APPELLO AL SEGRETARIO GENERALE DELL’ONU, BAN KI-MON
March 22, 2014
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon,
Secretary General of the United Nations
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
The Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles is seeking United Nations immediate intervention in Syria to protect the Christian Armenian minority living in their ancestral homeland in Kessab, Syria.
At the present time, there is a battle in northwestern Syria, at the border of Turkey. The ancient Christian-Armenian town of Kessab and its surrounding villages (population of 3,500) came under attack on Friday, March 21, as sniper gunfire and bombs from the hilltops surrounding Kessab hailed down on Kessab and its environs, damaging buildings, destroying streets and shattering windows. The Kessab Armenians were forced to flee from their ancestral homes and lands in the morning hours of March 21 and sought refuge in the nearby port city of Lattakia.
We are told from eyewitnesses in northern Syria that Turkey gave right of passage through their mountainous border with Syria to rebel forces that are battling the Syrian government troops. We also were told by eyewitnesses that external Turkish border troops have joined in the attack against the Syrian army.
Christian Armenians have lived peacefully in the northern Syrian region of Kessab for over four centuries, creating a beautiful agricultural eden in the foothills of the mountains that divide Syria and Turkey. During and after the Genocide of Armenians by the Turks in 1915, Syria took in tens of thousands of Armenian refugees, and Armenians have been law-abiding and productive citizens in Syria with no incident until today. It is a tragedy to see Armenians victimized yet again because of the indiscriminate violence and humanitarian calamity in Syria.
Various relief organizations in Lattakia are assisting the Armenians of Kessab, providing those with no family or friends in Lattakia with shelter and food at the Armenian Church and school facilities and Greek Orthodox Church. Many of the refugees were forced to flee with nothing more than their night clothes, unable to take with them official identification papers such as passports.
The principles of international humanitarian law require that all parties to the conflict, including opposition forces, promote conditions that would allow civilian populations to remain in their homes. All parties to an armed conflict must refrain from deliberate and indiscriminate attacks or strikes against civilians, should protect all civilians living in areas under their authority, including members of religious minorities, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to them.
International humanitarian law also prescribes that all sides to an armed conflict have a responsibility not to intentionally attack, seize or cause damage to religious buildings, institutions or cultural property that are not being used for military purposes.
In the spirit of peace, international humanitarian law and respect for human rights, including those of religious minorities, we respectfully request:
• That the United Nations call for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the Kessab region and the indiscriminate attack on its peaceful civilian population by rebels and Turkish border troops, which is in blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law;
• That the United Nations and its affiliated agencies intervene or otherwise ensure the physical safety and legal protection of the Kessab Armenians and of all Armenians and other religious minorities in Syria caught in the crossfire of this humanitarian calamity;
• That the United Nations provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons of Kessab and its surrounding villages (Karadouran, Sev Aghpiur, Baghjaghas, Eckez-Oloukh, Eskiuran, Dooz Aghach, and Chinarjek) who have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral homes, lands and livelihoods as a result of these bombardments and armed attacks;
• That the United Nations assist in the peaceful return and resettlement of Kessab Armenians to their ancestral homes, lands and livelihoods.
Board of Directors
Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles
Esther Tognozzi, chairperson
support this Letter.