Kessab, a largely Armenian-populated town in northwestern Syria, and its surrounding villages have been under cross-border attack the past week from Turkey via Al Qaeda-affiliated groups.
On Friday, March 21, the rebels crossed the Turkish border and attacked Kessab. A couple days later, on March 23, the extremist groups entered the town of Kessab, held hundreds of Armenian families hostage, destroyed three Armenian churches and took over Kessab and its surrounding villages.
Almost 700 Armenian families, who make up the majority of the population in Kessab, were evacuated by their community leaders to Latakia and Basit. Reports estimate that during the three-day assault, there were 80 civilian casualties and the town was ethnically cleansed of its Armenian population.
Under the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it was initially reported that government forces drove out the rebels. Later it was revealed, however, that the rebels were moving toward Latakia, where many Armenians have fled to for protection.
For many Armenians around the world, the events in Kessab are a reminder of what happened almost 100 years ago.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Turk authorities began arresting and murdering Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, which would mark the defining day of what would become known as the Armenian Genocide.
Following the round-up of leaders, the Ottoman military forced Armenians from their homes, raped women and children and forced the refugees into death marches for hundreds of miles while depriving them of food and water. By the end of the genocide, approximately 1.5 million Armenians had been massacred.
For many months preceding the attacks on Kessab, the Armenian National Committee-International warned the international community of impending threat from extremist foreign fighters against the Christian Armenian population in Syria.
The Armenian National Committee-International said, “In the last one hundred years, this is the third time that the Armenians are being forced to leave Kessab and in all three cases, Turkey is the aggressor or on the side of the aggressors.”
Currently, 21 countries, not including Turkey or the United States, have recognized the systematic murders of the Armenian people from 1915-1923 as the first genocide of the 20th century. The Armenian diaspora unites every year to commemorate the genocide of the Armenian people by the Turkish government and seeks to have it reaffirmed by the United States and Turkey.
This year, especially in the wake of the atrocities in Kessab, the Armenian diaspora has united stronger than ever. On Friday, March 28, hundreds of Armenians protested outside of the Turkish Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard. Simultaneously, Armenians joined forces over social media outlets using the hashtag #SaveKessab to spread awareness. The movement reached celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, The Game and Travis Barker, as they tweeted and posted Instagram pictures expressing their support to end the violence in Kessab.
It’s time for people across the world to recognize and respond to the brutality of the evil forces and all crimes against humanity, including Turkey against the Christian Armenians in Kessab.
To join the movement and reach the U.S. government, tweet, post a Facebook status or an Instagram picture and get #SaveKessab trending so we can make a difference and help the families of Kessab return home to their peaceful lives.
Public Relations Coordinator, Armenian Students’ Association