YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Authorities in Yerevan are not in a position to ensure an orderly evacuation of ethnic Armenians from war-torn Syria where the situation has lately gone from bad to worse, Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian said on Wednesday.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), the official in charge of Armenia’s ties with ethnic Armenian communities worldwide said that no country in the world, including Armenia, organizes evacuations at a state level. “Because it amounts to telling the enemies where you are going to gather so that they can send bombs there,” she explained. “Both politically and in terms of security one should not say such a thing.”
Hakobian recently returned from Lebanon where she met with local Armenian religious leaders and discussed the situation in Syria, a country that was home to up to 80,000 ethnic Armenians, most of them descendants of survivors of the 1915 genocide in Ottoman Turkey, before the outbreak of a bloody conflict there in 2011.
Syria’s ethnic Armenian community is thought to have shrunk by more than half in the last four years, with some 13,000 Syrian Armenian nationals moving to Armenia.
Thousands of ethnic Armenians still remain in Syria’s war-ravaged city of Aleppo and elsewhere in the country where an estimated 320,000 people have been killed during the four years of conflict.
According to Hakobian, at the moment “it is needless to talk about the preservation of a large community in a devastated country.” She added that the ethnic Armenians who remain in Syria today are “mostly people who are trying to protect [Armenian] historical and cultural values there.”
“As a result of our conversations we send signals to our compatriots that they should leave the country in various ways, because the danger is very high,” the Armenian minister said.
Meanwhile, many Syrian Armenians apparently find it extremely difficult to get out of the country.
Aleppo-based Zarmik Poghikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) over the phone that knowing the way of escaping from Syria is not enough, they needed money to do that.
According to him, Aleppo had not had water for ten days before its supply was finally restored two days ago and electricity supply there is rationed to only one hour a day. Bomb explosions are an ordinary occurrence in the city, he added.
Mikael Karapetian, another ethnic Armenian from Syria who moved to Yerevan along with his family four years ago, said that Syria’s ethnic Armenian citizens today are facing a dilemma: on the one hand, they are not sure they can start a new life in Armenia, which has social and economic difficulties of its own, on the other hand, they realize that they put their lives at risk by staying in Syria.
Meanwhile, Diaspora Minister Hakobian insisted that Syrian Armenians will not be provided anywhere in the world with as much assistance as they will find in Armenia. She emphasized that authorities in Yerevan are doing everything they can to help both ethnic Armenians who remain in the war zone and those who have moved to Armenia.