BY FIONA GUITARD
From the Armenian Weekly
PARIS—The famed French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour urged the French government to receive minorities escaping Iraq and Syria, and place them in abandoned villages.
In a column published by the French newspaper Le Figaro on Aug.13, Aznavour said it was important to care for and help Christians, Kurds, Yezidis and other minorities who are forced to escape their homes in fear of their own safety. He added that the plight of the Armenians should not be forgotten either. He reminded readers that Armenians living in Syria face death and persecution every day.
Where should these minorities go? When touring all over France, Aznavour discovered many villages that are completely abandoned. Schools, post offices, and even churches are neglected. These ghost villages could be transformed, he said.
Talking about the refugees and their relocation, Aznavour said: “They will have to reconstruct the villages, bringing them back to life again, and plough the lands that are doubtlessly fertile. They could live in peace […]. Among these populations, there are farmers, masons, painters, but also bakers, butchers, doctors, dentists, and mechanics, whose professionalism deserves praise.”
Aznavour said that he is even ready to personally help this project, which he says is “apolitical.” The initiative would not need a huge investment from the French government or French taxpayers. It will only be necessary to provide the refugees with some tools to help the population get a fresh start. For Aznavour, this is what true humanitarian help is.
The respected French-Armenian artist is known for his public activism and for being the Ambassador of Armenia and the permanent representative of this country to the United Nations, based in Switzerland. Last time Aznavour appeared in the media, it was after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech the day before the Armenian Genocide commemoration last April. He denounced Erdogan’s use of the word “condolences,” saying that beyond this declaration, we need to see “not recognition and not even an excuse,” but “a personal will to show himself as an open-minded politician.”
The son of Armenian immigrants, Aznavour knows the importance of finding a welcoming country, and also, the urgent necessity for the refugees to find a peaceful home.
Millions of refugees have already sought safety within the boarders of neighboring countries. On Aug.13, around 500,000 inhabitants left the Mosul area. Lebanon and Turkey claim that they are unable to accommodate any more refugees. While the French government said it would start supplying arms to the Kurdish forces fighting Sunni extremists from the Islamic State group, Jean Pierre Raffarin, Alain Juppé et François Fillon—temporary presidents of the opposition party, Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP)—wrote a letter to François Hollande, insisting on the necessity of working with all the European nations to provide help to refugees. “We have to work collectively to solve the refugee issue,” they wrote.
Aznavour’s proposal may be one possible solution.