Arev Kasabyan, a member of the Armenian People’s Assembly in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES, also known as Rojava), shared her perspectives with Hawar News Agency about the significance of the Armenian People’s Assembly. It was founded following the establishment of the Nuber Ozanyan Armenian Defence Battalion in 2019.
The Rojava Revolution has become a source of inspiration for the oppressed and for those actively resisting in the region and in the world, she said. The Armenians are one of those peoples who have been facing massacres and attacks since Ottoman times. The Armenians continue with their struggles in North and East Syria as well.
The Armenian people living in the region formed their own People’s Assembly under AANES, she noted. Here, Kasabyan added, they can represent themselves directly: they can engage directly in decision-making mechanisms and organise cultural work that discovers their history and culture.
With the strength they have gained through the Rojava revolution, the Armenian people have been organising themelves at all levels. On 24 April 2019, the 104th anniversary of the Armenian massacre – which has been long discussed as a “genocide” as well – the Armenian people in North and East Syria established their own self-defence units called the Nubar Ozanyan Armenian Battalion. The Armenian People’s Assembly has been continuing with its work since then, Kasabyan stated. The main focus of the assembly, she emphasized, is to create a collective memory of the Armenians regarding their identity and culture which faced extinction at the hands of the Ottomans and the Baath regime.
‘700,000 Armenians were disappeared and their whereabouts have remained unknown since then’
Arev Kasabyan is an active member of the Armenian People’s Assembly. Her family originally was settled in Turkey’s Şanlurfa (Riha) province before 1915. “Our ancestors were living in Urfa in Turkey before 1915, but most of my family was exiled to Syria after the massacres targeting the Armenians. The massacres were conducted by the Ottomans who killed over 1.5 million Armenians. 700,000 Armenians were ‘disappeared’ and their whereabouts have remained unknown since then”, she said.
‘We faced our own reality with the Rojava revolution’
Kasabyan believes that the peoples of the region participated in the Rojava revolution together: thanks to the revolution, they have been able to discover their roots and their own identities. “We faced our own reality with the Rojava revolution. All peoples living in the region found the opportunity to research their history and to represent and express themselves freely in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES)”, she said.
It is very important that the Armenians and all other peoples of the region are recognized by AANES and equally participate in politics and social life, she stated. “Before, the Armenian people were not that strong and they were organising themselves with the Assyrians, but all peoples should create their own self-organisation. AANES made an effort in this regard. Our Assembly serves this purpose. We are conducting research about the Armenian population in the region: we supply people education in their mother language, in Armenian, and we are promoting cultural works and events. In the meantime, we also maintain our links and communications with the other peoples of the region”, she said.
‘We work for the fellowship of the people’
Kasabyan further noted that “through the Armenian People’s Assembly, we engage in research about the history and culture of the Armenians, whose culture and history had been shattered, because they had tried to destroy our history and culture for so many years”.
“Our research enables us to inherit a collective memory for the next Armenian generations, but our main aim is to ensure that all peoples in the region live in harmony and peace. We work for the fellowship of the people. We encourage all the people to discover their own histories, their own cultures. We know that all the state parties in Syria apply their politics by creating wars between the peoples of the region”.
’24 April’ should be ‘recognised as an official day to commemorate massacred Armenians’
Kasabyan stressed that the work of their Assembly is not limited to the borders of North and East Syria: “We also build diplomatic relations and we build international contacts and relations in Turkey and also in Europe. For example, ’24 April’ was accepted as an official day in France to mark the anniversary of the Armenian massacres. With international friends and supporters, we try to continue our work for ’24 April’ to be recognised as an official day to commemorate massacred Armenians”, she said.
‘The Turkish state attacks with the mentality of the Ottomans in the region’
Kasabyan appealed to the people of the region and international communities to engage in a joint struggle against the attacks the people of North and East Syria have been facing. “The Turkish state attacks with the mentality of the Ottomans in the region. It is not only applying the politics of hostility against Kurds, against Armenians, against Arabs or against Assyrians, but against all the peoples in the region”, she said. “Therefore, all people living in the Middle East should engage in a joint struggle against the attacks, to ensure we all do not re-experience the massacres that took place in the past”.