Al-Ahram, Egypt
April 4 2014

Online activism trends for Kessab as the Armenian Diaspora unifies
against Turkish aggression on the town, writes Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian

After the appeal issued by Armenians who fled the Syrian town of
Kessab last week to their fellows in the Diaspora, many things have
changed. A social media campaign started Friday noon and continued
throughthe weekend.

The campaign,started in the United States, was adopted by the Armenian
National Committee of America(ANCA) and addressed the Kessab crisis
using the hashtag #SaveKessab.Itfound success on Twitter and Facebook.

Its aim was to bringthe Kessab crisisto the attention of the
international media. Calls to protest infront of Turkish embassies in
several countries were also heeded. The protests were organised by the
Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), an influential youth organisation that
works in many countries. During one of the protests,that took place
in Los Angeles, activists urged President Obama to condemn Turkey's
actions after a heavy attack on the Armenian-populated town in the
early morning of 21 March, when rebels crossed the Turkish border,
lootingand occupyingpeople's homes and stores.

A demonstrationalsotook place in front of the UN office in the
capital of Armenia,Yerevan, demanding anend to persecution against
ethnic minorities in Syria and the use of illegal weapons. Human
rights ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia,Karen Andreassian,sent
an urgent message to human rights organisations across Europe and
the US calling them to stop the human rights violations by Turkey
and prevent the occurrence of another genocide against Armenians in
Kessabinparticular, and in Syria generally.

Demonstrations in Paris took placewhen 1,500 French-Armenians expressed
theiranger in front of the Turkish embassy demanding thatthe aggression
against Kessab Armenianshalt. Some of the slogans read "Erdogan,
Al-Qaeda terrorists!"

Earlier last week, President Bashar Al-Assad met an Armenian
parliamentary delegation headed by Prime MinisterSamuel Farmanian. The
delegation passed a verbal message from the president of the Republic
of Armenia,Serge Sarkissian,and on behalf of the people in Armenia,
condemning the terrorist attacks on Kessab that is backed by the
Turkish government. Sarkissian expressed his gratitude to Syriafor
itsefforts in protecting its citizens.

President Al-Assad,in turn, expressed appreciation for President
Sarkissian's objectivity regarding the situation in Syria, warning
of the dangers of terrorism and extremism supported by the West,
and stressing the role parliamentarians should play in clarifying
thosedangerstointernational parties. Members of the Armenian delegation
showed their full support for Syria'sefforts to restore security
and stability.

President of the Syrian parliament Mohamed Jihad Al-Lahham also
met the Armenian delegation. Al-Lahham underlined the need to unite
againsttakfiriideologies and strengthen parliamentary relations between
Syria and Armenia. Members of the delegation called on neighbouring
countries to play a positive role in supporting a peaceful solution
for Syria.

Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi too pointed out the essential role
the Armenian community in Syria is playing in rebuilding the country,
something that is respected and appreciated bySyrian authorities. It
is noteworthy that the Armenian parliamentary delegation called on the
Syrian parliament to adopt a resolution to recognise the Armenian
Genocide--joiningother countries--a year before the centennial
commemoration of the genocide.

The parliamentary delegation headed by Farmanian met with Armenian
refugees who fled Kessab to settle in the StGeorge Armenian Monastery
in Latakia.

Last week, Armenian political parties, religious denominations and
charityorganisations in the Diaspora issued joint announcements
pledging united support to save Kessab. His Holiness Catholicos Aram
I of the Holy See of Cilicia invited the faithful during a Divine
Liturgy last week to pray for the Armenians who fled Kessab, stressing:
"It's the same Turk who organised the Armenian Genocide in the past
and who ruins Kessab today." Supreme Patriarch Catholicos of All
Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II,expressed his support forAram I,
confirming that the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin will continue to
support Syrian-Armenians.

Catholicos Aram I also made an appeal to Armenians around the world to
help the population of Kessab. A bank account was created in Beirut,
where the Catholicosate of Cilicia is based, to receive donations.

