Turkish church defaced with Islamist graffiti
Mehmet Ali Bulun
Police have started an investigation after a suspected group of people defaced the façade of the 1,700-year-old Mor Jacob Syriac Orthodox Church in Nusaybin, in the southeastern province of Mardin, with pro-Islamic slogans. The offenders allegedly defaced the stone walls of the church on Monday with various slogans, such as "Clear off, bastards," "Clear off, Zionist dogs," "Heretics, lay off," and "Zionist powers, clear off," in Turkish and, "Allah u Muhammed," and "Prophet Muhammad, fight the infidels and hypocrites," in Arabic. The police will fingerprint the lid of a paint tin found on the ground at the site of the graffiti and will also fingerprint the wire fence surrounding the church, which is currently undergoing restoration.
Nusaybin Mayor Ayºe Gökkan and members of the town council also went to the church upon hearing of the vandalism, denouncing the act.
Gökkan said the graffiti was an insult to all members of the Nusaybin
community, whether Syriac Orthodox, Kurdish, Arabic, or Yezidi.
According to Gökkan, the offense was not committed by one person but by a group of people. Noting that renovators had placed a wired fence around the church for construction purposes, Gökkan said it would have been impossible for one person to climb and tear down the fence, enter the church grounds and deface the walls.
"If the police respect all cultures, they should quickly solve this case and prosecute the offenders. The case is going to be followed closely by the municipality. [The municipality] is not going to regard this as an ordinary crime. Mor Jacob Church is an asset to people of all religions who belong to this community, and the community is going to protect this asset," he said.
The church reportedly dates from 313 A.D. and is currently being restored by the Mardin Directorate of Museums.
Mehmet Deniz, the directorate's resident art historian, Ural Züngör, a museum restorer and member of Istanbul University's Department of Restoration faculty and Süleyman Bayar, an archaeologist, went to the church to investigate the incident.
The three collected paint samples and said the graffiti could be removed without damaging the church's historical texture.
The church is expected to re-open its doors once the restoration project is complete.