Upon learning that a large number of Assyrian refugees are currently displaced in Istanbul, Turkey, ACERO’s international headquarters dispatched Mr Paul Darmoo of the United Kingdom on an urgent fact-finding mission to the Turkish city to assess the conditions of Assyrians there.
The majority of these persons fled the Northern Iraqi town of Telkaif following the Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul and surrounding areas in mid-2014.
Our long-time collaborator Cor-bishop Yousif Benyamin, parish priest of St Shmoni Church in Telkaif (now residing in Jordan), brought to ACERO’s attention that as many as 116 Assyrian families were living in dire circumstances throughout Turkey with little to no assistance.
During his mission, Mr Darmoo met representatives of 57 of these families in Kurtuluş, Istanbul. They have been there for 5 months. The area in which these families are residing is densely populated and occupied by derelict and decaying buildings. The apartment where some of these families are living had no electricity in public areas with staircases accessible by simple candlelight. Mr Darmoo found 15-20 Assyrians present in one room. These included the young and old, those with families, some with disabled children, widows and some orphans. Those present recounted harrowing stories of their flight from Telkaif, having locked the doors to their homes and run in any safe direction to escape capture by terrorists.
ACERO found that the Assyrian refugees have no work permits, no medical support and no official documentation. They spend their days waiting for a miracle, many fearing they will have no choice but to go back to Iraq. One young girl had already made the dangerous trip back to Iraq from sheer desperation.
ACERO also learnt of another approximately hundred families living in another part of Turkey, almost 8 hours from Istanbul.
Given the immense need of these displaced persons, ACERO took urgent steps to form a committee from among the refugees to administer ongoing aid to be provided by ACERO. We note here that following the establishment of the committee and appropriate arrangements, the first round of much-needed aid was distributed on 24 February 2015. We will continue to provide to these displaced persons as much support as is within our means in the hope of improving their dire conditions.
Thank you to our supporters! Our work simply would not be possible without your generosity.