"The immediate needs of the people refuged in Latakia is not only
money;we also accept food, clothes and the daily essential vital
needs as donations," said Khatchig Dedeyan, chancellor at the Armenian
Catholicosate of Cilicia, in telephone interview withAl-Ahram Weekly.

He added that suchdonations are made through a committee created
especially for the purpose. "That same committee handed in an
amount of $25,000 to the Kessab local emergency committee asfinancial
assistance to meetthe refugeepeoples'daily needs. And in that context,
His Holiness Catholicos Aram I thought of creating a bank account to
receive donations from around the world," said Dedeyan,stating that
Armenian communities everywhere are already acting.

Jeffrey Feltman, UN undersecretary general for political affairsanda
formerUS ambassador toLebanon, called His Holiness Aram I, expressing
the UN's concern about the situation in Kessab. "Feltman told His
Holiness that he has been in contact with Arab League special envoy
Lakhdar Brahimi and the ambassadors of Armenia and Turkey at the UN,"
said the Catholicosate Chancellor, who added that Catholicos Aram I
described to Feltman the role Turkey is playing in the Kessab crisis
and proposed that Kessab be declared a demilitarised zone for which
Feltman promised to follow up and discuss with Brahimi.

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has sent a letter to President
Barack Obama expressing concern about the plight of Christian
communities in Syria, especially the depopulation of the Armenian
community of Kessab, stating:"On behalf of the National Council of
Churches, we would urge you to be vigilant in your efforts to end the
Syrian conflict, and among these efforts find a way to especially
safeguard the vulnerable Christian communities, and particularly
to restore stability to the Armenian communities of Kessab. With
membership in the Council that includes churches with roots in the
Middle East, including the Armenian community, we stand ready to
assist you in these efforts in whatever way we can."

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf last Friday
said:"We are deeply troubled by recent fighting and violence that is
endangering the Armenian community in Kessab, Syria, and has forced
many to flee." This came a day after a meeting between a delegation
of ANCA and State Department officials.

But ANCA Washington DC office executive director Aram Hamparian
told theWeekly: "The US government's welcome expression of concern
regarding Kessab has been, from the start, undermined by the State
Department's refusal to criticise Turkey for it's obvious role in
these anti-Armenian attacks."

Hamparian is hopeful that Washington will recognise the facts on the
ground and take steps to restrain its NATO ally.

News that 22 Kessab Armenians were kidnapped and detained in a Turkish
prison, of which the three were released, has strained the situation
further. "The community is reluctant to reveal or talk about the
incident to avoid creating horror among its members, but it happened,"
a Damascus-based source told the Weekly on condition of anonymity. The
source meanwhile assured that YouTube footage circulated on the social
networks showing the killing of Kessab Armenians is false. Last week,
when the #SaveKessab campaign started, AYF asked people posting about
Kessab to verify the authenticity of information before posting it.

Among the celebrities who tweeted on Kessab events were
American-Armenian singer Cher (Cherilyn Sarkissian) and Kim
Kardashian. Cher's tweet was: "Please check out what's going on
in Kessab, Syria. Innocent Christians and Armenians being killed
by Turks," while one of Kardashian's several tweets read: "Please,
let's not let history repeat itself!!!! Let's get this trending!!!

#SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide."

Football player Nuri Sahin, of Turkish origin, also posted the hashtag
#SaveKessab on his Facebook page, in solidarity.

While the hashtag trend continues, thousands of Armenian Facebook
users changed their profile pictures to the same in solidarity. "The
campaign quickly alerted millions globally about this crisis while
rallying a more focused base of activists to take targeted political
action. Combined with our more traditional advocacy, social networking
delivered real results. As we know, elected officials and policymakers
are very often more inclined to do the right thing when they know
their actions are the subject of careful public scrutiny," Hamparian
told the Weekly.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress