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Local Armenian community reacts to takeover of Kessab

April 03, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Nearly 50 people gathered to bring attention to an the takeover of Kessab, Syria at the Armenian Consulate in Glendale on the corner of Central Avenue and Lexington Drive.
Nearly 50 people gathered to bring attention to an the… (Tim Berger/ Times…)

The Armenian community in Glendale quickly reacted to the takeover of a majority Armenian town called Kessab by Syrian rebels in northwest Syria in late March, forcing inhabitants to flee.

A social media campaign cooked up by a Glendale youth organization featuring the hashtag #SaveKessab got the attention of thousands of Twitter and Facebook users, including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Cher and politicians such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

PHOTOS: Armenian community gathers to protest attacks in Kessab

A protest at the Turkish Embassy in Los Angeles, with buses transporting hundreds of people from a Glendale church, was planned just a few days after news of the attack spread, with more protests taking place this week at the Armenian consulate in Glendale. People at the protests have toted handmade signs reading, "#SaveKessab."

Fundraising efforts for Syrian-Armenians also kicked into high gear, with the Glendale-based Syrian Armenian Relief Fund sending about $100,000 last Friday to Kessab refugees.

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While the Armenian community in Glendale has had a sharp eye on the Syrian civil war since it began about three years ago due to the large Armenian population there, the recent violence in Kessab has inflated their outrage.

Many Armenians consider the region historically part of their homeland. The forces who overran the town of about 2,000 came in through the Turkish border, an upsetting reminder of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Glendale residents said, especially as Glendale prepares to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the genocide later this month. In addition, there have been few reports in the mainstream media of the takeover that began on March 21st, leaving family members in Glendale frustrated that the plight of their relatives are falling on deaf ears.

"This is where I spent my childhood and it hits home. My grandfather's house is being looted. My aunt's house is being looted," Lena Bozoyan, executive board chairman of the Glendale-based Armenian Relief Society Western USA, said. "We as a Christian nation, we as the believers of the free, we, a democratic people and country, are not saying a word. This is outrageous."

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