iran. Most of those survived the massacres left the country in the second half of the 1900s.

Currently, the Syriac population in Turkey is estimated as 25,000 to 30,000, with most of them residing in İstanbul.

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