By Joe Snell | June 2022
Nestled inside the mountains of southeastern Turkey’s Tur Abdin, a new pizzeria opened on June 3 to a crowd of local politicians, government officials and residents from as far as Europe.
Those in attendance celebrated the business, İzla Pizzeria Arkah, and praised the return of its owners Gevriye Cil and Morris Dal, who left Germany a year ago to return to their native village of Arkah.
The restaurant, which took 10 months of construction and features panoramic views of the region’s rolling landscape, opened amid a surge of local investment that has driven tourism to the region. Nusaybin District Governor and Deputy Mayor Ercan Kayabaşı said the province of Mardin, the eastern half of which is located in Tur Abdin, is making strides toward becoming the capital of tourism.
“New businesses are opening every day,” Kayabaşı said during the restaurant’s grand opening and later continued, “Although Nusaybin is a rural neighborhood, such beautiful businesses are opening that I believe it will become one of the most important tourism destination centers in the future.”
Tur Abdin consists of more than 80 villages and was home primarily to followers of the Syriac Orthodox church. Many Assyrians, however, were forced to abandon the region in the 1980s and 1990s during Kurdish and Turkish clashes, made to choose between leaving their homeland or death if they refused to lodge and feed fighters from either side.
The situation became more stable in the 2000s, and encouraged families that had previously fled to Europe to return and rebuild their homes and businesses; but recent threats by Turkey of a military incursion into northern Syria have unsettled some locals, who are bracing for another round of violence.