Recent weeks saw an increase of media attention to events in Syria, shifting away from Ukraine after the Crimean referendum. The main reason for the flurry of Syrian-related activity on the Internet was the ubiquitous #SaveKessab campaign on social media websites Twitter and Facebook.
Kessab is a small town in the Latakia region of northwest Syria, wedged between the border with Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea. Together with other villages in its district, the town's population is only 2,500. So what drew the world's attention to this miniscule town in provincial Syria? We get the answer by looking at the demographics of the Kessab district. An overwhelming majority of its residents (80%) are Armenians and the rest are Alawites. The district has as much as twenty Armenian churches - those of the Apostolic majority, as well as the Catholic and Protestant (Armenian Evangelical Church) minorities.
In the end of March, Syrian Islamists from Al Qaeda's Al Nusra Front and the Saudi Arabia-controlled Islamic Front rolled into Kessab from Turkey, assisted by the Turkish government, which previously shot down a Syrian military jet near Kessab to facilitate the invasion. Turkish MP Mehmet Ali Edipoglu was told by Turkish villagers just across the border from Kessab that thousands of Islamist fighters were transported to the Syrian border with the help of the Turkish military, who withdrew from its positions along the borders right before the attack on Kessab.
The rebels quickly ran over Kessab and the other Armenian villages. There were immediate reports of a massacre of about a hundred Armenians, which is still unconfirmed, but the mainstream (read: pro-Islamist rebel) media started immediately howling that it was a "hoax".
What is confirmed is that at least 700 Armenian families fled or were thrown out (in mainstream newspeak, "were evacuated") of Kessab. According to Armenian politician Vazgen Mesropyan, twenty-two elderly Armenians who refused to flee Kessab were kidnapped and taken to Turkey in an eerie reminder of the 1915 Armenian genocide, and Islamist gunmen ripped off the crosses from Kessab's Armenian Apostolic church after taking it over. Armenians who fled to Assad-controlled Latakia, were greeted by Islamist rebels when they phoned their relatives' homes in Kessab. "We are enjoying your food", gloated the gunmen.
The brutal attack on Kessab, with its ominous echoes of the 1915 Armenian genocide, perpetrated by the Turks and other Ottoman Muslims, outraged and mobilized the worldwide Armenian diaspora. Reality TV starlet and socialite Kim Kardashian - arguably the most famous Armenian in the West, took a break from posting photos of her derriere to bring attention to the beleaguered residents of Kessab:
"If you don’t know what’s going on in Kessab please google it ... As an Armenian, I grew up hearing so many painful stories. Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide"
Unfortunately, Kessab was not the only anti-Christian attack by the West's beloved Syrian rebels. Elderly Dutch Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt who devoted the last 48 years to serving the residents of Homs - both Christian and Muslim, was dragged out of quarters by rebel gunmen, brutally beaten and executed in cold blood right in front of his monastery.
Do not expect an outraged reaction from the West though. After all, the Western media is too busy concocting lies and obfuscations about the situation in Ukraine to notice the ongoing genocide of Syrian Christians.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.