November 22, 2019 - 11:42 AMT
Turkey’s targeting of minorities highlighted on Capitol Hill

Speaking at the Ninth Annual St. Andrew’s Human Rights and Religious Freedom Reception on Capitol Hill, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights David L. Phillips addressed the subject of “Turkey’s Targeting of Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Syria,” reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

“I want to thank David for coming and taking part in this event. His outstanding scholarship in this area and his experience as a practitioner of diplomacy and foreign policy is well-documented,” Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) said in his welcome statement.

“We are doing it this year in the leg of this incredible and terrible assault by Turkey into northern Syria. And while it makes these issues very raw and ripe, what David will be speaking to in terms of the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities in Syria is something that is a longstanding problem when you look at Turkey and the behavior of this president,” the Congressman added.

Honorary hosts of the reception include the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX); Helsinki Commission Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman Senator Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), and former Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD); Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and John Sarbanes (D-MD); Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA); and International Religious Freedom Caucus Co-Chairs Juan Vargas (D-CA) and Bilirakis.

“Instead of placating Turkey, U.S. officials should reject Erdogan’s war-mongering and genocide denial,” Phillips said. “The victims of Turkey’s past and present genocide cry out for justice.”

Citing the devastating attack last week in Deir el-Zor where Turkish-backed forces executed Father Hovsep Bedoyan, the Pastor of the Armenian Catholic community of Qamishli, and his father while they were on their way to inspect the Armenian Catholic Church in the city, Phillips illustrated that “Turkey’s invasion has put Syria’s Christians at-risk.”

Philips shared other examples of attacks on Christians in the area. He noted that in 2014 the Armenian Christian town of Kessab in northwest Syria was attacked by jihadists with support from the Turkish military and that the attacks were launched from Turkish territory, resulting in 675 families being uprooted, 15 families taken hostage, and 3 Armenian churches damaged and desecrated.