Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Ethnic Armenians In Syria Brace For Missile Strikes

Many Syrian Armenians have already fled their country. According to Armenian government data, 6,248 left Syria for Armenia in the first six months of 2012.
Many Syrian Armenians have already fled their country. According to Armenian government data, 6,248 left Syria for Armenia in the first six months of 2012.

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As the United States and its allies lay plans for what many believe will be a sustained missile strike inside Syria, the sizable ethnic Armenian community in that country is bracing for the worst.

Zhirayr Reisian, a spokesman for the Syrian diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the estimated 100,000 ethnic Armenians in Aleppo were aware of the dangers that could lie ahead but were trying to continue with normal life.

"After all, we are residents of this city and this country. We are part of the people of this country," Reisian said. "If something is going to happen to all, it will also happen to us. If something happens, we are sure to use our means to be helpful with whatever we can to anyone who suffers and is in need of help."

Syrian Armenians interviewed by RFE/RL's Armenian Service say they have begun preparing for possible missile strikes, and many say they will take shelter in the basement of their buildings, if necessary.

Armenians first arrived en masse in Syria in the early 20th century, after the Ottoman government uprooted and forced thousands of them out of what is now Turkey and marched them into the Syrian desert. Aleppo, in the northwest of the country, soon swelled with fleeing Armenians. In the decades that followed, the community took root and prospered.

No Way Out

In modern times, ethnic Armenians in Syria have been treated benevolently by the two successive regimes of Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar. As minorities themselves -- they belong to the Alawite sect -- the ruling Assad family has long courted Syria's other ethnic minorities to strengthen their hand against the country's majority Sunni population.

But the 30-month-old civil war in Syria has exacted a toll on all Syrians, no matter which side they are on.

"The Armenian community is neutral, but it is concerned, because this possible strike will be delivered against the whole country and everyone without exception will suffer," says Zarmik Poghikian, who works at the Aleppo-based "Gandzasar" magazine.

"Leaders of the Armenian community have urged people to remain cautious during these days and refrain from attempting to leave the city, but even if someone wanted to do so there is no opportunity anymore, as all roads are closed."

Armenian residents of Aleppo say they couldn't leave if they wanted to, with roads and airport closed.
Armenian residents of Aleppo say they couldn't leave if they wanted to, with roads and airport closed.

Poghikian says the community is not in a state of panic but, even if it were, fleeing is no longer possible because the roads leading out of Aleppo are too dangerous and the airport has not been operational since late last year.

Many Syrian Armenians have already fled. According to Armenian government data, 6,248 left the country and came to Armenia in the first six months of 2012.

Now they are worried about families and friends still there. "I keep asking why they preferred staying there, why did they not leave when conditions were appropriate for that? What was there?" asks businessman Raffi Tashchian, who has a daughter in Aleppo. "At least they could have taken the child out of there. If they wanted to stay there they should at least have taken the child to a safe place. I don't want to imagine my child in such conditions."

'We Don't Need A Second Genocide'

Harutiun Ustakarayan, a Syrian Armenian also in Armenia, says everyone is hoping the United States and its allies won't launch a military strike. "Armenians do not believe that America will strike cities, but they will go down to the basements fearing that chemical weapons could be used [like in the August 21] sarin gas attack in Damascus," he says.

READ ALSO: Syrian Civil War -- A Timeline Of Tragedy

The Armenian government is officially neutral in the Syrian civil war and has not formally evacuated ethnic Armenians from the country. Eurasianet.com reported last year that the government was allowing Syrian citizens to obtain Armenian visas at the border and Armenian passports within Syria, rather than in Yerevan alone.

Some Syrian Armenians, like Ustakarayan, think Armenian officials should be doing more now that Western powers have signaled their readiness to join the battle. He says the situation has parallels to what happened when as many as 1.5 million Armenians died at Ottoman hands during World War I.

"The situation is getting increasingly worse for Armenians. If I were in a position to decide for the Armenian government, I would have asked the United States [for help] or ensured in some other way that [ethnic Armenians] are evacuated from there," Ustakarayan says. "I don't know how, but evacuated from there somehow, because Armenians have no fault in this whole war and we don't need a second genocide within just 100 years."

Heather Maher and RFE/RL's Armenian Service contributed to this report
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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
August 31, 2013 17:49
the american way to peace .... bomb !

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 02, 2013 11:05
Armenians have survived all kinds of primeval barbarians in their more than 25 centuries old history,they are sure to withstand the current crop of Shamerican zionists.Lets hope the current LGBT Pax judeo-shamericana wont blow the world to Kingdom Come!!!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 03, 2013 08:14
Of course, now that the US and the French are planning an attack against the people of Syria, the Syrian President Bashar is warning that he - together with his allies Hezbollah, Iran and Russia - will spread the war and other countries will be hit. Thus, the criminal war-mongers, such as Obama and McCain, are consciously dragging the world toward WWIII for one single reason: the US military industrial complex and the Israel lobby are paying them to do so.

by: Art from: Los Angeles
September 05, 2013 16:08
How sad it is for the Armenians that have had to endure through many centuries of ethnic strife. Survivors! They are strong. Just wanted to point out also a correction. The author makes it sound like the Armenians had a walk in the park and ended up in Syria. These people had survived Genocide and murder and they are the survivors of ethnic cleansing by the Turks. Their ancestors did not all make it, they are the offsprings of those few that made it out of the Ottoman's sick plan to wipe them out.

by: Uzhan from: Steppes of Barbaria
September 12, 2013 19:54
it's funny to see the comments here and greet the expectation you had through your way scrolling down here... smashing the "barbar" Turks whenever possible, is that the only thing you are good at? why not mention the riots from 1880-1906 by Armenians? why not mention how bad Russians treated the armen minority and forced them to join the military while in the ottoman empire they lived as civilians and practiced their own religion until they got fed with nationalist ideas? which lead them to riot against the ottoman empire, just like Greeks did and the Balkans, Anglo-Arabs (I mean it), Georgians and the Laz etc. now kurds continue this Imperial plans today, that's why they are backing Armenians, not to mention they continue the ASALA under his new name PKK. also, we will not forget the Khojaly Massacre. but better talk about how barbaric Turks are, how could they crush the peaceful byzantine and Romans omg, they should go back to Mongolia, jeez! right? :) don't tell me having a white vest, guys. speak about the article and stop smashing Turks everywhere on the interwebz, that's pretty childish since you all just claim something but can't even go back 100 years in history - thus you don't have any historical awareness when talking about the evil evil Turks. cheers :)

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