Historic Armenian church destroyed by Islamists in Syria

A historic church in Syria dedicated to the one and a half million Armenians murdered by the Turks in 1915 has reportedly been reduced to rubble by Islamists.  

According to The Independent, the destruction of the Armenian church in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour appears to have been committed by Jabhat al-Nusra rebels.  

Irreplaceable archives dating back to 1841 - shortly before the church's 1846 construction - and which included documents on the Armenian genocide have been reduced to ashes. 

In a further act of insult, the bones of hundreds of genocide victims have reportedly been removed from the crypt and strewn on the street outside.  

Overseer of the Armenian church in the Deir el-Zour district, Monsignor Antranik Ayvazian, told The Independent's Robert Fisk that the militants tried to use the church as leverage, promising not to destroy the priceless archive if he in return acknowledged them as the legislative authority in the area. 

He refused and they set about destroying the church. 

"I refused," he said.  "And after I refused, they destroyed all our papers and endowments.  The only genocide victims' bones left were further north in the Murgada sanctuary and I buried them before I left. They destroyed the church there, but now if I could go back, I don't even know if I could find where I put the bones."

He only found out about the church's destruction when a secret photo showing the ruined building was smuggled to him.  

It is not only the fact that the bones of genocide victims were stored at the church; its place in Armenian history is poignant because the priest at the time, Father Petrus Terzibashian, was killed by Turks in front of the congregation, says Msr Ayvazian. 

"Then they threw his body into the Euphrates," he said. "This time when the Islamists came, our priest there fled for his life."