The name Erol Dora was not familiar to most Turks – until this weekend. The 47-year-old lawyer has now caused a historic sensation in the only Muslim applicant country to the EU: Dora is the first Christian politician in half a century to take up a seat in parliament in Ankara.
Dora thinks that it is about time. "There haven't been any Christian members of parliament since the 1960s," said the lawyer in an interview with Qantara.de. "I don't find that normal."
Dora is one of Turkey's approximately 13,000 Syrian Orthodox Christians. The southern Anatolian province of Mardin is the traditional home to the small minority, whose members still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.
The region also features many ancient Syrian Orthodox monasteries, the most important of which, Mor Gabriel, came into the international spotlight in recent years due to a legal battle with the Turkish state.
Dora comes from south-eastern Turkey, although he has long since worked in Istanbul. Born in a small, exclusively Christian village in 1963, Dora moved away when he was nine in order to attend school.
In the 1990s, the region was evacuated by the Turkish security forces in the war against the Kurdish PKK rebels. Its inhabitants lost their homes and sought refuge even as far away as Western Europe, just like many who lived in the other 3000 or so destroyed villages in the Kurdish region.
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