Syria’s Armenian Community Is Bleeding


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Armenian history has been a procession of losses; loss of territory, loss of leadership, loss of blood and loss of population. If Armenians were left in their historic homeland, they would now have numbered at least 20 million, like the Kurds who — despite all repressions — were not eradicated from their habitat. Therefore, any new loss of life needs to rightfully alarm Armenian communities worldwide.

We cannot afford any more losses than we have sustained thus far. Mass acculturation and alienation from identity are already taking their toll.

Armenians who still have the blood of their ancestors in their veins were alarmed when calamity befell the Syrian-Armenian community, one of the oldest diaspora communities upholding its traditions, culture and language. The 60,000-strong Armenian community is mostly concentrated in Aleppo. Smaller communities are scattered in the capital city of Damascus, Kessab, Latakia and Kamishli.

Aleppo was the closest major city to Der Zor; thus Armenians who survived their march through the desert first settled there, and they were received with open arms by the indigenous population. They became law-abiding and creative citizens, contributing tremendously to the local industry, economy and technology. They were afforded a comfortable and peaceful life, contrary to the demonization and brainwashing in the Western press.

The transplanted opposition today is blaming Armenians for sitting on the fence or supporting outright the Assad regime, which has been extremely beneficial to the Armenians and the minorities in general.

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Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the daily Independent in London, recently wrote in one of his columns that it is ironic for the West to trust the Emirate of Qatar or Saudi Arabia, both backward and medieval potentates, to bring democracy to Syria.

This is a broad political game, played under the guise of “the Arab awakening,” or “democracy” movement to keep all the Arab coun- tries in turmoil so that they would not be able to confront Israel. The US has nothing to gain; in fact, it has too much to lose by antago- nizing a whole region, and the US taxpayer is already paying through his nose at the gas pump.

Turkey, which has assumed the role of regional power, is the major villain in this political game. Recently, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu bragged about his country’s new role and invited the warring parties in the region to resolve their conflicts through Turkish mediation. He specifically addressed the Syrian and

Karabagh crises. This level of “benevolent” interest by Turkey is iron- ic, especially since Turkey has been meddling in both crises. It has blockaded Armenia in lockstep with Baku and trained the Azeri army to spill Armenian blood. Ankara is also the instigator of the Syrian problem, arming and sending mercenaries to pretend to the world that local people have risen against the regime seeking democ- racy. Thus, Turkey has been creating the problems and then inviting cynically the warring parties to make peace through its good offices.

Those intent on toppling the regime in Syria have little concern about what may happen to the Armenian community there. On the contrary, Ankara has an added incentive in Syria to see the decimation of a burgeoning Armenian community there, before the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the worldwide Armenian com- munity to get organized and help the Armenians in Syria to stay where they are, if possible, or shelter them wherever they move around the world.

Fortunately, the response so far has been healthy and over- whelming. Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia not only have come up with supportive messages, but they also have taken concrete measures to help out the refugees.

The Armenian government has come up with bold measures to take the Armenians under its wing — whether they stay in Syria or wish to move permanently or temporarily to Armenia.

While the Armenian government cautiously participates in the world politics imposed on Syria, in the meantime it has quietly but steadily been bringing children from Syria to Armenia and helping the families which are already in Armenia by providing accommoda- tion, jobs, medical help and education, contrary to what the nay-say- ers are publicizing.

The AGBU has announced releasing $1 million in relief assistance and promising to house the refugees in the Melkonian Educational Institute’s facilities in Cyprus, should the deteriorating situation warrant it.

The AGBU has again assumed its traditional role reaching out in a meaningful way, when urgent need arises.

Joint committees have been formed on the US West Coast and elsewhere to address the Syrian crisis.

This spontaneous response is certainly laudable, but disparate actions can prove to be wasteful. Rather than collectively coordinat- ing the humanitarian and political support, it looks like traditional Armenian rivalries are in place to demonstrate which entity outdid the other entities.

The Syrian-Armenian community is bleeding and it deserves all the help it can get; in the process, the need may teach us to be uni- fied and more organized demonstrating true leadership.

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