The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) continues to believe that official Yerevan must not encourage a mass out-migration of ethnic Armenians from Syria despite worsening violence there, a senior representative of the pan-Armenian party said on Wednesday.
Giro Manoyan, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, stood by his earlier arguments that their exodus would eliminate a key Armenian community in the Middle East. He also argued that the 80,000-strong Syrian Armenian community is “not a target” in the country’s bloody civil war.
“We have suffered some casualties because of the overall situation there, rather than targeted attacks,” Manoyan told a news conference.
More than 40 Syrian Armenians have been killed since the outbreak of the conflict in early 2011. The vast majority of them reportedly died in crossfire or bomb explosions.
“Most of the Syrian Armenian community remains in Syria,” said Manoyan. “Some say they have no money to leave the country or have nowhere to go. But that can be only one of the reasons. The main reason is that the Armenian community has properties and established livelihoods and does not want to flee at once.”
The Dashnaktsutyun chapter in Syria for decades has been one of the main community organizations.
Armenia’s government has likewise not encouraged Syrian Armenians to leave the war-stricken country en masse. President Serzh Sarkisian stressed on November 3 that the government is “not calling on our Syrian Armenia brethren to leave Syria.”
“On the other hand, we are saying that if a person has nevertheless decided to emigrate from Syria it is preferable that they come to Armenia,” Sarkisian said, adding that Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora should help such people “take new roots in their homeland.”
According to immigration authorities in Yerevan, nearly 6,000 Syrian citizens of Armenian descent have taken refuge in their ancestral homeland to date. The Armenian government has taken a range of measures in recent months to facilitate their immigration and naturalization.
Some 150 Syrian Armenians arrived in the country on Tuesday on the latest Aleppo-Yerevan flight carried out by Syria’s national airline. The Syrian Air plane flew back to Aleppo with some 50 passengers on board.
Grigor Zopian, an Aleppo-based architect, and his wife Tigranuhi were among those passengers returning to Syria’s largest city, which has been the scene of heavy fighting since July. “The situation there is dangerous but we have to go back,” Zopian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport.
“We have been here for two months,” he said. “We have had a very good time and taken rest. We are now going back. If we see that things are very bad we will come back.”
Loren Badgalian-Vasil, a Syrian Armenian woman, was returning home with her child after spending two weeks in Armenia. She said a Syrian bank where she works is still operating and she therefore has to go back to work. “We just wanted to come here to have some rest, get [Armenian] citizenship and go back,” she explained.