A second planeload of humanitarian aid has been successfully delivered from Armenia to Syria, organizers of the non-governmental relief effort said on Wednesday.
Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party conducting the “Help Your Brother” campaign, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), that a Syrian plane carrying about 2 tons of medicines and powdered milk reached the war-ravaged city of Aleppo on Tuesday night.
Hovannisian and other Dashnaktsutyun leaders launched a fundraising campaign last month, citing the need to help ethnic Armenian and other civilians caught in Syria’s bloody civil war. They have since collected more than 40 tons of foodstuffs, medication and other supplies as well as cash donations.
The first 14-ton batch of that aid was airlifted to Syria on October 15. An Armenian cargo plane carrying it had to land in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum and be searched by Turkish security officials. The aircraft was allowed to continue on its way after they found no items that could be used by the Syrian military.
Turkey closed its airspace to Syrian aircraft shortly before that flight. The ban forced Syrian Air to reroute its weekly Aleppo-Yerevan flights via Iraq and Iran.
The fresh relief aid from Armenia was apparently delivered to Aleppo by a Syrian Air passenger jet that returned from Yerevan after evacuating about 200 Syrian nationals, virtually all of them ethnic Armenians, from Aleppo. The arriving passengers spoke of a worsening security situation in Syria’s commercial capital.
“The situation there is tragic,” Marine Ulchigian, a Syrian Armenian woman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. “It’s a shame. We used to be very happy in Aleppo.”
Ulchigian and her small child were greeted at the airport by her parents, who moved to Armenia about five months ago.
Madeleine Kazanchian, her husband Sarkis and two children were also relieved to have safely made it to their ancestral homeland. Kazanchian said the couple finally decided to leave Syria after a powerful explosion near the children’s Aleppo school about three weeks ago. “That day we decided that we can’t live here anymore,” she said.
The Kazanchians will be staying for now at a Yerevan apartment rented by Sarkis’s brother Avetis and his family. Avetis, who also arrived at Zvartnots on Tuesday evening, brought his wife and children to Yerevan but returned to Aleppo earlier this year. “The city is in ruins,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
According to the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs in Yerevan, about 5,000 Syrian Armenians have taken refuge in Armenia so far. There were an estimated 80,000 Armenians in Syria before the outbreak of the conflict last year.