A Traitor among us. The Story of Father Yusuf Akbulut
A Text in the Ṭuroyo Dialect of ʿIwardo
One hundred years after the genocide of 1915 that nearly wiped out all Christians in general and the Syrian Orthodox community in particular, the descendants of the few that survived the slaughter are still facing harassment in todays Turkey, a Turkey that has otherwise made enormous efforts to be part of the European community.
On October 5, 2000, father Yusuf Akbulut was seized and questioned by police in Diyarbakır for 18 hours. The day before, a report in the daily newspaper Hürriyet had accused him of making statements that supported labeling the death of Armenians during World War I as genocide. Syrian Orthodox Christians were also victims of the same genocide, not only Armenians, the priest had added. This was the start of a struggle that lasted six months, involving a great number of politicians, diplomats, journalists and human rights activists from all over the world.
Father Akbulut was put on trial, and three hearings later he was proclaimed not guilty. Four years later, when I first interviewed him, he and his family were still suffering from harassment. The last interview with father Akbulut was conducted in April 2014; it was obvious also then that almost fourteen years after the incident, life was still very unpleasant for the priest and his family. Will he ever be able to lead a normal life?