Consul General: Only 14-15 thousand Armenians left from once a prosperous colony in Aleppo
Panorama.am’s exclusive interview with Armenia’s Consul General in Aleppo Armen Sargsyan
- Mr Sargsyan, the war that broke out in Syria in 2011 destroyed the country’s once-famous cities, including Aleppo. How is life going on today in Aleppo? Have the restoration works launched?
- The damages inflicted by the war are simply reaching alarming proportions in Syria. The human losses that are estimated at hundreds of thousands are especially irreversible. We should pay deep respects to the Syrian people who are overcoming a long-lasting and cruel war turmoil at the cost of great sacrifices, refusing to leave their country and remaining steadfast in their commitment to protecting it. Today, Syria enters a new period of post-war reconstruction and national consolidation.
Aleppo is one of the cities that has suffered most of human and material losses as a result of the war. Today, live has got back to normal in Aleppo: shops and public catering facilities are being opened, with vigorous activity observed in almost every aspect of life. The government provides financial support for the construction and restoration of educational institutions and the buildings of strategic importance from its scarce resources. The security level is also on the rise due to consistent efforts.
- Aleppo was famous for its large Armenian community established after 1915. Due to the war, Armenians became refugees again, with some of them returning to Armenia. How is the Armenian community in Aleppo and other Syrian cities today? How many Armenians have left in Aleppo? Do you possess some data?
- Yes, the war has also left its mark on Aleppo Armenians. Today, only 14-15 thousand Armenians have left in Aleppo from once a prosperous mother colony with a strong national identity, sparing no effort in an attempt to preserve the community's image and the viability of community structures.
We can underline with joy that the national life of the community is restoring and entering a new course: cultural events are often held, the consulate-community-partnership and the willingness to organize and implement joint events are on a new higher level. Quarterly visits are paid to mainly Latakia and Kessab, where consular receptions are organized to assist the local Armenians in various consular issues.
- Are there cases when Armenians return to Syria under conditions of a relative peace following the ceasefire?
- Of course, there are such cases. There are people who return mostly for selling their property and settling themselves in Armenia permanently. There are also cases of permanent resettlement in Aleppo, but the number of returnees is still small. It is noteworthy that a part of Aleppo Armenians looks at their homeland, and many Armenians in Aleppo see their future in Armenia. However, those who want to re-establish themselves in Aleppo are few. We are committed to ensuring the humanitarian needs of our compatriots returning to Aleppo within our abilities.
- Throughout the Syrian war, the Armenian diplomatic representations in Syria were among the few that continued to operate. What does it mean to be a diplomat and to work under a war?
- Throughout the war, by the decision of the Armenian leadership, the Armenian Embassy in Damascus and the Armenian Consulate General in Aleppo have been working and continue to work with an emergency regime, sharing all the hardships of the war.
Up to present, the only diplomatic representation in Aleppo is the Consulate General of Armenia, which is highly appreciated by the Syrian people. For Aleppo Armenians, the activity of the Consulate General is also of great moral-psychological importance for the simple reason that it ensures a link between the Motherland and its authentic presence in Aleppo.
I would like to present in short the Consulate’s activity in humanitarian aid anddeliveries to Aleppo. In these years, the Armenian government has dispatched humanitarian aid to Syria six times – the last in July 2018. The staff of the Armenian Consulate General in Aleppo has always assumed the full responsibility for assistance receiving, registration, paperwork and provision of transport means for delivery to Aleppo, as soon as it arrives at Latakia.
Amid today’s complicated military-political conditions, assuming such a responsibility is highly risky. This is how the Armenian diplomats work in war zones. Naturally, the work schedule is complex and inclusive, and apart from high level professionalism it is also necessary to be vigilant, realizing the seriousness of the situation and the consequences of reckless steps.
- What programs do the Consulate General currently have and what are its priority targets?
- The activities of the Consulate in this respect are extremely variable and largely depend on the domestic political developments. In general, as in the previous years, in 2019 as well the Consulate will push ahead with its practice of multifunctional work.
Interview by Anna Mkrtchyan