Armenia on Monday strongly condemned the reported destruction by Islamic State militants of an Armenian church in eastern Syria that has also served as a memorial to the victims of the 1915 genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
The official Syrian news agency SANA said that the militants blew up and completely razed the Saint Martyrs’ Church in the city of Deir ez-Zor on Sunday. There has been no independent confirmation of the report so far. Nor have there been any statements yet by the Sunni jihadist movement controlling large swathes of land in Syria, including most of the Deir ez-Zor region, and neighboring Iraq.
Official Yerevan referred to the alleged bombing as a fact. “This despicable and barbaric act against a shrine once again demonstrates the savage nature of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ terrorist group,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement. “The international community must immediately stop and root out that plague threatening the civilized world and cut off all channels of its support, financing and sponsorship.”
President Serzh Sarkisian’s chief of staff, meanwhile, held Turkey responsible for the reported bombing. “If Turkey has nothing to do with the terrorist attack on the Saint Martyrs’ Church, it should come up with a corresponding statement of condemnation,” the official, Vigen Sargsian, wrote on his Facebook page.
The Turkish government has been accused by the Syrian regime, Kurdish leaders and some international media of providing covert support to the Islamic State. It has strongly denied those allegations.
Built in 1989-1991, the Der ez-Zor church has been part of an Armenian genocide memorial complex. It comprises a museum housing the remains of genocide victims.
Deir ez-Zor and the surrounding Syrian desert were the final destination point for Armenians forced out of their homes and subjected to infamous “death marches” by the Ottoman government during the First World War.
Sargsian emphasized this fact in his written remarks. “This is yet another proof that the crime of genocide continues as long as it is not fully recognized and punished,” he said in another jibe at Ankara.
President Sarkisian visited and gave a speech at the Deir ez-Zor memorial during a 2010 trip to Syria.