In order not to left Syriac to dissappear
“The decrease in the use of Syriac language in daily life due to globalization worries Syriacs in this regard. For this, more work falls on the media.”Yawsef Beth Turo, one of the first names that come to mind in the Assyrian media, was born in 1975 as a child of a father from Siirt and a mother from Midyat, Turkey. He spent his childhood and youthhood in Mardin, Turkey. After completing his primary and secondary education, he studied at the Deyrulzafaran (Mor Hananyo) Monastery in Mardin. He faced discrimination during his secondary school years. He faced educational setbacks due to the pressure and insults he was exposed to. He left school due to the pressures and started to study in the monastery. In 1993, there were radical changes in Beht Turo’s life. Thousands of Assyrians chose to migrate to Europe because of the oppression they faced due to their ethnicity and beliefs. Yawsef Beth Turo shared a similar fate with the Assyrians and the Netherlands became his new direction.
He started his media career in 1996. In those years, he started to host Assyrian programs on Med TV, Medya TV, and Kurdish TV, which would later be called Roj TV. Beht Turo has been working for a quarter-century now. Yawsef Beth Turo, who made a great effort in the formation of the Assyrian media, is one of the founders of the Bahro Production Foundation in the Netherlands in 1999. He is one of the founders of Suroyo TV, the first Assyrian channel to be launched in 2004. In addition to financial support for the launch of the channel, he plays a major role in the training of TV employees. In a way he was their teacher.
On the other hand, he has the opportunity to get to know the Assyrians, who live in different countries and make a program with them. He prepared and presented dozens of seminars, meetings and television programs related to the 1915 Armenian genocide.
He prepared and presented documentaries such as “1915 Sayfo”, “The Cry Unheard”, “Suryoye in Nederland”, “Sayfo 1915 u Mrodo”. In addition to being a member of the television board of directors, he has various duties such as news centre directorate and political programs editor. Beth Turo is presently hosting programmes about current issues on Suroyo TV broadcasting voluntarily from Södertalje, Sweden.
In which countries are the Assyrians heavily populated in Europe? How are their relationship with each other? Is there an institution that assembles them under the same roof?
Today, there is an Assyrian diaspora with a population of nearly half a million in European countries. The Assyrians, also known as Assyrians-Aramaic-Chaldean, are affiliated with different churches, including Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. But I must say that they are predominantly affiliated with the Orthodox Church, which is under the jurisdiction of the Damascus-based Patriarchate. Assyrians live mostly in Germany and Sweden, and in different countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria and Switzerland. They are trying to integrate into society by establishing approximately 160 churches, 120 associations and federations in the countries they reside. The Assyrians see themselves as part of the country in which they live because they are Christians.
The relations of the Assyrians with each other continue mostly under the roof of the Church and through federations. They try to come together and maintain their traditions thanks to the activities and festivals they carry out on a socio-cultural, religious and national basis.
It is possible to talk about the existence of several umbrella organizations across Europe. These mostly consist of federations, confederations and troops. I can tell you that their relationship with each other is quite good. We see that such institutions are interlocked, especially in matters related to their homeland.
What comes to mind when you think of the Assyrian media? Why did you need a media tool?
It is possible to talk about the existence of television, radio, social media and different online platforms. However, I would like to state that television is the most sustainable and common medium among these. More than 10 television channels are broadcasting primarily from Europe and America. These are the channels that deal with socio-cultural, religious and social issues.
The fact that the Assyrian people live in a highly dispersed geography and that the media plays an active role to keep them together has been motivating. Media organs have articulated the feelings of the Assyrian people. Media tools have provided the most important role in bringing Assyrians scattered across America, Australia, Europe and other continents together.
What news and broadcasts are predominantly included in the Assyrian media?
Television and other social media platforms mainly cover music, folklore, religious and ritual issues. Additionally, some programs address social issues. There are also political programmes. Of course, people mainly watch the news.
What do Assyrians living in the diaspora long for?
The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is longing for the homeland. Also old memories, history and nostalgia keep the Assyrians’ interest and longing for their homeland alive. The decrease in the use of the Assyrian language in daily life with globalization worries the Assyrians. The media has a lot to do in this regard.
Do you broadcast in your native language or Turkish?
Most of the broadcasts are made in Assyrian. There are also broadcasts in Arabic and Turkish. Of course, some broadcasts in Europe also had to be made in German, Swedish and English. I should indicate that such programs are made to appeal young people and reach a wider audience.
Assyrians are a minority group in Turkey. You are a minority among minorities in Europe. How does this resonate with your broadcasts?
The biggest challenge we face is that the Assyrians live so widely dispersed. Although we live around certain cities and towns, being located outside the homeland and in distant geographies such as Europe, America and Australia make our job difficult. For example, we are having trouble finding guests for our programmes. Nevertheless, we try to use the possibilities that technology offers us to overcome distances. In other words, we strive harder to be united and achieve a difficult objective and we struggle to keep our culture, tradition and language alive.
Figures like İbrahim Baylan, who was raised in a village without electricity and became Minister for Energy of Sweden, Reem Alabali-Radovan, who came from a despised society and became German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees Minister, or Assyriska FF and Syrianska FC football teams, which came from Turabdin villages that have no football pitch but now play in Swedish Premier League give us hope that the impossible can be possible.