IDIL, TURKEY — Clambering over the rubble of what was once his hometown, Robert Tutus pointed to a spot just up the road from where his family’s house had stood.

“This is where my father was assassinated,” he said. “Two men walked up to him as he was returning home one evening, and killed him with a bullet to his head.”
His father, Sukru Tutus, was the last Christian mayor of Azeh, known as Idil in Turkish, a town in southeastern Anatolia that traces its Christianity back to the time of the Apostles.
Within a month of his killing, which happened on June 17, 1994, Mr. Tutus recalled last month, the remaining Christian population of the town, several hundred people at the time, had gathered their belongings and fled to asylum in Western Europe.
The departure marked the end of the Christian era of Azeh, which had been a bishop’s seat as early as the second century and home to a Christian population of several thousand until the late 1970s.
Only ruins scattered about the hillside remain of their town today, while above it shabby concrete buildings rise to form the new town of Idil, inhabited by local Kurds and Arabs as well as a few Turkish administrators on temporary postings to the east.
And then there is Mr. Tutus, 42, camped out in an apartment in one of those buildings while he tries to reclaim his father’s properties and rebuild his parental home among the ruins on the hillside.
“This is our home, the home of the Syriac people,” Mr. Tutus said. “We will not give it up.”
The plateau of Tur Abdin, upon which Idil lies nestled between the Syrian plain and the mountain ranges of southeastern Turkey, is the historical heartland of the Syriac Orthodox Church, whose patriarchate resided here until tensions with the Turkish republic pushed it to move to Syria in 1933.
The region is still dotted with Syriac churches like Mor Gabriel, which was founded in the year 397 and is one of the oldest active monasteries in the world today. But apart from the monks, very few Syriacs remain.
A century ago, they numbered 200,000 here, according to the European Syriac Union, a diaspora organization. Some 50,000 survived the massacres of Anatolian Christians during World War I, in which the Syriac people shared the fate of the Armenians. Today, no more than 4,500 Syriac Christians, who speak a local dialect of the Aramaic language as well as Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish, remain in Tur Abdin.