Fundraising for Syria’s endangered Armenian community organized by a pan-Armenian charity headquartered in Yerevan has gotten off to a slow start, with only about $50,000 in donations received so far.
In a move initiated by its board chairman, President Serzh Sarkisian, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund opened on August 10 a special bank account for financial assistance to Syrian Armenians increasingly suffering from the country’s civil war.
A spokeswoman for Hayastan, Hasmik Grigorian, said on Monday that only two sums have been transferred to the account so far: 35,000 euros ($44,000) from Armenian-American businessman Hirair Hovnanian and $5,000 from the Armenian community in Lebanon.
Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Hovnanian’s donation has already been spent on summer holidays organized in Armenia for hundreds of Syrian Armenian schoolchildren.
The money pales in comparison with $1 million that has been set aside for the community by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the largest Armenian Diaspora charity. The AGBU said earlier this month that it has set up a special task force to assess the community’s most urgent needs. It also expressed readiness to turn its facilities in major Syrian cities into temporary shelters for ethnic Armenians displaced by the conflict.
Most of the 80,000 or so Syrian Armenians live in Aleppo, the epicenter of ongoing fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels. The frontlines there have reportedly moved closer to the city’s Armenian-populated districts in recent days. The Armenian Foreign Ministry, which has a functioning consulate in Aleppo, on Monday denied reports that the rebels have captured the local headquarters of the Syrian diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
With electricity supply in Aleppo increasingly erratic, some Yerevan-based Syrian Armenians said contacting their relatives there by phone is becoming more and more difficult. One of them, Tigran Makuchian, said his mother and sister would like to flee the city but are unable to do that.
“They can’t come to Armenia,” Makuchian said. “The road to the [Aleppo] airport is flooded with troops and there are no air tickets.”