YEREVAN/BEIRUT (Armenian Weekly)—Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau member and head of the party’s political affairs Armen Rustamyan said that the situation in Syria has been getting progressively worse over the past year, as Islamic State insurgents have escalated their attacks. “The Armenians of Syria continue to resist and we do our best to help from here. Armenian churches still function, the parties still function, but we have to do our utmost to—at the very least—ensure their safety and wellbeing,” said Rustamyan in an interview with 1in.am.
Rustamyan also called on the Armenian Government to raise the plight of the Syrian-Armenians on an international level. “We should do everything we can to help out. If people want to leave and don’t have the means, then the means must be secured,” said Rustamyan.
“When it comes to salvation, we must do everything to accept Syrian-Armenians. Armenia’s resources are limited, of course, but there are international organizations and funds available,” he explained, adding that Armenia should look to find various solutions to the multi-layered problem.
When asked about the Syrian-Armenian community, Rustamyan explained that although it is difficult to know for sure how many Armenians have remained in the country, several sources had reported 20,000.
ARF Bureau member Beniamin Bouchakjian, who was in Aleppo recently, said during an interview with Aztag Daily that while the situation is tense, people should not create panic and call for the immediate evacuation of the community, adding that such a decision is not one that Syrian Armenian community leaders can take alone. He said that the decision belongs to us all. “We [the Armenian people] will collectively—and after proper deliberation and planning—come to a decision together. And only if such a decision is made can we start thinking and talking about the next steps,” said Bouchakjian.
Over the past few weeks, there have been attacks in the Armenian populated areas of Aleppo, especially in the Suleymanieh district, said Bouchakjian. He countered recent rumors that the Simon Vratsian Armenian Community Center—where the Armenian Prelacy of Aleppo had moved to—had been destroyed. “While a building next to the Community Center was hit, luckily the damage to the center was not substantial, and reconstruction is already underway. The offices of the Prelacy have now moved into a more secure part of the building, and work continues as usual,” he noted.
“There is an interesting dynamic within the Armenian community of Aleppo today, which is reminiscent of the Armenian community of Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war. There is a true sense of togetherness and comradery among the members of the community. The Central Relief Committee, which is comprised of representatives of all the political parties, organizations, and churches, is proof of that,” said Bouchakjian, who provided details about some of the aid given to families in need throughout the city.
Bouchakjian said that daily life continues despite the crisis. “Community events, concerts, and commemorations are taking place as they normally would,” he noted, adding that “despite the harsh conditions, the Armenian community’s morale is high and its members have been able to overcome adversity, and are sustaining the community while helping those in most need.”