Let Us Extend a Hand As a Nation to the Syrian Armenians

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By Panos Titizian

The revolutionary winds of the “Arab Spring” which began in Tunisia and continued in Algeria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt for 17 months have now turned Syria’s capital, Damascus, and its large cities of Aleppo and Kamishli, into scenes of bloody battles. Over 80 percent of the Syrian Armenians live in these three cities.

Bloody and destructive struggles in any Arab country due to political, religious or ethnic reasons can only cause sorrow for the Armenian people. The Armenian people is not only forever grateful to the Arab countries for opening widely their doors and hearts on the morrow of the Genocide to the children of the exiled Armenian people, accepting them and providing them with the possibility of earning their livelihood through work — and especially the humane and noble behavior of the hospitable people of Syria. It is also profoundly in commiseration with them as a result of the terrible crisis which they are now experiencing.

Our hope and desire is that a positive solution is found as soon as possible to this crisis, which is of a destructive nature for all parties, and the guns and bombs fall silent. By carrying out an acceptable solution for all sides, peace and calm will reign once more throughout Syria’s territory.

At the same time, we are aware that hopes and desires without real, practical steps remain solely wishes and dreams, especially in our case, if we Armenians do not help by all possible means and do not take tangible initial steps to extend financial, physical, spiritual and moral aid to our Syrian-Armenian brothers and sisters.

In this vein, the communiqué of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) several days ago in the Armenian press is very encouraging and comforting. Among other things, it said:

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In preparation for the imminent need for humanitarian assistance that is emerging as a result of the unfolding political crisis in Syria, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is committed to taking action to help the Armenian community in distress, this time in Syria.

The Central Board of Directors moved to set aside an AGBU Emergency Fund for Humanitarian Assistance to the Armenian Community in Syria, in the amount of $1 million.

A special task force, in cooperation with the District Committee of Syria, is in the process of assessing the emerging needs, to create the appropriate logistics in compliance with federal and international guidelines, to help and support the Armenian community there. Necessary arrangements are also underway in AGBU’s centers locally in Aleppo, Damascus and Kamishli, to make them operational hubs for coordinating the relief efforts, extending help to families in other locations as well, wherever the need arises. They will also be prepared to accommodate those who may have to be temporarily moved out of their homes. The possibility of making AGBU facilities in Cyprus available as temporary shelter for families, who may need to move out of the country, is under consideration.

AGBU is in close communication with officials in Armenia to be appraised of the diplomatic efforts and social and organizational initiatives being taken to address the situation.

As we see, this great Union, born from the sorrows of the Armenian people, brought to life by Boghos Nubar Pasha and his friends in Cairo 106 years ago with the noble patriotic and humanitarian ideas of taking care of the needs of the Armenian people, which without discrimination has come to the aid of all the children of our people uprooted from its historic lands and wandering the five continents of the world — the orphan and the widow, the sick and needy, the victim of earthquake, the seeker of education, and those who need basic sustenance and shelter in order to live — again carries out its historical and honorable role.

It is not amazing that the AGBU, which enlisted in the holy mission of patriotism, philanthropy and dedication in the life of our people, had successive presidents imbued with clear-sightedness and patriotism, Mihran Karagheuzian, Calouste Gulbenkian, Alex Manoogian and his daughter, Louise Manoogian Simone, and the present energetic, idealist president Berge Setrakian, Esq., who, taking the torch passed on from Boghos Nubar Pasha, served with the same resolve of will, spirit and dedication, and continue to serve today. The proof is the reassuring press release which we have mentioned above.

Consequently, it is necessary not to leave the AGBU alone in its service to the nation. The pain of the Syrian Armenians, the demand to become its remedy, must become an imperative for all Armenians, both in Armenia and the diaspora, including all our political, religious, philanthropic, social and youth organizations and institutions. Without a doubt when the challenge is of a pan-Armenian nature, the assistance, the response, must also be of a pan-Armenian resonance and magnitude.

In this sense, we are sure that all the children of our people, whatever ideal, creed or conviction they may have, spurred on by the historical imperative of the moment, hand in hand with the Central Executive of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and its energetic president, encouraging one another, will provide the necessary assistance to one of the most vital, steadfast citadels of our diaspora, worthy of gratitude — the glorious Syrian Armenians.

(Panos Titizian is an ADL leader. This article was translated into English from the original Armenian.)

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