By Katrina Shakarian
On Sat., April 12, Armenians across the tri-state area gathered at Almayass restaurant/lounge in Manhattan for a “Fundraiser for Kessab,” and raised nearly $4,000 in aid to Syrian-Armenians displaced by the current rebel incursion into the northwestern province of Latakia. The fundraiser was co-sponsored by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of New York and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) New York chapter.
Latakia includes Kessab (Kasab), an Armenian-Christian village on the Mediterranean Sea, that until recently was unscathed by the infighting and destruction that has transformed other sections of the country. All of the area’s residents, mostly Armenians, were forced to evacuate when rebel forces launched their coastal offensive from Turkey in March. Approximately 1,550 displaced families from Kessab have taken refuge in the city of Latakia, which is under Syrian government control. Kessab Armenians have joined the ranks of approximately two million Syrians rendered refugees by this conflict, now in its fourth year.
Present at the fundraiser were master of ceremonies Valot Atakhanian of ANC-NY and Father Nareg Terterian, a native of Kessab, and the current pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Douglaston, N.Y. Father Nareg relayed up-to-date information about the local Armenian population, attained from his contacts on the ground. Lebanese-Armenian singer and musical director Kevork Hadjian closed the program with song.
For Armenians, the emptying of this historic swath of land, perhaps permanently, stirs up painful memories of the 1915 genocide from which their ancestors escaped; they survived and sought refuge in Kessab’s idyllic landscape. Tony Vartanian of ANC-NY thanked attendees for contributing to the fundraiser and shared news of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s recent adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Spearheaded by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez (D), the resolution seeks to ensure that America’s foreign policy reflects and reinforces the lessons, documented in the U.S. record, of the still-unacknowledged genocide.
Although this event was a success, the important work of supporting Syrian-Armenians in their time of need continues. Both New York Chapters of ANC and AYF encourage readers to stay involved.