WASHINGTON — On the same day as millions of Armenians in Armenia and around the world marked the 23rd anniversary of independence of the Republic of Armenia, Sunday, September 21, terrorists belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) destroyed the Armenian Church and Genocide Memorial in Deir Zor, Syria. Reports began to surface early Monday morning, prompting swift rebukes from members of Congress, the US government, and the Armenian-American community.
The US Embassy in Yerevan on September 24 released the following statement: “US Embassy Yerevan joins the government and people of Armenia in strongly condemning the destruction of the Armenian Church in Deir Ez-zor, Syria. This senseless act of destruction demonstrates yet again the utter disregard the terrorist organization ISIL has for the rich religious and cultural heritage of the Middle East. As Secretary Kerry has stated, ISIL has systematically committed abuses of human rights and international law and presents a global terrorist threat. Faced with this threat, the United States urges the international community to strengthen our united effort to degrade and destroy ISIL.”
“Armenian Americans are appalled at the destruction of the Armenian Holy Martyrs Church and the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Der Zor, Syria,” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “For Armenians across the globe it evokes painful memories of the past wherein the Genocide of 1915 claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians, as well as Turkey’s ongoing and shameful campaign of genocide denial,” he said.
Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), condemned the attack in the strongest of terms. “I am deeply saddened and outraged by the destruction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor,” he said. “This church stood to commemorate and honor the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who died on the march to Deir ez-Zor. At the order of the Ottoman Turks, Armenian refugees were sent to die in Deir ez-Zor as part of the 20th century’s first genocide. The destruction of the church memorializing this terrible point in history must be met with a strong international response.
He continued: “The United States government and other international partners in the region must work to protect religious minorities and to ensure that Armenian Christians are not targeted for such appalling acts. As the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaches, we must remember that it is our duty to stand against the targeting of Armenians all around the world and to prevent any further targeted violence.”