Armenian militia fighting Turkish invaders in Syria celebrates first anniversary

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Founded last year on the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Martyr Nubar Ozanyan Battalion Armenian militia operating in Syria and is resisting against the Turkish military and their jihadist proxies, celebrated its first anniversary yesterday according to ANF.

The battalion is named after a radical communist revolutionary who was martyred fighting against ISIS in 2017. Ozanyan was born in Turkey in 1956 and participated in battles against Israel during the First Intifada, against Azerbaijan forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, against the Turkish state in domestic actions and finally against ISIS during the Syrian War. As part of his role in Syria, he trained an international brigade, that included Greeks, to fight against Turkish-backed jihadists.

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Nubar Ozanyan

A commander of the battalion, Nubar Melkonyan, spoke with ANF about the militias first year of action, new genocide attempts by Turkey, and the future plans of the group.

During the interview he revealed that many of the fighters in his battalion were Islamized Armenians, meaning, many of them were Muslim but thought they were Turkish and then discovered in one way or another that they were actually Armenian.

"In one year, we tried to give back to the Armenians who had lost their roots and their identity. This was not easy. Every Armenian comrade who came here was assimilated [Turkified] in some way and had lost his real identity. They saw that there was an Armenian force. This gave them strength, determination. While we gave them this identity back, we showed and taught that we should defend and definitely take part in the revolution in order not to be exposed to a second genocide. Comrades took steps in this direction. It is not only to protect our own history, language, to return to our history: we showed that these lands should be taken care of," the commander said.

Currently in northern Syria, Turkey and their jihadist proxies are occupying large swathes, with the Syrian Army and Kurdish-led forces resisting Ankara's dreams of territorial expansion.

The commander also reveals that because many of these Armenians arriving are still de-Turkifying and do not speak Armenian or know the culture, the battalion are offering education to keep the Armenian culture and language alive in the region.

He revealed that the Armenian battalion are fighting in Al-Hasakah province, including in Ras al-Ayn, Tall Tamr and Mount Abdulaziz, and that they are composed of Armenians from many locations.

"There are people from Armenia who joined the battalion[...] In particular we have people who want to join from Aleppo, England, France and America. We stopped receiving people though because of the coronavirus pandemic," he said.

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Photo from ANF

Melkonyan also revealed how the Armenian Genocide was a motivating factor for many of the fighters.

"The Turkish nation state was founded on the concept of slaughtering and destroying Kurds and Armenians. This continued after the nation-state was created. While everybody's attention was on the [First World] war, the Young Turks, the Ittihat-i Terakki Party, planned an Ottoman state, with a genocide mentality. This genocide mentality continues to this day. Today, while all the states of the world are working to protect their people against the coronavirus pandemic, the Turkish state actually used this as an opportunity. They want to destroy the Kurds, just as they destroyed the Armenians in the First World War. What happened in history is repeated today. Despite the change of date and actors, what happened in the past is happening today. The same mentality, the same denial and destruction policy, continues," Melkonyan said.

Photo from ANF

Speaking to ANF, the commander also revealed that they had big plans for the future.

"We want to turn our militia into a bigger brigade. There are people who want to join from Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Kurdistan and Europe. There are people who want to join our battalion. It has a great participation potential. In addition to this, the Armenian people are trying to establish a self-governed council. I think these two plans will help in providing a free land for Armenians organized outside of their own country (Armenia). We are trying to explain this here. We are trying to make our people understand our lost language and culture. We are with the people who seek freedom in other lands, especially in these lands. The year ahead will be one of even more participation and defense and liberation of these lands," he revealed.