It is necessary to shift from the public statements on the immigration of Armenians and other Christian nationalities living in Syria to serious actions. The Republic of Armenia is interested in the destiny of Armenian-born citizens of Syria, as well as other Christian nationalities. It is important to launch negotiations on this very delicate issue, if they are not already launched, with the authorities of Syria, Russia, Iran, Western countries and international organizations.
For clear reasons, Armenia has made no public statements on the Syrian crisis, ongoing for more than 2 years. If so far it could be enough to follow the developments, now the situation suggests that such a behavior may harm the existence of a large part of our compatriots. In other words, further idleness is equal to irresponsibility towards our compatriots and our Christian brothers.
Taking into account the demographic moves of Christian groups in the Greater Middle East in the last 30 years, we need to make serious efforts to be able to impact their future moves. So, during the 1975-89 Libyan civil war, we lost part of the influential Armenian community. Though no census has been carried out since the 30s, it is known that during the war more than 200 thousand Armenians lived in this country. Today, the number is 60 thousand.
In 1979, prior to the Iranian revolution, the number of 300 thousand Armenians who were displaced to Iran by Shah Abas in the 17th century was 240 thousand, while in 1828, some part of the Iranian Armenians were displaced to the Ararat valley, Vayots Dzor, Armenia, in accordance with the agreement signed in Turkmencai. Today, the number of Armenians in Iran is below 100 thousand.
By the way, earlier, in the 1950s, after Gamal Abd al-Nasser had come to power in Egypt, more than 50 thousand Armenians emigrated from the country. The number of the Armenian community of Egypt is about 2000 now.
In the result of emptying of the Armenian communities in the Middle East, the Armenian communities of Western Europe and the U.S. strengthened temporarily. But if the first groups of migrants were able to keep the language and other national particularities ensuring the minimal requirements of integration, the future generations assimilated.
In the aforementioned examples, emigration of Armenians from the Middle East took place during the Soviet period, which is explained by their decision to move towards the West. During the first years of independence of Armenia, their behavior could also be explained, though, many Armenians of Iran returned to Armenia, just like small groups from Syria, Lebanon, Europe and the U.S.
Because of the crisis, the first community which could return to Armenia was the Armenians of Iraq, around 40 thousand. In 2003, prior to the U.S. invasion, some Armenian families had already sought asylum in their homeland. The Iraqi citizens were allowed to leave the country for Jordan only with a permission to live there for a maximum period of 6 months, while from Jordan, their only destination could be Libya. During the war, like before it, the Armenians of Iraq could get a visa for Armenia for a longer period, while if they wanted, they could also become citizens of Armenia. However, many of Iraqi Armenians who returned to their homeland left the country for the West.
This decision of the Armenian community of Iraq can be understood. The economic, political and social conditions here are unbearable, which results in an increasing number of emigration up to threatening national security, which is not even hidden by the authorities.
Anyway, today, the Armenians of Armenia and Syria are facing new challenges. Currently, in a number of cities of Syria, including Aleppo, Damask, Al-Raqqa, Qameshli, Der el-Zor, the Armenians live in terrible conditions which will get worse as a result of war. Our compatriots living in different parts of the country face different problems, including financial, private and community property, social and cultural.
It is necessary to underline that the Armenian community of Iran is multi-layered. So, the Armenian community of the province of Aleppo and the city of Aleppo mostly employed in trade and services has an issue of protecting or moving their property. In the northern and northeastern Kurdish regions of the country, the Armenians are engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding. In the capital there is a community of 5000 comprising Armenian intellectuals and workers of community institutions.
It is necessary to take into account the aforementioned, as well as many other particularities in case of possible mass immigration of Armenians of Syria, the efforts of the RoA department of refugees and migration, ministries of Diaspora and foreign affairs will not be enough. A national strategy on immigration of Armenians of Syria should be developed immediately, if necessary, a law must be drafted. It is required to form an interagency commission to discuss and clarify technical, educational, employment and other issues of immigrants.
The involvement of scientists is also very important. Besides specialists of Oriental Studies, ethnologists, cultural scientists, sociologists, psychologists should be involved. Another group could be the present and former students of the department of oriental studies of Armenian universities who studied in Syria. Besides, it may be necessary to have an education in Arabic.
In 2010-11, several thousands of Syrian Armenians received Armenian citizenship by accelerated procedure, which is a necessary but still insufficient precondition for accepting our compatriots. If we declare loudly the high-level slogan “Get back home”, we need to make the homeland a home for our compatriots who want to return…