Thursday, June 9, 2016

Turkey | Nusaybin | Conflict

Back in the Spring of 2014 I visited Nusaybin On The Turkish-Syrian BorderNusaybin is the modern Turkish name of the city. Most of the residents of the city, however, are either Kurds, Syriacs (also known as Chaldeans, Assyrians, or Arameans, not to be confused with Syrians) or Arabs. The Kurdish name for the city is Nisêbîn. During Roman and Byzantine times the city was known as Nisibis. I was in town to visit the Church of St. Jacob and the ruins of the old School of Nisibis, which local boosters and Others try to claim was the world’s first university. It might well have been the first university in what is now Turkey. It was founded by St. Jacob in the first half of the fourth century A.D. Jacob (d. 338) had been appointed bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis in 309. In addition to founding the university, he also, according to local sources, built the church which still stands near the ruins of the School of Nisibis. Jacob was one of the signatories at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. If you are a Christian and attend Christian services you will probably at some point repeat at least part of the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea. St. Jacob was also the first Christian to search for Noah’s Ark. He claimed he found a piece of the Ark on Mt. Judi, about seventy miles north of Nisibis. What eventually happened to this alleged relic is unknown.
 Coffin of St. Jacob in the catacombs beneath the Church of St. Jacob in Nusaybin (click on image for enlargements)
Back then the town was pretty peaceful. The only sign of civil war just across the border in Syria was the almost totally empty square next to the border crossing. Normally, I was told, the square would be full of traders from the Syrian town of Qamishli, just across the border, buying and selling goods.

Now comes the sad news that 496 people were killed in Nusaybin during clashes between the Turkish military and alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). See Turkey Says It Ended Some Military Operations Against PKK. The Kurds who took me to Nusaybin had relatives in the city, whom we met while we were there. I can only hope that they were not somehow caught up in this conflict. 
Kurdish coffee sellers in the Nusaybin market