Louis Delbarre tells the tragic story of the Diril family in Meer, Turkey. Highlighting the persecution Christian minorities in Turkey still face under the shadow of the Turkish government's denial of the 1915 Assyrian genocide.
This is the story of the lives and struggles of the Christian community in South Eastern Turkey, more precisely in the mountains of Sirnak and Hakkari. I decided to focus even more on the personal story of Bedri Diril, a man I met during my trip to the village of Meer.
The Diril family have lived in Meer for many years, lost in the mountains, completely cut off from the rest of the world. In January 2020 Simoni and Hurmuz Diri, Bedri's parents, were abducted.
Unfortunately, the body of Bedri's mother Simoni was found last February. The body of Hurmuz is still missing, giving Bedri and his family hope that he is still alive somewhere.
This is a quest for a father and a quest for the truth.
During World War I, more than half of the Assyrian Population in the Ottoman Empire were forcibly removed and massacred. The genocide of over half a million Assyrians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 is considered historical fact, but has largely been forgotten by the world. The Assyrian Genocide is still a dark shadow over the Assyrian People. This pain and suffering continues in the collective memory of the Assyrians, as Turkey continues to deny and publicly denounce responsibility for this largely forgotten crime during the First World War, being ignored feels like being killed twice.
Meer is an Assyro-Chaldean village in the South East of Turkey. It was one of the eight main Christian villages of the region. The village survived through the genocide in 1915. However, Meer's inhabitants have been slowly leaving due to continuous violence in the region between the Turkish Government and the PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) in the 1980’s and 1990’s, resulting in the complete desertion of the village. Today, there is just one house left in Meer, out of the hundreds that were once there at the beginning of the 20th century. The Diril Family are the last ones living in Meer.
Bedri Diril’s parents decided to move back to Meer during the first peace process, thinking life will be easier than how it used to be. They started to build the village again, little by little, returning it's feeling of paradise. Lost in the mountains, far from everything.
Simoni and Hurmuz Diril started to renovate the village, building houses, restoring the monastery up the cliff. “Meer” means construction, the final goal of Hurmuz Diril was to bring all the people that flew from the village during the trouble time to come back to the place where they were born.
On a snowy day in January, when Meer is completely cut off from the rest of the world, Simoni and Hurmuz disappeared. There was no way to reach out to the elderly couple. An eye witness reported that he saw the couple being kidnapped by armed militants. Two men and a woman. However, it is well known that the person who made the statement bore a grudge against the family.
Bedri and its family came back to the Village to look for his parents. The area is immense, even with the help of the army to search the area, it was almost impossible to cover all of the mountains. Unfortunately, the lifeless body of Simoni Diril was found by the river after few days of investigation. As you are reading these words, Hurmuz Diril is still missing.
Bedri’s Family is still actively looking for Hurmuz and the people who committed the horrible acts. Even though there is an eye witness, this man cannot be trusted and the minimal effort from the authorities is not helping.
The area is too wide for the Turkish Government to send in soldiers on the ground to search so the Turkish army decided to finance a new UAV Drone. Every day they scan the mountains without any input from the Diril family. When the night comes, it is very hard to identify if that dot of light in the sky is a drone or a star.