Syrian Armenians Worried About Conflict Escalation -
29 August: Thousands of ethnic Armenians remaining in Syria braced themselves for a further escalation of the bloody conflict in their country on Wednesday amid growing talk of U.S.-led military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) by phone, several Syrian Armenians trapped in Aleppo said they are already preparing to use the basements of their homes as shelters if the United States and other Western powers act on their threats of military action.
The West blames the Syrian government for the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that left scores of people dead. The government has denied those allegations, receiving support from Russia and China.
“The Armenian community is certainly worried,” said Zarmig Boghikian, an Aleppo woman working at a local Armenian magazine, “Gandzasar.” “We are neutral but concerned because those strikes will target the whole country. Leaders of the Armenian community are telling people to be cautious and don’t leave their homes too often for the next few days.”
“Many people are thinking about fleeing but that’s impossible to do in Aleppo now because the roads are closed,” added Boghigian.
Zhirayr Reisian, the spokesman for the local Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, insisted that the Syrian Armenian community is not starting to panic. “After all, we are residents of this city and country, we are part of this country and its people,” he said. “So whatever happens to the Syrian people can also happen to us.” The Diocese will do its best to help Armenians affected by possible strikes, added Reisian.
There were an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians in Syria before the outbreak of the conflict there more than two years ago. About 10,000 of them have since taken refuge in Armenia, according to the authorities in Yerevan. An even larger number of Syrian Armenians is thought to have fled to neighboring Lebanon.