BEIRUT (AP) — Kim Kardashian has waded into Syria's conflict, calling on fans through Twitter to save the ancient Armenian Christian village of Kassab, whose residents fled as rebels seized control of the hamlet in late March.
She appeared to have bolstered false claims by loyalists of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who said Syrian rebels desecrated the village's churches and slaughtered residents. She used the #SaveKessab hashtag that was used to spread the false claims, causing its popularity to explode.
"If you don't know what's going on in Kessab please google it ... As an Armenian, I grew up hearing so many painful stories," Kardashian wrote in a March 30 tweet, using an alternate spelling of the village's name. "Please let's not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let's get this trending!!!! #SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide," she wrote.
In doing so, the celebrity of Armenian descent underscored how Syria's war, more than any other in history, has been waged on social media, with both supporters of President Bashar Assad and those opposing his rule using selectively chosen videos and photos, sometimes faked, recycled or altered, to support their grievances.
While wartime propaganda is as old as conflict itself, the Syrian conflict is a particularly unique case where all combatants heavily use social media, opening a window into a conflict that reporters can barely enter.
Kardashian's use of the two hashtags side-by-side, "#SaveKessab" and "#ArmenianGenocide" also suggested she was also linking the flight of most of Kassab's 2,000 residents to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces in the early 20th century.
The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
Kardashian's publicist Ina Treciokas said Kardashian was "just voicing her support for Armenians" and said she had no additional comment. Kassab's residents fled after rebels seized their village on March 23, as part of a rebel offensive in the coastal Syrian province of Latakia, Assad's ancestral heartland.
There are no credible reports that rebels killed any residents, or that they inflicted major damage on churches. Kardashian appeared to have moved on since. Her Kassab tweets were followed by a flurry of sultry selfies of her riding on a boat in a skimpy top and long skirt with hashtags like #WishYouWereHere and #WhatALife. She has been posting from Thailand in recent days, including one that shows her sitting at the entry of a temple featuring the Buddha.
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report from Los Angeles.