By: Amberin Zaman , Columnist for Al-Monitor
“The bearded men came to our home. They spoke Turkish. They rifled through our belongings and asked if we had guns.” This is how Sirpuhi Titizyan, a refugee from Kassab, a mainly Armenian village in northern Syria that was overrun by jihadists fighters on March 21, described her ordeal to Agos, an Istanbul-based Armenian weekly.
The frail octogenarian blamed Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for Kassab’s fall. “Had Erdogan not cleared the path to Kassab, this many evil men would not have come,” Titizyan said. “May Allah blind Erdogan,” she thundered in a separate interview with Aris Nalci, a Turkish-Armenian blogger.
[READ: Why Erdogan Keeps Winning]
But readers of the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, which disingenuously claimed to have interviewed the sisters first, were offered a completely different version of events. When asked to respond to allegations that Turkey had helped to orchestrate the attack against Kassab, Sirpuhi was quoted as saying: “If this were so, why would the [Turkish] government be helping us?”
Sirpuhi and her sister Satenik have become the unwitting tools of a propaganda war pitting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and members of the Armenian diaspora against Turkey and its rebel proteges.
The Islamist fighters promised the women, who were among a handful of elderly people left behind, that they would help them join their fellow villagers in regime-controlled areas of Latakia and Tartus. But they handed the pair over to Turkish authorities in the neighboring province of Hatay instead.
The sisters have since been resettled in Vakifli, the sole Armenian-inhabited village left in Turkey since 1915.
That was when more than a million Armenians were slaughtered by Ottomans in what most historians concurred was the first genocide of the 20th century. Much of the violence took place as hundreds of thousands of Armenians were uprooted from their homes and ordered on a “death march” to the Syrian desert in Deir al-Zor.
Coming just weeks before the 99th anniversary of the genocide on April 24, the campaign in Kassab was bound to bruise Turkey’s image. And that is why, wrote Agos editor-in-chief, Rober Koptas, Turkey intervened with opposition fighters to prevent them from moving against Kassab in the past. So what prompted the change? he asked. Most Armenians, Koptas notes, would give the shortcut answer that it was “to harm Armenians.” But as he said, any harm suffered by Kassab’s Armenians would harm Turkey, too. The more likely reason that Turkey did not stand in the way of the rebels this time was because the conflict was tipping in the regime’s favor. Kassab would give the rebels a strategic foothold in Latakia and unprecedented access to the Mediterranean Sea. But at what price?
via Turkey Losing Propaganda War Over Syrian Armenians – US News.