Tur Abdin

Map of Tur Abdin showing Syriac villages and monasteries. Red cross- Operational monastery Orange Cross- Abandoned monastery

Tur Abdin (Syriac: ܛܘܼܪ ܥܒ݂ܕܝܼܢ) is a hilly region situated in southeast Turkey, including the eastern half of the Mardin Province, and Şırnak Province west of the Tigris, on the border with Syria. The name 'Tur Abdin' is derived from Syriac, meaning "mountain of the servants (of God)". Tur Abdin is of great importance to Syriac Orthodox Christians, for whom the region used to be a monastic and cultural heartland.[1] The Syriac Orthodox community of Tur Abdin call themselves Suroye and Suryoye and traditionally speak a central Neo-Assyrian dialect called Turoyo.[2]



The town of Midyat and the villages of Hah, Bequsyone, Dayro da-Slibo, Salah (with the old monastery of Mor Yaqub), Iwardo (with Mor Huschabo), Anhel, Kafro, Arkah (Harabale, with Dayro Mor Malke), Beth Sbirino, Miden (Middo), Kerburan, Binkelbe with Mor Samun Zayte and Beth Zabday (Azech) were all important Syriac Orthodox places among with countless other villages. Hah has the ancient `Idto d'Yoldath-Aloho, the Church of the Mother of God.


Portal of the Mor Gabriel Monastery


The Assyrian presence in Tur Abdin dates back to the 13th century BC; mentioned in the inscriptions of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari I, where Mount Izla was called the Kashiari mountain.[3] The area may be that of the ancient city and bishopric of Rhandus, which belonged to the late Roman province of Mesopotamia Secunda.


During World War I, 500,000 Syriac Christians were killed in the Ottoman Empire's Christian Genocide (called in Syriac Sayfo, simply 'the sword'). In the last few decades, caught between Turkish assimilation policies against Kurds, and Kurdish resistance, many Syriacs have fled the region or been killed. Today there are only 5,000, a quarter of the Christian population thirty years ago. Most have fled to Syria (where the city of Qamishli was built by them), Europe (particularly Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands), Australia and the United States. In the past few years, a few families have returned to Tur Abdin.

Recent conflicts

On 10 February 2006 and the following day, large demonstrations took place in the city of Midyat in Tur Abdin. Muslims angry about the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons gathered in Estel, the new part of the city, and started to march towards the old part of Midyat (6 kilometers away), where the Christians live. The mob was stopped by the police before reaching old Midyat.

In 2008 a series of legal challenges were made against the monastery of Mor Gabriel. Some local Kurdish villages sought to claim land on which the monastery had paid taxes since the 1930s as belonging to the villages, and made other accusations against the monastery. This led to considerable diplomatic and Human Rights action throughout Europe and within Turkey.[4]


Mor Hananyo Monastery, or The Saffron Monastery in English

The most important Syriac Orthodox centre in Tur Abdin is the monastery of Dayro d-Mor Hananyo, 6 km south east of Mardin, in the west of the region. Built from yellow rock, the monastery is affectionately known as Dayro d Kurkmo in Syriac, Dayr al-Zafaran in Arabic, or Deyrülzafarân in Turkish: the Safron Monastery. Founded in AD 493, the monastery was the residence of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch from 1160 to 1932. Although the patriarch now lives in Damascus the monastery still contains the patriarchal throne and tombs of seven patriarchs and metropolitans. Today the monastery is led by a bishop and a monk and some lay assistants, and is a school for orphans. The bishop of Mor Hananyo is also the patriarchal vicar of Mardin. His goal is to rebuild the monastery and to preserve the history of the Syriac Orthodox church. The Dayro d-Mor Hananyo is part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage and was visited by numerous celebrities e.g. like Prince Charles.

In the centre of the Tur Abdin region, a few miles south of Midyat, is Dayro d-Mor Gabriel. Built in AD 397, Mor Gabriel monastery, is the oldest functioning Syriac Orthodox monastery on earth. It is the residence of the Metropolitan Bishop of Tur Abdin, seven nuns, four monks and a host of guests, assistants and students. The monastery is charged with keeping the flame of Syriac Orthodox faith alive in Tur Abdin, for which it is as much a fortress as a church.[5]

The Saffron and Mor Gabriel monasteries are the most important of the region, existing along with six or seven other active monasteries:

Notable people

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tur Abdin.


  1. Aphram I. Barsoum; Ighnāṭyūs Afrām I (Patriarch of Antioch) (2008). The History of Tur Abdin. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-715-5.
  2. Wolfhart Heinrichs (1990). Studies in Neo-Aramaic. Scholars Press. pp. xi, 189. ISBN 978-1-55540-430-7.
  3. J. M. Munn-Rankin (1967). Assyrian Military Power. Cambridge University. p. 7.
  4. The Case of the St. Gabriel Syriac Monastery in Midyat, Turkey , 2010.
  5. http://www.academia.edu/1860499/Syriac_Monasticism_in_Tur_Abdin_A_Present-Day_Account. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. [kirchenleitung-unterwegs.ekvw.de/2014/04/30/ein-christliches-lebenszeichen-dorf-der-rueckkehrer/ kirchenleitung-unterwegs.ekvw.de/2014/04/30/ein-christliches-lebenszeichen-dorf-der-rueckkehrer/] Check |url= value (help). Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. http://souf.nu/tur-abdin-resan-2014-dag-9-10. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. https://www.aina.org/ata/2013101916954.htm. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Coordinates: 37°24′N 41°29′E / 37.400°N 41.483°E / 37.400; 41.483

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