WASHINGTON – The Turkish military is actively assisting foreign-backed Sunni Islamic militants who are routing Christian Armenians from the northwestern Syrian town of Kassab, Syrian and Lebanese sources told WND.
The Armenians are being forced to seek refuge in the Syrian city of Latakia.
While there have been numerous reports of Islamic militant groups such as the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and the ISIS attacking Syrian Christians, the attack on Armenian Christians in Syria by Turkey has brought back memories of the Ottoman Turk attacks on Christian Armenians.
The Turkish attacks beginning in 1915 and lasting until 1923 killed more 1.5 million people and has been regarded by many experts as genocide.
As a result, many hundreds of thousands of Armenians fled to neighboring Syria and Lebanon to seek refuge and reestablish Armenian communities.
In addition to some 120,000 Armenian Christians, the government of embattled Shiite-Alawite President Bashar al-Assad has been protecting Christian Syriacs, Marionites and Eastern Orthodox believers.
Beginning last March 21, Sunni rebels have expelled some 5,000 Armenian Christians from their historic town, violently attacking the residents and desecrating their churches. Sources say the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists then occupied the town’s abandoned homes and businesses.
The Armenian refugees fled some 35 miles, mostly on foot, to Latakia, a Syrian Army stronghold. There also is a sizeable Christian population in Latakia.
The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied any involvement in aiding al-Nusra militants, even though Erdogan, who also is Sunni, has allowed the Syrian opposition and al-Nusra militants to use his country as a base from which to launch military operations, hold meetings and store supplies.
Sources told WND that Turkish military personnel manning the border between Turkey and Syria allowed the foreign Islamic militants to pass without interference.
The sources also report that al-Nusra fighters have taken control of the Kassab border crossing into Turkey.
According to Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi, the Turkish government is facilitating the infiltration of foreign militants into Kassab. He said such assistance violates international resolutions, since it constitutes involvement in terrorism.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian also expressed concern about the fate of the Christian Armenians in Kassab.
“About 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in Syria – in Kassab and other areas,” he said. “Military actions and the humanitarian situation have forced ethnic Armenians to leave the city.”
Lebanese sources told WND that given the Sunni attacks on the Christian Armenians in Syria, it is possible that the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah will intervene to protect them and get back Kassab.
Pointing to the threat from al-Nusra, whose members increasingly are descending on Lebanon, sources say that the Armenian Christians have asked Hezbollah for protection in the country.
The Armenian Christians are a relatively small minority group in Lebanon but have sided with most of the other Lebanese Christians to seek Hezbollah’s protection.
In addition, Lebanese sources say that the Armenians in Lebanon are training a small militia which they have organized to protect against attacks from the Sunni al-Nusra group.
In 2000, the Lebanese parliament voted to recognize the turn-of-the-century Turkish killing of Armenians as genocide. It is the only Arab country and one of the few countries in the world that has done so.