LOS ANGELES—The Kessab Educational Association (KEA) of Los Angeles has issued a plea to the United Nations to close the Syrian-Turkish border and protect the town of Kessab, which came under attack in the morning hours of March 21 after Syrian rebels aided by Turkey attacked the peaceful town on the northwestern border of Syria. Approximately 2,000 Kessab Armenians fled.
“Kessab is the last Armenian-populated town left from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia,” said KEA of LA president Esther Tognozzi. “We cannot allow it to be destroyed and our brothers, sisters and cousins from Kessab to be displaced.”
At a Town Hall meeting at the Kessab Center on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, representatives of the Armenian National Committee, Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Armenian Youth Federation spoke to more than 120 concerned Armenian-Americans with origins in Kessab about what is being done on an international level to bring attention to the attack on the Kessab region.
Approximately 2,000 Armenians fled Kessab and its surrounding villages after the March 21 attack, escaping to the coastal town of Latakia. There are approximately 60 families living in refuge in the Armenian Apostolic Church in Latakia, sleeping wherever there is space in the facility.
Armenians the world over have rushed to the aid of the displaced Kessab Armenians. The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) has allocated $125,000, the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF) $100,000, and there have been numerous other smaller donations announced. The KEA of LA has been consistently supporting the people of Kessab since the outbreak of the war in Syria nearly 3 years ago.
The KEA of LA urges Armenians who wish to donate to do so through the following organizations: Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF), the Armenian Relief Society, and the Catholicosate in Antelias, noting that the donation is earmarked for Kessab. The KEA of LA also is accepting donations for Kessab relief.
SARF has announced a fund-raising concert, Hye Aid 3, on April 29 to raise funds for the displaced Kessab Armenians. Visit the SARF website for further details.
A younger generation of Armenian-Americans whose family came to the U.S. from Kessab has become actively involved in spreading information about the attack on Kessab and the plight of displaced Kessab Armenians by promoting the #SaveKessab hashtag on social media.
Four Kessab Armenians spoke at Congressman Brad Sherman’s Town Hall meeting in Van Nuys on Sunday, March 23, just 2 days after the attack, and informed the congressman about what they had heard from family who had been forced to flee Kessab. Both Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Adam Schiff last week released statements condemning the attacks by Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists against Kessab Armenians and Christians.
In an appeal to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with copies to four UN human rights officials, the KEA stated:
“In the spirit of peace, international humanitarian law and respect for human rights, including those of religious minorities, we respectfully request:
• That the United Nations call for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the Kessab region and the indiscriminate attack on its peaceful civilian population by rebels with the complicity of Turkish border troops, which is in blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law;
• That the United Nations and its affiliated agencies intervene or otherwise ensure the physical safety and legal protection of the Kessab Armenians and of all Armenians and other religious minorities in Syria caught in the crossfire of this humanitarian calamity;
• That the United Nations provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons of Kessab and its surrounding villages (Karadouran, Sev Aghpiur, Baghjaghas, Eckez-Oloukh, Eskiuran, Dooz Aghach, and Chinarjek) who have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral homes, lands and livelihoods as a result of these bombardments and armed attacks;
• That the United Nations assist in the peaceful return and resettlement of Kessab Armenians to their ancestral homes, lands and livelihoods.”
The KEA of LA says it will continue serving as a clearing house of information about the situation in Kessab.