Our history goes back to a Millennia in Kessab

Yesterday, the website Karabakh-life.am interviewed the executive of the Emergency Relief and Restoration Committee set up to help the displaced Armenians of Kessab , Garo Manjikian in Latakia.

The following is the interview:

Question: What information is available from Kessab currently?
Answer: We do not have any direct contact with Kessab, because there is no way of getting in touch. What we do know, is that our houses have been looted, the Turks are carrying away the belongings of the Armenians of Kessab and are already selling them at bordering Turkish residential markets. Meanwhile, The Syrian regular army is putting a halt on further advancements for the terrorists.

Question: Are there any victims?
Answer: No. About 800 families were deported from Kessab, of which 600 are Armenian Families. For the first few days, they took refuge in the Armenian Church of Latakia. Currently, the families have settled with close or distant relatives. The number of those having taken sanctuary at the church is slowly declining. Aid to provide basic needs is being provided via governmental and individual efforts. His grace the Catholicos of Cilicia, Aram I, was of great assistance. The Lebanon Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), American, Canadian, French and Armenian communities in other countries have also provided assistance. At the moment, we don’t know what has happened to those Armenians who refused to leave Kessab. They are few but we are concerned because we have absolutely no information whether they have been taken hostage, or have been killed or are alive and healthy.

Question: Have they stayed to fight back?
Answer: No, they are mainly elderly women and men who did not want to leave their homes.

Question: What is the general disposition of the deportees? Could it be that this act of terrorism has instilled fear and frustration in them?
Answer: For sure there is tension, but not fear. We know that when we go back, we have to start from scratch. But right now, we only think of going back. Kessab and the surrounding villages are our historic lands. Even when we ask the youngest ones as to where they want to go, Lebanon or Kessab, the answer is always the same, Kessab. Our people are bound to the land. Here, we have a history that goes back a millennia. How can we abandon our history and where can we go? Move further away to uncertainty? Kessab has a moral meaning to us. Kessab is our little Armenia. However, we also realize that our return largely depends on the development of the military operations, about which I do not have a clear statement. That is the army’s job.

Question: Is it possible that this is a war based on sectarian and religious divisions?
Answer: No. Kessab is a good example of the co-existence of people of different faiths and sects. There is no religious rivalry amongst its people. While Turkey uses religion and faith as the primary excuse to annihilate, kill and rob. It is not the first time that Turkey shows its barbaric face.

Question: Yet, maybe the idea of moving to Armenia is being discussed. In the end, it is the safest place for Armenians.
Answer: Moving to Armenia is not being discussed yet. We know of many Armenians who were living in Syria and moved to Armenia, but later left Armenia due to various difficulties. Relocating to Armenia is not an easy remedy. Our main goal is to return to Kessab even if it is completely destroyed, we will build our houses again. All we wish for is that our town is not converted to a battlefield. But I have to say that there are some talks regarding relocating to Karabakh. Yes, there are such thoughts amongst a group of people. However, this is not a final decision.

Question: Let the Armenians of Kessab know that Artsakh is supporting them. The people of Artsakh understand your situation well.
Answer: Yes, we know. Our compatriots’ support gives us strength. We understand that we are not facing these difficulties alone. And this helps us to overcome this rather difficult situation in which we find ourselves forcefully.

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