See updates below. The Assyrian Policy Institute is deeply concerned by initial reports that on January 11, 2020, two Assyrians, Hurmuz Diril and Şimoni Diril, were abducted by unidentified assailants in their village called Meer in Şirnak Province, Turkey.
The elderly couple had returned to Meer approximately ten years ago, and were the last Assyrians remaining in the village. Their son, Chaldean Catholic priest Fr. Ramzi Diril, arrived home on Sunday, January 12, 2020 to find their house empty and his parents missing. An eyewitness reported seeing them the day before. Turkish authorities have led search efforts to locate the missing couple. However, winter conditions are harsh in Şirnak, and the current conditions are reportedly hindering the search.
The many challenges and danger faced by Assyrians in southeast Turkey continue to fuel Assyrian emigration and prevent repatriation.
On January 16, 2020, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued the following statement: "USCIRF is deeply troubled by reports that Hurmuz and Şimoni Diril, parents of Chaldean Catholic priest Remzi Diril, have gone missing under suspicious circumstances from their home in the remote village of Meer/Kovankaya in Şırnak, Turkey. The search for the couple is ongoing."
Update (1/25/2020): The search for Hurmuz and Şimoni Diril is ongoing, but has failed to find any trace of the missing couple thus far. An eyewitness reported that the couple was abducted from their village of Meer by three alleged members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) who have a strong presence in the region.
The PKK is a Kurdish militant and political organization founded in Turkey, but operating throughout the region, whose stated mission is to seek greater Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey. The PKK has been involved in an armed conflict with the Turkish state for decades.
Historically an Assyrian village, Meer has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire of the conflict between Turkish authorities and the PKK. The village has been evacuated twice in both 1989 and 1992 due to heightened conflict. The Diril family returned to Meer ten years ago despite the dangers in an attempt to rebuild and promote repatriation.
Update (3/20/2020): The body of Şimoni Diril, who has been missing since January 11, 2020, has been found. The cause of death is not yenown; no further details are available at this time. More information to follow.