Janice Kortkamp on Kessab, Syria

Photo Credit: Janice Kortkamp

November 23, 2016

Kessab, Syria Our family has lived on the farm here in Virginia for two generations and are raising the third here. We are a rarity in America to have generational connections to a piece of land.

Traveling in Syria, especially through just a few of its thousands of villages, I started to get a little feel, just a sense, of what it must be like to have ties to a place for tens of generations – sometimes hundreds of generations.

Kessab sits right on the border with Turkey, in the far northwest corner of Syria. It is an Armenian Christian town that was also a favorite weekend resort spot for many Syrians because of its beauty, set as it is in mountains and close to the sea.

Kessab and the Armenian people themselves have known one wave of violence and attempted genocide after another by Turkey over centuries. The leaders of Turkey slaughtered millions during the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915. Syria, on the other hand took in the refugees fleeing the violence – as Syria has historically done. One recent example: Syria accepted millions of refugees running from the US war against Iraq.

During this current war in Syria, Kessab was targeted once again. Safe, stable and prosperous under the government of Syria, it was brutally attacked along with several surrounding villages by a huge army of “rebel” terrorists led by al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) together with several terrorist groups some openly supported by the United States in March of 2014.The terrorist attack was directly aided by Turkey’s leader. He allowed thousands of terrorists – from countries like Chechnya, Morocco, Egypt and many others to flow over his border. He used his military artillery against the Syrian Armed forces that were defending Kessab and the border region. He aided them with communications and treated the wounded terrorists in Turkey then sent them back into the fight. He shot down a Syrian air force plane.

By the time the terrorist army finally took Kessab, most of the inhabitants had fled – those who could anyway. Some stayed behind, most I think were elderly. Many of them were taken as captives. Some of the women were raped. Some of the old men butchered. Some died in crossfire. The churches were desecrated and damaged. Homes were destroyed or occupied by invading terrorists.

But the Syrian armed forces with help from Hezbollah retook the town in July of 2014. Yes, Hezbollah – without their help many Christians and others in Syria would be dead or gone now – they are not the “terrorists” the US and Israel make them out to be. Many refugees that had fled before the invading terrorist army – returned to their homes ONE DAY after the Syrian armed forces regained control. Now that is courage, faith and trust.

Gail Malone and I visited Kessab, about a year and half since that fierce fighting. Much rebuilding has been done and life is returning but still it sits right under the eyes of its terrible enemy, President Erdogan of Turkey – the “great ally” of the United States of America, the NATO leader who admires how Hitler came to power and is emulating it. We were so close to the border of Turkey it felt like we could throw a rock and hit it – and I was tempted to. But you also feel like a sitting duck there as a major Turk military post overlooks you from the nearby mountain.

Kessab is spectacular. Its beauty, its resilience, its fortitude. Spectacular also in its strength and courage.

But none of that is unique in Syria. Every village there has its own story and many have suffered as bad or even worse than Kessab. Men massacred, women and children taken as slaves and hostages – many of them tortured and massacred as well. The “moderate rebels” version of “freedom and democracy” includes genocide, torture, rape, kidnapping, looting and imposing strict sharia law wherever they “liberate” in secular and safe Syria – many times with weapons and training and support coming directly from America.

Inspiring and humbling place to visit.


Photos by Janice Kortkamp