WASHINGTON—Members of Congress have begun a string of condemnation and expressions of outrage over the destruction of the Armenian Genocide memorial church in Der Zor over the weekend by Islamic State forces.
Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) issued statements or took to social media to express their outrage over the barbaric act committed by rebels affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as Islamic State for Iraq and Syria—ISIS.
“This toxic act of intolerance, aimed at erasing a sacred site of remembrance of the Armenian Genocide on the eve of its centennial, has Turkey’s finger prints all over it,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Armenian Americans join with people of faith worldwide in voicing our outrage over the desecration and destruction of the Armenian Holy Martyr’s Church and the sacred Armenian Genocide Memorial at Deir Zor, Syria.”
“I am deeply saddened and outraged by the destruction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor. This church stood to commemorate and honor the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who died on the march to Deir ez-Zor. At the order of the Ottoman Turks, Armenian refugees were sent to die in Deir ez-Zor as part of the 20th century’s first genocide. The destruction of the church memorializing this terrible point in history must be met with a strong international response,” said Pallone in a statement issued Tuesday.
“The United States government and other international partners in the region must work to protect religious minorities and to ensure that Armenian Christians are not targeted for such appalling acts. As the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaches, we must remember that it is our duty to stand against the targeting of Armenians all around the world and to prevent any further targeted violence,” added Pallone.
“I strongly condemn the reported desecration of an Armenian Genocide memorial in Syria by the Islamic State,” said Costa in a Twitter post.
“The reported destruction by ISIL of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, Syria is yet another example of the sickening barbarity that has terrorized millions across Iraq and Syria. The fact that the church was dedicated to those lost in the genocide is both especially poignant, and a chilling foreshadowing of how ISIL would treat Syria’s Christians if it were to further expand their territorial gains. We need to support the international coalition that is currently engaging in strikes to help the people of Syria and Iraq rid themselves of this cancer,” said Schiff in a statement issued Tuesday.
“I strongly condemn the reported desecration of an Armenian Genocide memorial in Syria by ISIL,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) tweeted on Tuesday.
Fighters from the Islamic State desecrated an Armenian Genocide memorial complex in the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, near the site where vast numbers of Armenian refugees were forced to march to their deaths in the early 20th century.
The Der Zor Memorial Church contains the remains of victims of the Armenian Genocide and is often compared to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian condemned the destruction of the church and called on the international community to combat the Islamic State.
The Armenian Genocide Memorial Church served as a pilgrimage site for Armenians in Syria, and every year, on April 24, special commemoration ceremonies attended by thousands of people would be held at the site.
The complex housed, in addition to the church, a museum, monument and archive.