A Yerevan-based charity founded by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has officially launched the construction of an apartment block for about 80 ethnic Armenian families from Syria that have taken refuge in Armenia.
The Help Your Brother fund broke ground for the 14-story building in Yerevan’s western Davitashen district on Wednesday in the presence of Mayor Taron Markarian and senior Dashnaktsutyun members. Its executive director, Tatul Harutiunian, said the construction will take about two years and cost an estimated 2 billion drams ($4.3 million).
The project will be partly financed from private donations made to the charity. Harutiunian declined to name any of the “numerous” donors.
The rest of the funding will come from the future residents themselves. They will be able to buy apartments at below-market prices.
Sevag Barseghian, a young Syrian Armenian, is one of them. He said he has made a down payment of $5,000 and will pay another $10,000 or so over the next 18 months. Market-based housing prices in Davitashen are at least twice as high.
“We don’t have money. But the fund has found a way of enabling us to gradually compensate them,” Barseghian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Dashnaktsutyun, which is particularly influential in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, set up Help Your Brother more than two years ago with the initial aim of providing relief aid to Syria’s sizable Armenian community increasingly affected by the civil war in the Middle Eastern state. Some 11,000 Syrian Armenians have fled to Armenia since the onset of the bloody conflict.
Most Syrian Armenians rent apartments in Yerevan. Many struggle to survive in a country that has long suffered from high unemployment and other economic problems.
The project initiated by Dashnaktsutyun is not the first housing scheme of its kind. A group of Syrian Armenians led by Hrair Akpilian are currently constructing three similar apartment blocks in Davitashen. They will offer cheap housing to hundreds of fellow refugees. Work on one of the buildings is nearing completion.
A comparable number of Syrian Armenians were supposed to move into a special residential district which the Armenian government has promised to help build for them in Ashtarak, a town 20 kilometers west of Yerevan.
The Diaspora Ministry announced last year that roughly 500 Syrian Armenian families will be able to buy homes in the “New Aleppo” district at knockdown prices covering half of the total construction costs estimated at $35 million. The ministry hoped to raise the rest of the funding from private donors in Armenia and especially the Diaspora. Diaspora charities based in Europe and the United States have made no contributions so far, however.