ANCA to Join Schiff, Sherman at Capitol Hill Press Conference Spotlighting Kessab Crisis and Plight of Christians in Syria

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the Armenian National Committee of America will join Representatives Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, and other Members of Congress at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Building to discuss recent attacks on Armenians and other Christians in Kessab, Syria.

The press conference, scheduled to take place at 11:30 am at the House Triangle on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, will also call on U.S. House schiff_shermanand Senate intelligence committees to launch formal inquiries into Turkey’s role in this al-Qaeda linked aggression.

“From the start of the Syrian Civil War, I have been focused on trying to bring an end to the conflict, and on the plight of Syria’s minority populations, and especially the Christian community,” stated Rep. Schiff.  “The barbaric assault on Kessab is the latest tragedy to befall Syrian Christians over the last three years and we must redouble our efforts to protect this historic community and others just like it.”

“As a nation, we must have zero-tolerance for a NATO ally conspiring with the enemies of the United States to target religious minorities,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who will be speaking at the press conference.  “It is in this spirit that we are asking for an immediate Congressional investigation into Turkey’s role in the attack on Kessab.”

Last week, the State Department announced that it was “deeply troubled” by the recent violence in the historically Armenian populated city of Kessab, Syria, but stopped short of condemning Turkey’s role in facilitating the attacks by the al-Qaeda affiliated extremist forces that have forced the Armenian and civilian populations to evacuate the region.

Since the initial attack that took place on March 21, 2014, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ, Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Michael Grimm (R-NY), Armenian Genocide Resolution Lead Sponsors David Valadao (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and David Cicilline (D-RI) have released public statements on this subject.

Over the past two weeks, thousands of Armenian Americans and human rights activists across the United States have contacted President Obama and their Senators and Representatives in response to an ANCA Action Alert (http://www.anca.org/savekessab) urging immediate condemnation of the attacks against the civilian population of Kessab and, specifically, Turkey’s role in facilitating those attacks.  Hundreds of thousands worldwide, including celebrities Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Travis Barker of Blink 182, Serj Tankian of System of A Down, and Cher, have raised awareness via social media and the use of the #SaveKessab hashtag.

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 recently years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo. On the morning of March 21, rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossed the Turkish border and attacked the Armenian civilian population of Kessab, forcing them to flee to neighboring Latakia and Bassit. The attackers immediately seized two guard posts 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 a Turkish military position. Turkish media reported that the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi.

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