On March 21, Sunni rebels violently expelled around 2,500 Armenian Christians from their picturesque and historic town.
Early that Friday morning, Kassab was violently attacked, its churches desecrated, its families driven out. Since then, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists have occupied the town’s abandoned homes and businesses.
A large number of the terrified residents fled – mostly on foot – about 35 miles to Latakia, a Syrian Army stronghold. With a sizable Christian population, Latakia has struggled to provide them with shelter and sustenance.
The image of frightened families running for their lives with their children, their elderly and their disabled is the stuff of nightmares.
Although much of Syria’s Christian population is comprised of Syriac, Maronite and Eastern Orthodox believers, some 70,000 Armenians have long been part of the faith’s colorful tapestry. And though they have received little attention during the country’s civil war, thousands have had to flee, some 10,000 to Armenia itself.
As Kassab’s story became more widespread, eyewitness reports started to appear:
“Before sunrise, we woke up to the horror of a shower of missiles and rockets falling on our town. Thousands of extremists crossed the borders towards our town. Missiles were fired from Turkey to destroy beautiful Kassab and to celebrate the approach of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Kassabtsi heroes defended the town with their simple hunting weapons…”
“Two men, Minas Soghomonian and Joseph Kilaghbian, who called their own homes were greeted by militants who said, ‘We are enjoying your food’…. Another displaced Kassab resident, Paren Hovsepian … was told by the intruders, in Turkish, that he had nice furniture.”
“We had to flee only with our clothes. We couldn’t take anything, not even the most precious thing – a handful of soil from Kassab. We couldn’t take our memories…”