Rep. Schiff asks U.N. to help 2000 Armenians forced out of Syria

Crown City News, CA
April 18 2014

Rep. Schiff asks U.N. to help 2000 Armenians forced out of Syria

by Anna Buss

The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be 24
April 1915, the day when Ottoman authorities arrested some 250
Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople.

Although the United States has not officially recognized the Genocide
by name, one local Congressman continues the fight for not only
recognition of the atrocities but also to render aid for a city of
2000 men women and children in Kessab who were forcibly removed from
their homes in March. The Armenian-populated town is located in
northwest Syria.
United Nations Security Council members have mentioned Kessab in their
speeches or interviews of the recent takeover of the historically
Armenian town of Kessab, Syria, and urged the world body “to do more
to meet the needs of these people,” U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations Samantha Power told Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and members of a
key House Appropriations panel recently during a Congressional
hearing, according to the Armenian National Committee of America.

“We join with Armenians across California and around America in
thanking Congressman Schiff for raising the plight of the Armenians
driven out of Kessab with Ambassador Power,” said ANCA Executive
Director Aram Hamparian. “We appreciate Ambassador Power’s statement
that Kessab is ‘an issue of huge concern,’ and value her explanation
to Congress about the UN Security Council’s efforts to help the
Armenian civilians driven from their homes by extremist militants. We
will continue to work, in partnership with our friends in Congress, to
encourage our government to speak directly to the cause of Kessab’s
suffering – namely the clear complicity of Turkey in the al-Qaeda
linked attack that drove more than 2,000 Armenians from their
ancestral homes.”

The ANCA has called on the Senate and House Intelligence committees to
investigate Turkey’s role in the recent attacks against the Kessab
civilian population. A new action alert has been posted and has
received broad support following social media posts by citizens and
celebrities alike.

During a question and answer session at the House Appropriations
Committee State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing with
Ambassador Power last week, Rep. Schiff asked “In March, the town of
Kessab, which is predominantly Armenian Christian, was attacked by
Al-Qaeda-linked fighters who had crossed over from Turkey and the town
was emptied in a bloody assault. Many of the residents are descendants
of the Armenian Genocide and there is particular poignancy in them
being targeted in this manner.” Rep. Schiff went on to ask what
efforts the United Nations and its agencies are making to address the

Ambassador Power, noting that the recent attacks on Kessab are a “huge
concern,” went on to note that: “Most of the [UN Security] Council
members raised the issue of Kessab, calling on the UN to do more, to
try to meet the needs of these people. […] I would note that,
unfortunately, the extremist group that appears to have taken hold of
that town is not one that the United States and the United Nations
overall has a great deal of leverage over. And so, our emphasis now,
is on supporting the moderate opposition in Syria that is taking on
those extremist groups and making sure that the UN has the funding it
needs, and the resources of all kinds that it needs to accommodate
[…] in this case, the Syrian Armenian community, as you said, an
internally displaced population flow. So, it’s resources, it’s
strengthening the moderate opposition which is taking on ISIL – the
very group that appears to have taken over that town – making sure
that none of the neighbors are giving support to terrorist groups or
extremist groups which would aid their efforts in seizures like that,
and going on a funding drive internationally because only a very small
percentage of the UN funding appeal for Syria generally has been
filled at this point.”

Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with
Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles in the
Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in
recently years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing
from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo. On the morning
of March 21st, extremist foreign fighters launched a vicious attack,
from Turkey, on Kessab civilians, forcing over 2000 to flee to
neighboring Latakia and Bassit. An international social media campaign
– #SaveKessab – has garnered broad media attention to the tragedy with
over 100,000 tweeting about the crisis and tens of thousands calling
for immediate U.S. and U.N. action.

In a statement issued last week, the U.S. State Department noted that
they are “deeply troubled by recent fighting and violence that is
endangering the Armenian community in Kasab, Syria and has forced many
to flee. There are far too many innocent civilians suffering as a
result of the war. All civilians, as well as their places of worship,
must be protected.” The statement went on to note that “We have long
had concerns about the threat posed by violent extremists and this
latest threat to the Armenian community in Syria only underscores this
Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jim Costa
(D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) have condemned
the attacks and urged the State

Department to investigate Turkey’s involvement. In a joint letter to
President Obama issued recently, Congressional Armenian Caucus
co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Armenian
Genocide Resolution (H.Res.227) lead authors David Valadao (R-CA) and
Adam Schiff, commented on the Kessab attacks, noting ” When coupled
with a mass exodus of the Armenian community, these events are far too
reminiscent of the early days of the Armenian Genocide, which took
place nearly 100 years ago in Ottoman Turkey under the cover of World
War I.” The letter goes on to note,” With the Christian Armenian
community being uprooted from its homeland, yet again, we strongly
urge you to take all necessary measures without delay to safeguard the
Christian Armenian community of Kessab. We also believe that now is
the time to redouble America’s efforts to ensure that all minority
communities at risk in the Middle East are afforded greater

The Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced
them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water,
to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of
age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace. The
majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of
the Armenian genocide.

The very last Armenian survivors of the 1915 genocide – in which a
million and a half Christians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks –
are dying, and Armenians are now facing the same fearful dilemma that
Jews around the world will confront in scarcely three decades’ time:
how to keep the memory of their holocausts alive when the last living
witnesses of Ottoman and Nazi evil are dead?

The Turks used railway wagons to transport Armenian men, women and
children to their deaths, while in the northern Syrian desert – the
scene of further killing in the present civil war – the Ottomans
engineered the first primitive gas chambers by driving thousands of
Armenians into rock caves and asphyxiating them by lighting bonfires
at the entrances.

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