PN Member Tevan Poghosyan Shares his Impressions from his Visit to Syria

March 31, 2014

On March 27-28, a group of Armenian National Assembly MPs paid a visit to Syria upon their private initiative to meet Armenians who found refuge in Latakia and who had earlier been dislocated from their permanent place of residence in Kessab.

PN member Tevan Poghosyan, Member of the Armenian Parliament, was part of this group.  The following interview about the details of his visit, the current state of Kessab Armenians as well as their expectations, was published on the website of the Armenian media group Mediamax.


Mr. Poghosyan, together with your partners you recently returned from your fact-finding mission in Syria. Could you please present what record you made on the spot?

We left for Syria on the private initiative of MPs. The quickest way to get to Syria was to fly to Damascus through Beirut. We arrived in Damascus late in the evening, and the following morning left for Latakia by car. Local authorities received us there. We met the dislocated Armenian families in the Armenian churchyard and attempted to talk to them and lend an ear to their stories.

Kessab Armenians told us they have always sensed the risk of being attacked and have done their best to self-organize; they were also actively sharing information between Armenians. On the evening of March 21, they noticed that Turkish frontiers had left their positions, and it appeared quite odd to them. They realized that something is about to happen. Considering the possible danger they firstly evacuated women and kids to Latakia. People have simply abandoned their homes by leaving all of their property inside.

Men stayed in Kessab to protect their houses. Kessab Armenians said the attacks were initiated from the Turkish territory. Turkey provided the armed groups not only territory but also weapons, which the oppositionists did not have in their possession before, according to Armenians. Syrian border bases were blown up by the Turkish party and afterward, an attack was mounted from various directions.

Some of the Armenians fought against the armed groups attempting to organize self-defense. Fortunately, no casualties were reported on the Armenian side. Armenian men fought all night and the following morning Syrian troops came to the aid and attempted to resist the armed groups.

Virtually, the Syrian troops forced Armenians to move to Latakia promising to do their best to reclaim Kessab. Kessab Armenians claim they will return and repair their homes at any rate.

However, around 30 elderly Armenians were rumored to have stayed in Kessab because of deportation-related issues. We were also told about the possible rape of two Armenian women. It was also rumored that 20 Armenians were arrested and already taken to the Turkish side.

How many Armenian families have found refuge in Latakia?

We were told that around 550 families used to reside in Kessab and adjacent villages, which makes around 2500 people. There was also a small group of Alevis; they have also been evicted.


A number of people in Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora are willing to render assistance to Kessab Armenians. Active groups have been created on Facebook. How can we render help to our compatriots?

As soon as we returned from Syria we had a meeting with National Assembly Chairman Hovik Abrahamyan. We have raised several issues. With regard to it a private discussion will be held at the National Assembly Standing Committee of Foreign Relations in the near future. We have an idea of how to raise funds. But as of today, it’s just an idea and it needs to be discussed.

You pointed out the group of MPs has come up with discrete recommendations. Could you present them?

We are presently trying to sum up those recommendations. We have asked Kessab Armenians to put down their personal stories. In case of Kessab, we are dealing with the most flagrant human rights violations. I believe Armenia should prepare a special file and take the case to international courts.

One of the recommendations refers to the property accounting of Kessab Armenians to raise the issue of property reimbursement of Kessab Armenians in the future.

Another recommendation is to keep the issue of Kessab Armenians in the focus of interest of international organizations. Apparently, we will need to come up with various development scenarios engaging all pan-Armenian infrastructures into that process.

In my opinion, after what happened in Kessab, we should also make some changes in our doctrine of national security. As of today, our territorial defense doctrine includes the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In fact, the events taking place outside of those territories are regarded as “bearing little risk” for us. Although there is a point in our doctrine stating that a danger threatening the cultural heritage of our Armenian Diaspora bears a risk for us too, there is virtually no mechanism as to what measures we should take as a state, if there is such a threat. Changes should be made for the state to clearly shape the mechanisms it will employ to address such situations.

It is reported that not only Turkey but Azerbaijan as well are actively involved in the military actions in Kessab and in general, in Syria. What can you say on this?

Syrian authorities informed us that as of today the armed groups of oppositionists include mercenaries from around 83 countries. There are numerous Azerbaijanis among them. At the meetings with Syrian authorities, we voiced our concerns with regard to that fact.

The group of MPs also met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Could you reveal any details concerning the meeting?

The authorities assured us they will be committed to reclaiming Kessab. They said that Armenians are full citizens of Syria and that the authorities pay as much attention to protecting Kessab as much they do in case of other regions.


To read the entire interview, please click here.

Photo by georgelions: church in Kessab, Syria. 

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