Kasab’s descent into hell began at 5.30 am precisely on March 21st 2014 when merciless shelling from the Turkish side of the Syrian border rained down on the undefended Armenian village, not only sending its 2,000 residents into panic but portending the apocalypse that was about to befall them.
Over 20,000 fanatics from al Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and a number of other extremist groups swarmed over the border on motor bikes, pick-up trucks and Western ambulances converted into troop and munitions carriers for this blitzkrieg. Though hopelessly outnumbered, lightly-armed Syrian troops held off the invaders until the inhabitants could be evacuated. Sunnis, Shias, Alawites and Armenian Christians all fled for their lives from these fanatics who some Western commentators still insist, against not only all the evidence but against common sense as well, are progressive liberators; several Kasab residents, such as Hovian Khatcherin, found themselves fleeing from these Islamic hordes for the third time, having previously been forced to flee Raqaa and Aleppo for her life. Such are the perils that are part and parcel of daily life for the Levant’s remaining Christians and for which there seems to be so little pro-active sympathy beyond Syria’s borders.
The “liberators” systematically desecrated all Kasab’s churches, they looted the village’s graves, they scattered the bones of the deceased around the town for stray dogs to scavenge on, they stripped every house and outhouse of anything of value, window and door frames included, and these fanatical despots even hoodwinked the West’s press into praising their actions as some sort of praiseworthy activity against the supposedly tyrannical regime in far-away Damascus.
Kasab’s very elderly residents, who were too infirm to flee, were ferried, against their wishes, into Turkey and, like the earlier kidnapped nuns of Ma’lulah, were cynically paraded to pretend their kidnappers had their interests at heart. Pepken Djourian and his wife find that a particularly bitter pill to swallow as the invaders executed their only son in front of them and let him to rot for three days in the sun before throwing him like a dog into a hastily dug hole in their apple orchard, a particularly apt analogy as his murderer said that Kevork’s death meant they “had one less Armenian dog to worry about”. Following his murder, Kevork’s parents were held against their will for the next forty days in Turkey, where their kidnappers even brought Turkey’s American ambassador to admire how well they were being treated and where noted author Nizar Khalil willingly acted as interpreter between the aged Armenian captives and their Turkish captors.
Kasab’s residents are convinced all of this was done with the full connivance of the Turkish government. Kasab is in the very north-west tip of Syria and there is no other way to attack it than with the permission of the Turkish authorities through the heavily-militarized hills of nearby Turkey. Indeed, Samuel Poladian, who stayed in Kasab for the entire occupation, lives only 200 metres from a Turkish police station and, like all the others, he not only claims he heard Turkish military helicopters overhead on the morning of the invasion but that Turkey orchestrated the whole outrage. Because the Turkish side of the border is speckled with countless army outposts and because not even one of the invaders nor one of the looters was arrested or even detained on the Turkish side of the border, their claims and their contrary narrative are much more credible than Turkey’s lame excuses for these crimes.
The Armenians claim the Kasab outrage, which was directed solely against Armenian Christians, was Turkey’s brutal way of showing the Armenians and the Syrian government and army which protect them that, just as in 1909 and in 1915, they can occupy Kasab and slaughter its inhabitants at will any time they choose to. The willful destruction of the centre of Kasab, together with all its churches, makes sense within that framework. What does not make sense to the people of Kasab, or to those of the Aramaic-speaking town of Ma’lulah I visited a few days earlier is why they have been so completely and utterly abandoned by the Christians of the West, so much so that the departing fanatics booby-trapped the entire town of Ma’lulah with bombs marked as donations to the Free Syrian Army by the European Union. Neither of these ransacked Christian towns has received even one penny in aid from the West, which seems to focus its relief efforts on the refugee camps the rebel extremists and their Turkish hosts control and use as forward bases to attack those they denigrate and dehumanize as “Cross worshippers” and who we should regard as fellow human beings we are duty bound to help.
Though the Syrian Arab Army retook Kasab on 15 June 2014, the Armenians’ nightmare has not ended. Less than 800 of Kasab’s more than 2000 residents have returned to their wrecked and looted homes, the schools are bereft not only of all teaching materials, the liberators having burned the lot of it, but also of the wherewithal to replace them with, their orchards, their means of making a living stand fallow, the trees being more “collateral damage” caused by their erstwhile “liberators” who have promised to return again with a vengeance, the Western world, together with the Armenian diaspora, have other “more important” things to concern themselves with, their tormentors commit stomach-churning atrocities on a daily basis and Turkey and other sinister forces lurk in the long grass, waiting to strike at the defenceless Christian Armenians of Kasab whenever is most opportune for their nefarious agendas.
Unless people of goodwill act, the Christians of Syria will follow the Christians of Iraq and Turkey itself into the trash can of history. Syria shows that the maxim that, for evil to prosper, it is only necessary for people of goodwill to do nothing remains as true as ever. Islamic extremists are using funds collected in the West to wage wars of extermination on the minorities of Syria, Iraq, Northern Nigeria, the Central African Republic and a number of other communities and countries that have been targeted for destruction. April 24, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide which Armenians worldwide intend to commemorate and to use to call for an end to such unspeakable acts of terror. We should join them not only in that call but into the calls for help by the people of Kasab, of Malulah and of all of Syria and Iraq.