WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on President Obama and Congress to press Turkey to stop facilitating the attacks by extremist foreign fighters on the northwestern Syrian town of Kessab, whose predominantly civilian Armenian population was forced to evacuate to avoid slaughter earlier this weekend.
In a strongly worded letter issued this morning, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian called on President Obama to direct his Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and his Ambassador to the United Nations to demand that Turkey halt the cross-border attacks on Kessab that have forced the immediate civilian evacuation of the area and led to the looting of properties and the desecration of churches. Separately, the ANCA has been in communication with members of the House Committee on Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the weekend to urge that Congress use its influence to immediately end Turkey’s role in the destruction of Kessab.
“The attacks on the predominantly Armenian populated village of Kessab over the weekend represent an attack on all Armenians,” remarked ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “The Armenian American community stands united in seeking to reverse the events of the last several days, which has seen militant extremists stream into Kessab from Turkey. We are strongly urging our government, led by President Obama and Congressional leaders, to send a firm message to Ankara that the safe haven and safe passage being offered to these militant groups intent on destroying Kessab must end.” Hachikian added.
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 on Kessab civilians, forcing them to flee neighboring Latakia and Bassit.
The ANCA will be working with a vast network of supporters across the United States this week to effectively address the ongoing crisis in Kessab, Syria.
Following is the text of Hachikian’s letter to President Obama.
March 24, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to urgently request your leadership in pressing our NATO ally, Turkey, to stop facilitating ongoing attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters against the civilian population of the predominantly Armenian region of Kessab, Syria.
Over the weekend, the ANCA has received urgent appeals from Americans in cities across the United States gravely concerned about family members and friends in Kessab, a historically Christian Armenian region in Syria, which borders Turkey. The area had been relatively peaceful until March 21st, when Turkey reportedly allowed hundreds of radical foreign fighters to cross its border and attack the civilian population. ABC and CBS news are reporting that the extremists are part of the al-Nusra Front, which is a wing of al-Qaeda, a United States designated terrorist group.
Within days of the onslaught launched from Turkey, nearly the entire population of Christian Armenians has fled to neighboring Latakia and Bassit to avoid slaughter. Civilians, who were not able to flee, have reportedly been taken hostage, while churches and homes are being systematically desecrated and looted. Further, there are reports that injured extremists are returning to Turkey for medical treatment.
Turkey’s facilitation of al-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters and their attacks on innocent civilians in Syria undermines ongoing U.S. and international efforts to bring peace to a country ravaged by violence for far too long. For Armenians in the region and around the world, Turkey’s actions are a horrifying and bitter reminder of the genocide committed against the Armenian, Pontian and Syriac communities by Ottoman Turkish authorities from 1915-1923.
The United States has the power to stop Turkey’s provocations and assistance to these radical groups and send a clear message that targeted military strikes against innocent civilians is unacceptable under any circumstances and a clear violation of international law. We call on you to direct Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey Francis Ricciardone, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to immediately press Turkey to stop facilitating attacks on civilians in Kessab and investigate Turkey’s reported assistance to foreign fighters associated with U.S.-designated terrorist groups. We, furthermore, ask your assistance in directing need-based humanitarian aid to the victims of the onslaught on Kessab as soon as possible.
Given the urgent nature of the situation facing the civilian population in Kessab, we look forward to engaging with senior officials of your administration without delay to address this matter.
Thank you for your prompt attention to the serious human rights crisis of critical concern to Americans of Armenian descent and their family members in Kessab, Syria.