Kessab Armenians settled in Vakif tell what they had to face with
YEREVAN, APRIL 10, ARMENPRESS. Despite the claims of the Turkish official circles, the Armenians from Kessab, who moved to Turkey, were brought here contrary to their will. As reports “Armenpress” citing Sol, the Armenians from Kessab stated this.
Berc Kartun, the Mukhtar of Vakif, took the journalist to the village’s Armenian church, where they met 8-10 elderly Armenians from Kessab. “They were terribly grieved when they came here. Their group was kept in cold conditions for a couple of days. They had to sleep on concrete floor,” Berc Kartun said.
68-year old Aspet Joulyan, who was brought to Vakif together with her 92-year old mother and 95-year old mother-in-law, stated that they were not told where they are being taken to. All they told Aspet Joulyan and her relatives was that it will be a safe place.
Previously it was reported that in the result of the attack against the Armenian-populated Kessab from Turkey’s territory, two elderly Armenian sisters – 82-year old Srbuhi Titizyan and 84-year old Satenik Titizyan were forced to move to Vakif, the sole Armenian village in Turkey. As reports “Armenpress”, Istanbul-based Armenian periodical Agos had a conversation with them to find out the details of the attack against Kessab and their house.
Among other things, the sisters stated that a group of ten bearded men intruded their house, searched it leaving it in mess, and asked if they have guns at home. When the sisters gave negative answer and said that they have neither husband, nor brother and they live alone, the intruders left the house.
In addition, the Titizyan sisters noted that those persons spoke in Turkish language. After, another group of bearded persons came and said that they are going to take the sisters to Latakia. Only on the road the sisters found out that they are going not to Latakia, but to Turkey. Thus, the Titizyans were taken to Vakif.
The armed incursion began on Friday, March 21, with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the Armenian civilian population of Kessab. The attackers immediately seized two guard posts overlooking Kessab, including a strategic hill known as Observatory 45 and later took over the border crossing point with Turkey. Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages.
According to eyewitness accounts, the attackers crossed the Turkish border with Syria openly passing through Turkish military barracks. According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi.
Some 670 Armenian families, the majority of the population of Kessab, were evacuated by the local Armenian community leadership to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia. Ten to fifteen families with relations too elderly to move were either unable to leave or chose to stay in their homes.
On Saturday, March 22, Syrian troops launched a counteroffensive in an attempt to regain the border crossing point, eye-witnesses and state media reported. However, on Sunday, March 23, the extremist groups once again entered the town of Kessab, took the remaining Armenian families hostage, desecrated the town’s three Armenian churches, pillaging local residences and occupying the town and surrounding villages.
Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in recent years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo.