People continue their struggle to survive in Kessab, a town on the border of Syria with Turkey in the Hatay province area. Following the occupation of the town by Al-Nusra forces last year, the Armenians in the town had been dispersed, with most of them coming to Vakıflı Village in Hatay, and had returned after the Syrian army had retaken the town. However, the people of Kessab now face the threat of ISIS.
We spoke about the most recent developments with a resident of Kessab who asked to remain unnamed:
“We have no option but to trust the army of our country. We do not know what kind of a bargain Kessab is used in, yet our fate is determined by these political events. Our biggest problem is the fact that we cannot trust our neighbour Turkey. Because we saw Turkey help armed groups with our own eyes. We witnessed Kessab military stations being shelled by artillery fire from Turkey. No one can guarantee us that this will not be repeated. Turkey never denied it was involved in the previous events, nor did it provide any reassurance that they would not be repeated. So how are we to sleep peacefully at night?
The political circumstances have turned us into the political hostages of the conflicting forces. Even the faintest flame between them costs us our lives. But we have to remain here, because we have no alternative. Where could we go? We do not want to abandon Kessab. To leave Kessab would mean that we are cut off from the land. We cannot live apart from the land. We can’t even live in Armenia. All we can do is to be on alert. We live in fear every day. Snipers target the town, which means we can’t even go and work in the orchards.
Others have already left for Latakia (Lazkiye). It is not easy for every one to just leave and go. Many who left have returned. We hope that these incidents our temporary, and we can go back to working in our orchards. There are 250 students at our schools, and their lessons continue. In other words, life goes on. Now there is a huge military regiment opposite Kessab, and we can see it grow by the day. At night you can see its lights even from Latakia. Four years ago, that barracks did not exist, yet now it entirely covers the top of Gasios Mountain. They have plans, but we do not know what they are. The State of Syria has nothing to say. According to conventions, the border is protected by Turkey, which means anything that happens in Kessab is Turkey’s responsibility. Turkey should be the first to respond to the attacks.
‘We saw it with our own eyes’
We do not use the main highway from Kessab to Latakia, because it is dangerous and open to attacks. There are Turcoman villages around Kessab as well. We lived in harmony and peace with them for decades. But now we cannot communicate with them because many people from those villages have joined jihadist forces and are being used by the State of Turkey. Of course, not all of them have become jihadists, and we continue to meet with our close friends, in secret, because they do not want it to be known that they are meeting us. We already said what we have to say to the UN representative, and we can repeat it now. Armed forces would never have entered Kessab without the help of the artillery of the army of Turkey. The last time they tried they failed at first, but when the bombs arrived from Turkey, the next day they entered Kessab. We saw it with our own eyes.”