SYRIA CRISIS: MORE ARMENIANS FLEE AS MIDDLE EAST VIOLENCE RAGES ON
By Siranuysh Gevorgyan

ArmeniaNow
06.06.12 | 11:27

More and more Armenians have been leaving their native Syria for
Armenia as violence has been ranging in this Middle Eastern nation
for more than a year now.

Recent weeks have brought little news of any immediate peace as the
international community has even been mulling a military intervention
to stop the bloodshed in Syrian towns and villages.

Armenia Diaspora Ministry spokesman Tevos Nersisyan told ArmeniaNow
that about a hundred Armenian families arrived in Armenia from Syria
in the past several weeks. The official, however, stressed that he
meant only the families that had actually applied to the ministry.

"We do not possess the data for all, we estimate that many come and
simply stay with their relatives," he said.

Clashes between rebels and government forces in Syria began last year
and continue unabated despite calls from the international community
to cease fire. The United Nations estimates more than 13,000 people
have died in the violence. Western powers hold Syria's controversial
president Bashar al-Assad responsible for the escalating situation,
while Russia and China tend to exonerate the Assad regime, at best
blaming both the government and opposition factions for the violence
in Syria.

Official Damascus announced on Tuesday the expulsion of diplomats of
a number of states from the country. The Syrian government made the
decision in relation to the United States, Great Britain, France and
Turkey, which decided late last week to expel senior Syrian diplomats,
including ambassadors, from their countries.

Eight Western nations made a decision to expel Syrian diplomats
following what appeared to be a mass killing of civilians by
pro-government militia in the Syrian village of Houla on May 25. A
total of 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women were killed
in what the United Nations concluded were murders committed by the
Syrian government troops.

The Diaspora Ministry official in Yerevan says many Syrian Armenians
prefer going to neighboring Lebanon, as well as European countries.

"Armenians in Lebanon feel stable, strong, and many people take
refuge there. There is a relatively small number of Syrian Armenians
preferring to come to Armenia. We know that Armenia is not going
through good times either, there are problems... but those families
that have money do come to Armenia and buy apartments here. It is up
to them to decide whether they will stay here or not. Our community
in Syria used to be one of the most sustainable and successful. Many
ran businesses, had connections... It is regrettable that all this
is taking place in Syria," said Nersisyan.

According to the Diaspora Ministry's data, Syria is home to more
than 50,000 ethnic Armenians that have strong bonds with traditional
Christian faith and Armenian culture. "We do not include in that number
the Kurdish and Arab speaking Armenians, as well as Catholic Armenians,
with whom communication is not active. If we include them as well,
then we estimate that more than 100,000 Armenians live in Syria,"
said Nersisyan.

Twenty-one-year-old Meghrik Hayitian came to Armenia together with her
mother, father and sister about three months ago. In an interview with
ArmeniaNow she told about her experience in Aleppo, the largest city
in Syria where most Armenians have lived. She said that in Aleppo the
situation was calmer than in other places of the country, but after
their departure to Armenia one of her mother's relatives there was
killed in an explosion.

"And before our departure one of friends was killed, ethnic Armenian
serviceman [of the Syrian army] Vigen Hayrapetyan," she said.

The Hayitians in Armenia are being helped by their Syrian-Armenian
uncle, who moved to Armenia a long time ago. At present, she works
at the children's clothing store owned by her uncle, still she plans
to continue her studies, not in Armenia, but abroad. Hayitian finds
it difficult to say whether she would return to Armenia after she
completes studies abroad.