Christians in Turkey



Length: 2.00 – 10.17 = 8.17

First image: close up feet walking

Last image: boy looks into the camera

Last words: ´Wir versuchen das´.



People speak Aramaic, German and English. The first 2 languages I have translated.



Diba Gabriel

Isa Dogdu, head foundation Mor Gabriel

Ismail Erkan, mayor

Ismail Aydin, protestant

Ria Oomen-Ruijten, European Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey



The map that is shown on Dutch TV was made in Holland. I can’t do that. So I have put in some images instead. If buyers want a map. They are kindly asked to make it themselves.



Attack of a Christian on the street. Man holds Turkish flag around Ismail’s head en threatens him. Images are from amateurs who put it on the internet.



Name cd: Earth and ashes

Name composer: Francesco Russo and Khaled Arman

Name number : 1. O Yar Katit Darom

Number: B00076SHIE

Time used: 1 miute en 15 seconds


Maker and copyright:



Christians in Turkey have felt under attack for a long time. Diba Gabriel is one of them. Her brother was killed in Abo, a village in the South East of Turkey 23 years ago. The whole village felt it was a warning. If you’d stay, you would die. The whole Assyrian Christian community left. The village was plundered and left empty.


Diba left her home. A place where christians had lived for more than 1600 years. She found a safe haven in Switzerland. She learned the language and worked. But all the time she missed her homeland.


Now after more than 20 years in exile, Diba is back in Turkey. Together with her husband and children. Together with a few other Christians who have returned, she hopes for a better, safer future. But in this region, the Middle East, one is never sure.


Reportage: Christians returning back



(Diba is walking)

‘It is dangerous to walk here, because they destroyed everything. ’


(Diba at murder spot)

‘My brother slept here. In summertime when it was too hot, we slept two, three months outside.  They have killed my brother here.’



(Tilt down from Diba to the ground , then exterior shot of new home)


(Short silence, you hear a boy pray)


(Boy prays at breakfast table. They make a cross sign and say ‘amen’. Then the voice over starts)


It looks as if nothing has happened. Diba Gabriel and her family are eating breakfast. But Diba and her husband are the first Christians who, after years of exile, returned to the place where they were born. A place where blood was shed. A place were they used to live with their family and friends.



Diba Gabriel

‘It was much better here before.  We were with thousands. All churches were full. But now our people are gone. We are of course very sad.’


(Just a few tones of Music, Diba opens drawer, gets photo-album and shows photos.)



‘These are my parents. They are in the village. They are outside, next to the summer beds.’



Diba was raised in Arbo. A village where hundreds of Christians used to live.



(TIP: Here one could show a MAP with Israel, Syria, Iraq en Turkey on it. This map has to be made by the buyers. Now I just show images of the village)


(Start of map)

The village of Arbo lies in the South East of Turkey. Starting from around 300 years after the birth of Christ, some early Christians headed from Jerusalem to the north, and settled here in this area. The Christians founded convents and churches.  Syria lies only 25 kilometer away. And Iraq is also close. It is a troubled area.


(End of map)


(Diba walks with her family out of her house and into the car)


Diba and her family are Assyrian Christians. For centuries they lived together with Kurds, Turks, Arabs and Armenians.


(- Sound of closing car door)


(Car drives away, landscape from car)

Sometimes in peace. Often in war. One of the worst wars was the one at the beginning of the 20th century. Turks and Kurds chased away and murdered hundred of thousands of Christians. And violence in the region continues. At the moment especially in neighbouring Iraq. Where people are murdered because of their faith.



Diba Gabriel

‘The killing has never stopped here in the East. Everybody comes and plunders from our people, our villages, our cities. It is not right. What do they want from our people here?’


(Diba closes door, voice over starts, she walks to the grave)

Diba fears there is just one answer to this question. Christians should leave this area. That is why, she thinks, her brother was killed.


‘Here is the grave of my brother. Here he lies. They shot him 23 years ago.’  


(tilt up on black and white picture of Asho with wife and chidren, Diba at grave)

The police did not investigate the murder of the 37 year old Asho. The murderer was never caught. Villagers saw the killing as a warning: If you’d  stay, you would die.



(- Sound up, Diba walks)


(pan over empty village, blue sky, exterieur broken church, Diba crawls into the church)

The villagers packed their bags and went. Most of them to Europe in search for a better, safer life. The village was left behind. Empty. Houses were used as stables. And the church was plundered.



(Diba in empty church, plundered graves)

‘When our bishops or priests die, they are burried inside the church. They thought that these graves were full of diamants. They destroyed everything. But they found nothing, except bones.’


Short silence, Diba far away in empty church, then sound of church bell comes up



(pan from landscape to convent, Diba walks with family into the church, praying)

But after more than 20 years of exile, Diba is back, with her family. She missed her country, her language and the old convents. Like this one. Mor Gabriel. This convent is more than 1.600 years old. The Assyrian people consider it their Jerusalem.


- sound up singing in church




(1 monk stands  in front, 2 others come up to him, people kiss the hand of the monk)


In the past more than a thousand monks lived here. Now there are only 3 left. And there is a new threat. Not of violence this time, but of court cases. Because the Turkish state and surrounding muslim villages demand part of the land of the convent.



Isa Dogdu, convent Mor Gabriel

‘There are bad intentions of course. They are not happy with our presence here and they want to have us out of this place. So with this kind of intimidation, they think that we will be fed up and leave.’


(Mayor stands on the roof, points to convent far away)

But muslims do not want christians to leave, says the mayor of the neighbouring village. His people are poor and they only want a part of the land, to let their cattle graze on it.



Ismail Erkan, Mayor

The villages around us have been emptied. That makes us sad. That is really the truth. We are not exaggerating. We are telling the truth. If the convent would leave as well, then we would not be happy with that. In stead of empty ruins, we want the world to know that muslims and Christians will live together. That is meaningful.


(Turkish Christian walks up to Ria)

But is it really happening? That is what the Dutch Ria Oomen-Ruijten wants to know. She is the Turkey rapporteur of the European parliament. This time she visits Turkey to aks Christians how they are treated.


- Very nice to meet you.


(They sit down)

It turns out that even in Istanbul, the biggest city of Turkey, Christians do not always have it easy,  Ismail Aydin explains. He was attacked in a busy street. A man pulled a red Turkish flag around his head and put a knife on his throat. Only because he was a Christian.



(Ismail lies on the Floor, parliamentarian looks at him, images of the attack)


 ‘I will show it: He said I should lie on the floor. So I did. Then he went slowly with his knife like this, as if he wanted to cut my throat. Then he stopped. I stayed still, and then the police jumped on him’



Ria Oomen-Ruijten, europarliamentarian

‘What the issue is here, is that there is no real mentality of freedom of religion. There is just one religion here, islam. And  that other religions should enjoy the same freedom, that all citizens should enjoy those freedoms, that is something that one does not comprehend her. And that is why these kind of things happen. So what we do  in Europe is to condemn and to tell the government that freedom of religion belongs to the civil liberties. And a country that wants to become a member of the European Union one day, should ensure these freedoms.



(Diba in empty village, pan from broken houses to new houses, children in small school)



Diba sighs


Then voice over


Despite everything Diba Gabriel is convinced that things are getting better in Turkey. That is why she returned, together with some others. In her old village new houses are build. They repair the churches and the children learn their own language again, Aramaic, a language that is close to the language Christ spoke.



(- Children are singing, in a class in church)



(diba speaks)

‘ Our dream? We will fight for our land. We will stay on our land. That is what we will try.’



End of story

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