Armenian Families Refuse to Return to Kobane After Second ISIS Assault

AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Armenian families who fled Kobane, Syria, do not plan to return home even though the Kurdish army successfully defeated the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). “There were only eight families left before the ISIL attack [in October 2014],” explained Agop Tomasyon. “All of these families left Kobane after the attack.”

Kobane is an important city to the residents and ISIS. The city borders Turkey, where aspiring jihadists from around the world travel to and sneak into Syria to join groups such as ISIS. An ISIS fighter told The Jerusalem Post that Turkey provides funds for the terrorist group. The terrorists took over Azaz, a key town in Syria near the border of Turkey, in September 2013. That is significant because Turkey “vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed weapons to cross into Syria on its southern border.” The capture of Azaz allowed easier access to the jihadists. Two months later, CNN featured Turkey’s secret jihadi route to Syria. If ISIS gained complete control of Kobane it would provide another route to the wannabe jihadists.

Kurdish forces fought off ISIS from October to December. They also fended off the militants in a renewed attack in January. On June 27, the forces announced the soldiers expelled all remaining ISIS militants in Kobane. Unfortunately, though, ISIS found a way back in, slaughtered 220 civilians, and raped the females. There is no guarantee ISIS will not return.

Tomasyan and his family are one of three families who reside in the Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in Suruç. A total of eight families fled Kobane. Tomasyan’s family left because they are a Christian family.

“We understood that it was time for us to go,” he said, adding:

We decided to come to Turkey after a discussion between the last Armenians left. Eventually we came to Suruç. From Suruç, the eight families had spread to various other places. One family settled in Şanlıurfa, another in Hatay, and another in Aleppo. Two of the families who had passports went to Armenia. The remaining three families were placed in refugee camps in Suruç.

At first, they wanted to return, but the murder of his brother changed their minds.

“Before the recent ISIL assault, my brother wanted to return to Kobane to see how his house and store was,” he said. “He took his 14-year-old son with him, but later he was killed by ISIL in front of his son.”

It is not new for Armenians to lose their homes and establish a new home in a new country. Ironically, Tomasyan and the others chose Turkey. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey, expelled and massacred over 2 million Armenians. Hundreds of thousands marched to their deaths into the Syrian desert. After the genocide ended, less than 400,000 Armenians remained in Turkey.

Tomasyan claims his ancestors fled to Kobane from Anatolia, which is “the Asian portion of Turkey.” But now they must sever ties to the town.

“Kobane is not our homeland anymore,” declared Tomasyan.


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