Armenia’s government is not considering trying to evacuate ethnic Armenians from Aleppo despite the worsening security situation in the war-ravaged Syrian city, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said on Monday.
The ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the government is planning instead to send two planeloads of humanitarian aid to Syria in the coming days.
Official Yerevan announced the planned delivery of the aid on Friday after five Syrian Armenians were killed and 11 others wounded amid continuing heavy fighting in Aleppo between Syrian government forces and rebels. They reportedly died as a result of rebel shelling of Aleppo’s government-controlled neighborhoods that are home to several thousand Armenians remaining in the city.
A total of more than 120 Syrian Armenian civilians have been killed during Syria’s bloody civil war.
According to the local Armenian-language newspaper “Kantsasar,” two more Aleppo Armenians were wounded on Monday as rebel forces continued to fire rockets. The newspaper editor, Zarmig Boghigian, said all Armenian schools are closed and local residents have had no electricity and running water in recent days.
One of those residents, Mayda Bakalian, said the Armenian government should have helped the remaining Armenians flee the city. “Europe accepts Armenians [from Syria,] gives them housing and money, why can’t Armenia do the same?” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service by phone.
“Those who could flee have already gotten out of there, but we, the remaining ones, have struggled to survive and now we are not able to do even that,” said Bakalian.
But Zhirayr Reisian, the spokesman for the leadership of the Armenian community in Aleppo, argued against evacuation. “Were the people of Europe transported to other countries during the two world wars?” he said. “People have homes, jobs, businesses, churches, schools, everything here. Should they abandon all this and go to other countries?”
Reisian said at the same time that Aleppo Armenians are free to leave the city on their own.
Tens of thousands of Syrian Armenians have already fled abroad since the outbreak of the conflict five years ago. Some 16,000 of them have taken refuge in Armenia.