WASHINGTON – For Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, the attack on a Syrian town that is home to descendants of the Armenian genocide was a painful reminder of the past.
"I can't help but think, 'Here we are again,'" said Eshoo, whose grandparents survived the early 20th century genocide. "It's like ripping a scab off of a wound.... History is repeating itself."
Eshoo, a Democrat from Menlo Park, joined other California representatives — including some with large Armenian American constituencies — to call attention to the rebel assault last month on the northern Syrian town of Kasab near the Turkish border and to press for humanitarian aid to the victims and an investigation into Turkey's role in the strike.
Syrian rebels, including some linked to Al Qaeda, crossed into Syria from Turkey on March 21, attacking the home to about 2,500 Armenian Christians and forcing many to flee. A week later, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, accusing Turkey, which has called for Syrian President Bashar Assad's ouster, of helping facilitate the attack.
Representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America, who joined several lawmakers at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday, called for, among other things, the U.S. to investigate Turkey's assistance to the rebels, facilitate the return of Syrian Armenians back to their homes, and provide at least $3.5 million in humanitarian assistance for displaced civilians from Kasab.
There was no immediate response from the Turkish Embassy in Washington.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) recently joined Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.), co-chairmen of the Congressional Armenia Caucus, in a letter to President Obama calling the attack "far too reminiscent" of the early days of the Armenian genocide.
An estimated 1.2 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks as the empire was dissolving during World War I.
Resolutions have been repeatedly introduced in Congress over the years to recognize the mass killings between 1915 and 1918 as genocide. But the measures have run into resistance amid fears they would damage U.S. relations with Turkey, an important ally. Though historians have concluded the killings were genocide, Turkey has contended that the deaths were due to war, famine and disease.
"The United States cannot sit by idly while these extremists target civilians and force more than 2,000 in this instance to flee their homes,'' said Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno). Also attending the news conference were Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), Schiff and Pallone.