Ego’s house is empty: Assyrian elder shot dead in Turkey

By The Assyrian Journal | Nov. 11, 2023

Gevriye Ego, 92, enjoyed tending to his garden and going on leisurely walks in his village of Anhil in Turkey’s southern Tur Abdin region.

Ego was also a village elder and leading voice against land grabs of Assyrian homes in Turkey. He was shot dead at his home on Monday evening.

On the day of his death, he had been asked to resolve a village dispute between his Assyrian community and neighboring Kurds. Ego was killed just before midnight as he returned home with his wife.

“They didn’t just kill an elder. They also killed our willingness to still go [to Anhil] because people are afraid,” said Ego’s great niece Dara, whose real name was withheld for fear of reprisal. 

Tur Abdin consists of more than 80 villages and was home primarily to followers of the Syriac Orthodox church. Many Assyrians were forced to abandon the region in the 1980s and 1990s during Kurdish and Turkish clashes, made to choose between leaving their homes or death if they refused to lodge and feed fighters from either side.

As Assyrians left their homes, neighboring Kurds and other groups took them over, oftentimes without warning or legal means.

The situation became more stable in the 2000s. Assyrian families that had previously fled to Europe began returning and rebuilding homes and businesses, like the pizzeria that opened last June in Arkah.

But the land grab issue remains. Assyrian families that had left sometimes return home to find others living there.

In the village of Anhil, about five Assyrian families remain. That number has grown in the summer months when families from the diaspora return to visit, a source told the Journal. The village has become safer as infrastructure improves like paved streets to neighboring villages. 

The Ego family includes prominent Assyrian media figures. One of Ego’s sons runs the popular broadcast station Assyria TV, and the other runs Suryoyo Sat, both stations based out of Sweden.

Following Ego’s death, Dara said she received calls from family members to stay away from the village in case of additional targeted attacks.

The family moved Ego’s body to Istanbul, where they held a funeral service on Friday.

A police investigation has so far produced no leads, a source told the Journal. Suspects were taken into custody, but by Friday all had been released.

Last October, Ego’s youngest sister, 88, visited her brother in Anhil. They traveled to Tur Abdin’s monasteries, spent evenings with family and relived trips to nearby villages.

The Assyrian grandmother and youngest of six siblings is now the only surviving member of her family.

With the death of her brother, and as his house has been closed, she no longer has any immediate family in the region.

“Everyone now, including his sons, nieces, nephews and my generation, think there’s no more reason for us to go to Anhil. It’s not ours anymore,” Dara said. “Ego’s house is empty.”

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