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17.7.11

About the Situation of Armenians in Syria

The website "Azad Hye" recently interviewed Arax Pashayan, an expert in Arabic studies from Yerevan, who gave her views about the current developments in Syria and the situation of the local Armenian community. Incidentally, the editor of "Armeniaca" paid a ten-day visit to Aleppo from June 11-21, 2011 and saw no problems both on the Beirut-Aleppo road, back and forth, and in Aleppo itself, a bustling city with a very active nightlife and a vibrant Armenian community. We offer the English version of that interview as posted by "Azad Hye" on June 20, 2011, with minor editing.

-- What is the situation confronted by the Syrian Armenian community and what are the prospects (dangers, etc.)?
= Due to the internal political tension in Syria, it is natural that Armenians have grown a certain concern not only about the prospects of Syria, but also about their future in that country. Understandably, citizens of Armenian origin in Syria are defending the existing regime since they see in it a guarantee for their national existence and security on one hand and the country's stability on the other hand. Naturally, instability would cause great worry for Syrian population as a whole, thus increasing immigration. At the same time, it is worth noting that Middle Eastern Armenians have great and long-time experience in living and cooperating with Muslim populations. I am confident that Syrian Armenians have enough resources to overcome possible challenges. 

-- Is there any difference between the situation of Armenians in Damascus, Aleppo, Kamishli and Kessab?
= The Armenians live in locations that are somehow far from the tension centers or they are not involved in anti-governmental strife. From this point of view, all four locations are currently harmless for Armenians.

-- Has the government of Armenia taken measures to deal with possible deterioration of the situation of Armenians in Syria?
= I believe that the government of Armenia should be able to take steps in case of possible humanitarian crisis in Syria, but I am convinced that there is no reason for such fear at this stage.

-- Are there similarities between the fate of Iraqi and Syrian Armenians?
= Generally speaking, the destiny of Diasporan Armenians shows many similarities. The situation of Iraqi Armenians, however, was different. In 2003 internal political crisis started in Iraq due to international intervention and the situation turned chaotic at once. Naturally, emigration of Iraqi Armenians intensified. At the same time, however, an interesting process took place: internal migration. Armenians started to move from urban locations mainly in Baghdad and Basra to the north, to the Kurdish areas, which were safer. As a result, closer Armenian-Kurdish relations developed. As far as Syria is concerned, currently there is no danger of international invasion, although the role of foreign factor is obvious in the internal strife, which is worsening the situation in the country. 
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-- What does the opinions of Syrian Armenians show? Their views on the situation in Syria are homogeneous or not?
= I believe that the viewpoint of Syrian Armenians regarding the current situation and prospects for the future do not differ much. There is nothing unusual or surprising in this. Both Armenians and members of other national and religious minorities in Syria have always considered stability as the most important of all values. Only stability may be of help in the development of the communities and the country in general. As a matter of fact, nobody may definitely ascertain the turn of events in case of change of authority; it may go worse or even extremely bad. Would the change of authority lead Syria to democracy and progress? It is unclear. There is no guarantee in this regard and there is no political side that may give assurances except for the current ruling authority, which has shown that it is able to overcome difficulties. 

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