WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Armenian-American community leaders from coast to coast participated in a joint briefing on Syrian humanitarian assistance, led by the U.S. Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). Nearly a dozen Armenian-American civic, humanitarian, philanthropic and religious institutions were invited to participate, in person and via telephone conference call, and discuss ways to positively influence and assist the Syrian Armenian community, including refugees now living in Armenia and Lebanon.
The Assembly appreciates the efforts of the U.S. government to assist minority communities at risk in the Middle East, and in particular, the Armenian-Syrian community, including refugees now living in Armenia and Lebanon. The Assembly also commends those organizations and individuals that are actively taking steps to ensure humanitarian assistance is reaching those in need.
Going into the meeting, some of the Armenian-American community’s publicly-stated humanitarian priorities for Syria’s Armenian community were:
1. Ensuring the balanced and needs-based distribution of U.S. humanitarian aid to all areas of Syria, specifically those in Aleppo with large Armenian and other Christian populations; 2. Preventing humanitarian blockades of civilian populations, such as those creating crises in Aleppo; 3. Providing additional assistance to the Armenian government and NGO’s supporting and helping to settle Syrians who have fled to Armenia; and 4. Assisting the Armenian Church and charitable groups in Lebanon as they support the very considerable humanitarian needs of Armenian refugees from Syria.
Although Armenians have been living in Syria for centuries, the vast majority of Armenian-Syrians are descendants of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Those that survived the Turkish ordered death marches through the Syrian Dessert found refuge in Syria, primarily in Aleppo. The Christian Armenian community of Syria constituted nearly 100,000 Armenians before the start of the civil war. Today, it is estimated that as many as half the population has fled. According to reports, the Armenian Government has accommodated approximately 10,000 Armenian-Syrians, including the proposed building of a New Aleppo neighborhood in Ashtarak. Meanwhile, Lebanon reports a similar number of Armenian-Syrian refugees have immigrated and are mostly being housed by relatives and others in private homes.
The Armenian-American community, in coordination with Diaspora communities around the world, has taken broad steps to alleviate the plight of Armenian-Syrians, such humanitarian aid, medical equipment, food and clean water and efforts to increase security in Christian Armenian neighborhoods that have been targeted by rebel forces.
(VIDEO: Armenian Assembly Staff Inquires about Christian Armenian Community at Middle East Policy Council Briefing Entitled “The Crisis in Syria: What are the Stakes for Syria’s Neighbors?” on Capitol Hill)
The Assembly joins the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Armenian Catholic and Evangelical Churches, as well as the Armenian General Benevolent Union and others to raise awareness, advocate sound policy and generate critical support from the global Armenian Diaspora. Specifically, the Assembly provided testimony to Congress earlier this year urging the U.S. government to provide critical assistance to the Christian Armenian community in Syria and the broader the Middle East for FY2014.