The last few weeks has seen an explosion in social media activism, demonstrations outside Turkish consulates throughout the Western world and questions being raised in Congress. The reason? We are on the brink of a second Armenian Genocide, or at least we are according to the “SaveKessab” campaign.
Kessab is an Armenian town located in north-western Syria on the border with Turkey, the population is estimated at 2,500 and has been in the hands of the Syrian regime. However, the town was taken by rebel forces, which are made up of a coalition of Islamist Al-Nusra Front, Ansar Al-Sham, several other Islamist factions and the secular Free Syrian army. The assault was allegedly aided by Turkey, who is accused of allowing the rebel groups to launch the assault from Turkish soil and of helping shell the town. Many of the local residents fled the town and are believed to be in regime-held territory, but many elderly residents stayed behind.
The town residents have not really spoken to the International media, despite this a campaign has been launched in their name by Armenian Diaspora activists. The likes of Armenian-American model Kim Kardashian have waded into the campaign by tweeting “Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide.” Members of Congress and the Senate have expressed concern for the fall of Kessab with Representatives Pallone, Grimm, Valadao and Schiff issuing a joint letter to President Obama, in which they stated that the “mass-exodus” of Armenians was “reminiscent of the early days of the Armenian Genocide..”
Some of the Armenian protestors who were interviewed by Al-Monitor stated that they believed the rebels were worse than the Assad regime. But much of the anger has been directed at Turkey; recently, Turkey has come under fire from online pro-Assad activists, who accuse Erdogan of trying to intervene in Syria. A few weeks ago Turkey shot down a Syrian fighter jet and shelled the Syrian army in response to the Syrian army shelling Turkish troops. But of more concern to Pro-Assad activists is the leaking of a confidential conversation believed to be between the Turkish Foreign Minister and Turkish military and security officials. They were heard discussing the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, a sovereign Turkish territory, but is located in Northern Syria.
The Tomb is protected by Turkish Special Forces and has recently come under threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). ISIS use to be part of the Syrian opposition, but their excessive violence and brutalisation of civilians, meant that all the factions of the Syrian opposition united and threw ISIS out of the opposition and declared war on it. ISIS is widely regarded by the Syrian opposition to have a secret alliance with the Assad regime and to be an implant in the opposition.
Recently, ISIS has been attacking Turkish border guards and soldiers and has issued a direct threat against the Tomb of Suleyman Shah. The leaked conversation discussed the possibility of Turkish forces intervening directly into Syria to protect the tomb and fight ISIS. The officials are alleged to have said that even if the ISIS does not attack the tomb themselves, that the Turkish military could stage an attack, in a ‘false flag’ operation to justify intervention.
These conversations are being used by Pro-Assad sources to suggest a Turkish conspiracy is at hand and the Save Kessab campaign appears to be tapping into these fears. They have reproduced their own conspiracy of Islamist Terrorists backed by Turkey who are attempting a second genocide. The trouble is there is no evidence of a second genocide. The campaign has been releasing videos, pictures and testimonies from the town, most of which, appear to be fabricated.
Pictures used by the campaign, which purportedly show gruesome beheadings, executions and destructions of property have been shown not to be from the town or even against Armenians. One of the worst photos circulated by the campaign shows a bloody corpse of a young woman stretched out on a bed, with a cross shoved down her throat, the trouble is this picture has already been used in a disinformation campaign last year when it was alleged to be a Christian girl from Aleppo. Turns out the picture was from a 2005 Canadian horror flick.
Some Syrian Armenians have denounced the campaign and the Syrian rebels have launched a counter-campaign, showing videos of them protecting local residents and churches. The trouble is much of this material is in Arabic and thus the English media does not have access to it. But English-speaking pro-opposition campaigners have launched their own debunking campaign against the Save Kessab campaign. While it’s difficult to say with any certainty what is happening in Syria, on the basis of the evidence, it would appear a Second Armenian Genocide is not occurring.