News / Middle East

Seizure of Syrian Town Recalls Century-Old Turkish-Armenian Dispute

FILE - A man lights candles during a religious service marking the anniversary of mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire in 1915 at an Armenian church in Tbilisi, Georgia.
FILE - A man lights candles during a religious service marking the anniversary of mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire in 1915 at an Armenian church in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Dorian Jones
Syrian rebels recently overran Kassab, a town near the Turkish border inhabited by ethnic Armenians. That action has drawn attention to Turkey's relationship with radical Islamic factions in the Syrian conflict, and it has resurrected a century-old controversy.
Ankara has faced mounting international criticism since Islamist fighters overran Kassab in late March. Many of the town's ethnic Armenian residents fled, charging that Ankara had supported the jihadists.  

Turkey denies the charges, but some observers say whether or not they are true, it is paying a high price. All the more so, given that the attack on Kassab occurred on the eve of key anniversary - every April Armenians commemorate what they say was the killing in 1915 of more than one million of their people by Turkey’s then Ottoman rulers.

Armenians are stepping up their drive for international recognition of those killings as genocide ahead of next year's 100th anniversary.

Members of the Armenian diaspora community are leading the criticism of Turkey over the attack on Kassab, charging that Turkey facilitated it, or at least failed to use its influence to prevent it.  

Ankara strongly rejects the charge that what happened in 1915 amounts to genocide, and disputes the number of deaths. But Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, said the issue will not go away. He noted that a legislative proposal in France to make it illegal to deny that the 1915 killing of Armenians was genocide, while it was ultimately rejected by France's constitutional court, caused a major diplomatic uproar.

"We see this constantly. The bill, which led to a big crisis between Turkey and France, is just one example," said Ulgen. "And now we are coming to 2015, the centennial of the 1915 events, and obviously Turkey will have to address that."

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has already compared the events in Kassab to those of 1915. Ankara is working to contain the damage, with state media broadcasting interviews with Armenians from Kassab who have taken refuge in Turkey.

But Semih Idiz, a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf and the Al Monitor website, said Ankara has blundered.

"I think it was a miscalculation, bringing up the whole Armenian issues, and it will also highlight the fact that Turkey is helping these extreme jihadist groups," said  Idiz. "So it will really be a question of how the situation is going to be managed and what actually happens in Kassab itself. Now if things get out of hand, it will reflect badly on Turkey."

Ankara denies it is supporting groups like the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front, one of the militant Islamist factions in Syria. It also claims -- as do the Syrian rebels in Kassab -- the town's ethnic identity is being respected.

With the Turkish government already facing growing criticism both nationally and internationally over its relations with jihadist groups in Syria, observers say the events in Kassab will add to the pressure on Ankara to review its strategy toward Syria.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: V73 from: Jordan
April 11, 2014 11:42 AM
VOA, let me tell you, so you can tell America, I am from Jordan, there is a big problem here with Syrian refugees. I can see already Palestinians agitating to kill Syrian refugees in Jordan. i don't think the Jordanian "government" can deal with this. Syrian refugees and Palestinians are about to kill each other. tell this to America. The traitors from AlJazeera will not tell this story. They know but they do nothing.
In Response

April 11, 2014 11:26 PM
All Important Players of this dirty drama read this story and ready in front of God.Prepare your reply, but GOD will not accept false story. By the way I wish to inform you important players in this drama are Saudi Arabia,Israel,Qatar,Turkey, Jordan,USA and Nato.

April 10, 2014 10:36 PM
Turkey cannot scape about its dirty role in Syria crisis.Turkey hold so many important meeting in Ankara by World Terrorist group, just to please USA. Turkey hands full of human blood which they cannot deny.They financed, equiped terrorisit group and give them traiing how to kill human beings,rape and kill girls and woman. Every thing in the record, how much they involve in killing and destruction of Syria. The purpose of all this drama is to please USA and not GOD.

by: ali baba from: new york
April 10, 2014 5:29 PM
turkey is involved in radical Muslim activities. they are involved in Syria . they are involved in Egypt. the west has to understand the double standard of Turkey. their application to join European union should be denied and it should dismiss from NATO

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs