As the situation in Syria continues to spiral downward, a growing number of members of the country's historic Armenian community are seeking refuge in Armenia. Reports the New York Times:
The flight of Syrian Armenians — one of many lesser-noticed ripple effects that could reshape countries well beyond Syria’s neighbors — is raising questions about the future of Syria’s diversity. And it is forcing Armenia, which depends on its strong diaspora communities to augment its otherwise scant geopolitical heft, to make delicate calculations about whether to encourage their exodus or slow it.
For now, Armenia is hedging its bets. It is sending aid to Armenians in Syria, helping them stay and survive. But it is also helping them come to Armenia, temporarily or permanently, by fast-tracking visas, residency permits and citizenship.
“Our policy is to help them the way they tell us to help them,” said Vigen Sargsyan, the chief of staff to Armenia’s president, Serzh Sargsyan.
About 6,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Armenia as fighting engulfs Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where an estimated 80,000 of Syria’s 120,000 Armenians live. More arrive each week even as a few trickle back, unable to afford Yerevan or stay away from houses and businesses they left behind unguarded in Syria.
Meanwhile, as the Armenia Now website reports, some of those refugees -- from the city of Aleppo -- have opened a restaurant in Yerevan, hoping to keep a taste of home while they're away from Syria. From the site's story:
The restaurant was opened two months ago in the lounge belonging to the Aram Manukian Cultural Youth Center of ARF Dashnaktsutyun, which provided it free of charge. Besides the restaurant, there is an internet club, children's room and a small souvenir shop. In December, the first wedding was celebrated in Sbidag (which means “white”).
Harout Kzirian, manager of the restaurant, is one of thousands of Syrian Armenians, who were forced to leave their home in Syria and seek shelter in Armenia.
"Armenia has always been in our dreams. My family and I have been visiting Armenia every year and enjoyed our vacation here. But now we, the Armenians of Syria are in an unenviable position, although we found ourselves in our historical homeland, which has welcomed us. But we all are dreaming to be back to our homeland in Syria, be back to our homes, schools, universities, relatives and families. Every day we follow the news but so far no good prediction of the conflict. We live in hope, "says Kzirian, 30.