PARIS—French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius has issued a statement condemning the destruction of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Der Zor.
“I condemn the destruction of the Holy Martyrs Church in Deir ez-Zor, which has great importance for the Armenian community,” Fabius said in his statement.
“France welcomes the commitment of religious leaders of all faiths to fight for tolerance and respect for sacred places, despite attacks and threats.
“The national heritage in Syria and Iraq is at risk. The failure to protect cultural heritage is viewed as a war crime and those responsible should be punished by the International Criminal Court. Together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), France supports the fulfillment of the agreements on the protection of cultural heritage, especially under armed conflict.”
Forces of the Islamic State (ISIS) destroyed the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, Syria, which contained remains of Genocide victims who died in death marches in the nearby Syrian desert. The bombing of the church incidentally took place on Sept. 21, on the 23rd anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
Thousands of Armenians from Syria and neighboring countries gathered at the memorial every year on April 24 to commemorate the genocide.
Many refer to Der Zor as the Auschwitz of the Armenian Genocide. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished in Der Zor and the surrounding desert during the genocide. In the summer of 1916 alone, more than 200,000 Armenians, mostly women and children, were brutally massacred by Ottoman Turkish gendarmes and bands in the region.
Members of the U.S. Congress were quick to condemn the destruction of the church by ISIS.
Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) issued statements or took to social media to express their outrage over the barbaric act.
The U.S. Embassy in Armenia also issued a statement condemning the destruction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, avoiding the term “genocide” that appears in the name of the church.