WASHINGTON, DC — The United States on Wednesday confirmed and strongly condemned the destruction by Islamic State (ISIL) militants of an Armenian church in Syria that was built in memory of victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
“The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan joins the government and people of Armenia in strongly condemning the destruction of the Armenian Church in Deir ez-Zor, Syria,” read an embassy statement. “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 [of State John] 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,” said the statement.
The Saint Martyrs’ Church was reportedly blown up on Sunday, the day before the U.S. and some of its Arab allies expanded their strikes on ISIL targets into eastern and northern Syria. Deir ez-Zor has been among ISIL-controlled parts of the country targeted by the U.S.-led coalition.
Armenia effectively backed the air strikes when it condemned the Armenian church bombing on Monday. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian urged the international community to “root out that plague threatening the civilized world.” A top aide to President Serzh Sarkisian held Turkey responsible for the attack, seemingly alluding to alleged Turkish support for the ISIL, which is strongly denied by Ankara.
Several members of the U.S. Congress also condemned the destruction of the church. One of them, Adam Schiff, said, “The reported destruction by ISIL of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, Syria is yet another example of the sickening barbarity that has terrorized millions across Iraq and Syria. The fact that the church was dedicated to those lost in the genocide is both especially poignant, and a chilling foreshadowing of how ISIL would treat Syria’s Christians if it were to further expand their territorial gains. We need to support the international coalition that is currently engaging in strikes to help the people of Syria and Iraq rid themselves of this cancer.”
Congressman Frank Pallone has also condemned the destruction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor, Syria:
“I am deeply saddened and outraged by the destruction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor. 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.”
“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.”