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Yabanjo’s Ode to Kessab

Kessab, you are gone and won’t be again.

Everyone is angry. Or sad. Perhaps even in disbelief.


Was it a surprise that Armenians were once again attacked in their home? Did it not happen 600 years ago? 125 years ago? 100 years ago? 10 years ago? One year ago?

It was the Turks. No, it was the Arabs. Maybe both? Does it matter? You are no longer there.

And now we arrive at the place we were before, during, after genocide: demand justice for us, the peaceful Armenian. The helpless Armenian. The starving Armenian. The other will help. The other must help. We wronged no one so why must we be wronged? We continue to wait for the answer of God, Europe, or America. Whichever. We are waiting.

Because now that Kessab is emptied of its Armenians, now that its buildings are ransacked, now that it has been polluted, now that we may watch it crumble before our eyes, now that it will be no more, we are furious!

No amount of closed doors, no amount of unheard prayers, no amount of unheeded calls to moral authority will stop us because our resilience knows no bounds.

As we demand and as we wait, they will hold their guns and their bombs and they will tempt us to take what is ours. And they will hold us prisoner in our churches. And if we are fortunate, they will burn us there so that we may not carry the burden of remembering our failings. Or learning, like the smart beast.

But if we are alive, we will demand and we will wait.

And we will forget. Just as we have forgotten before.

We remember the names, yes, but we have forgotten the lessons. We remember Hayrig and Raffi, Siamanto and Tekeyan, Nzhdeh and Monte. For what?

Did they not warn us? Did they not warn our forefathers? Who were we to ignore them, to soil their names by remembering but their names?

Idyllic Kessab, full of tradition, yet no more than the cities that fell before you. When you lived you gave us a taste of what it must have been like. And when you died you gave us a taste of what it must have been like.

Van destroyed, Smyrna burned, Bitlis, Tigranakert, and Kars emptied, Shushi occupied. Yet we expected you to remain among a sea of others, protected, as though by a fortress or by guns – a fortress we never built and guns we never fired.

Alas, we were fooled, but by whom? The enemy we know cannot be more honest in his character – yet we blame him.

Now we sit, incredulous, aghast at the inhumanity of humanity, as though suffering from an incorrigible amnesia.

No matter, I think. Maybe they will let us rebuild a church or search for our cemetery buried underneath their animal waste or enjoy our homes that they will turn into the finest hotels.

And worry not because Kessab will rise again, a Nor Kessab will be built – on Hollywood Boulevard. Not Yerevan because that is not our homeland. Cilicia is our homeland. And you were the last piece of Cilicia and that is why you were our homeland and that is why it was really, very difficult to leave – at a moment’s notice.

You lived longer yet wisdom escaped you. I have no pity for you Kessab, and history is my solace. You did not deserve to be left alone but you can rejoice because it is fighters who have you now.

I will accept you as a sacrifice that will fertilize the memory of our clairvoyants and prophets, your death the elixir of their rebirth.

Because while you die, your enemy lives.

It is only yabanjos now who remain.


  1. Rick Rick Mar 26, 2014

    I don’t see the significance of “Saving Kessab.” Like you alluded to – it was there for 600 years, and while we didn’t hold rifles and fire them, we waited. waited, waited – for someone else, someone else, someone else. It’s a very slave like mentality that we have, and I don’t feel cold in saying – if you loved the city so much, you should have defended it. Its fate was brought on by its lack to prepare for the worst, by its own doing, by the ignorance of people to believe that they will be left alone in a country not of their own and dense with turmoil.

    ” The helpless Armenian. The starving Armenian. The other will help. The other must help,” as you wrote. Indeed – a national sickness we have in our minds.

    • Argishti Argishti Mar 27, 2014

      What could we have done ? The people of Kessab should’ve been armed and ready to fight like the Kurdish population of Rojava was. Do you really think it is possible to send troops to Turkey ? Or are we to send detachments of fedayis ? How are they going to access Kessab ? Through Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan ? Will the Kurds of Rojava let them through ? Will they be massacred on their way to Kessab ?

      Deir-ez-Zor, Aleppo and Kessab are not Bourj Hammoud. Kessab is in a very delicate position. Davutoğlu is searching for one little reason to invade Syria, we cannot trust the Kurds and we have almost no way of reaching Kessab. The only thing that should’ve been done 3 years ago when the civil war started is providing arms to the Armenian population of Syria. This is the only point where we failed and it will haunt us for a very long time.

      • Rick Rick Mar 28, 2014

        Argishti, uh…who is us? Do you personally live in Kessab? If not, then why are you so concerned or see it as your duty to arm the population? Say you bought them guns, are you going to force them to shoot and defend? It’s THEIR home. It’s THEIR history. It’s THEIR duty. Stop looking out for what you should find within.

        Just like most Armenians, you think that it’s YOUR duty to defend them. If they loved it so much, they should have defended it themselves. and If they didn’t have the means, well – there seems to be enough Kessab supporters here to have known they needed help and would have provided assistance more so than a “#savekessab” hashtag.

    • Argishti Argishti Mar 28, 2014

      No I don’t personally live in Kessab, but I thought that our people had learned a valuable lesson after the Nagorno-Karabakh war. United we stand strong. Should we have said the same thing when Stepanakert was under artillery fire ? If they love it so much, let them defend it ? Until when ?

      I don’t think that you need to force anyone to defend his home, certainly not Armenians. It’s in people’s nature. If the Kurds successfully defended their homes, Armenians could have done it too. The only issue is that they were not armed and ready to defend their homes. They didn’t imagine that a new front would have been opened in Latakia with Turkey’s help. Nobody expected these neo-Ottoman actions from Turkey.

      Raising awareness is a very big part of solving an international problem. Did you expect some small-time activists like us to provide arms to people living in Syria ? It’s impossible, and you know it.

  2. Khatchig Khatchig Mar 27, 2014

    Unless you wrote this in Armenia you to can count yourself in the ranks of hypocrites with one big difference. Some of us bite or tongue and live in the diaspora doing everything we can for Armenia as it is impossible for many to go back and live there. I hope you never find yourself in the Kessabtsi shoes living in a war of not your making or of consequence to you where the only thing you drive from it is displacement, loss of life and fortune. Yabanjos like you give a bad name to yabanjos.

    • Levon Levon Mar 28, 2014

      Khatchig – stop trolling with your “if you don’t live there, you can’t have an opinion” BS rhetoric. It doesn’t work. There are many truths that wise people can see through history. One of them here, is that people like you come out of the woodwork after a tragedy and stifle any response other than ” Save kessab!” Kessab is gone Khatchig, and if it was so important to you, or to everyone advocating for it, you should have preserved it 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 40, 50, 100 years ago.

      writer’s like Raffi, Kharimian Hayrig alluded to the fact that Armenians always have your type of attitude and that is exactly why we are crushed at these vulnerable times. If it’s not for the “yabanjo” writing this article to tell you – then allow the awesome minds of Raffi and Hayrig slap you back to reality and teach you something worth knowing like: you give Armenians a bad name with your negativity. Either add to the solution, build up defense in preparation for attack, or sit down and shut up.

      • Argishti Argishti Mar 28, 2014

        I agree with everything you said but one thing. Nobody expected Kessab to be attacked. Since the beginning of this civil war, Armenians around the world have been doing everything to help their compatriots of Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor. These were our priorities, not Kessab, which was far-entrenched in Bashar’s homeland of Latakia. Nobody expected this new front to be opened with Turkey’s support.

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