Syrian-Armenians who remain in Syria are heroes – Diaspora minister H. Hakobyan’s exclusive interview

Armenians of Syria continue preserving and keeping the Armenian spirit in fire and flames. This is an unprecedented phenomena, which is typical only for the Armenian people. ARMENPRESS had an interview with Diaspora minister Hranush Hakobyan about SyrianArmenians, Diaspora Armenians and upcoming ministry projects.

– The Syrian-Armenian family which relocated to Armenia from Raqqa – as result of the Syrian war – is already sending their 3rd son to the Armenian Army. By this example, as if it is being proved that one of the main missions of the Diaspora ministry is being realized – contribute to repatriation. Are there many similar examples?

-Such examples are very few in our reality. I think this is an excellent example. This family raised their sons with a big patriotic pathos. Sons, who defend the borders of the Fatherland.

– On one hand the Armenian authorities spare no effort in improving accommodation conditions for SyrianArmenians who relocated to Armenia from Syria, on the other hand – it’s no secret that they face numerous difficulties here – starting from accommodation, educations, up to getting employed. Is there a path for solving this issue, by which you are going to be guided?

– One of the missions of the Diaspora ministry is contributing to repatriation. Any Armenian, who decides to come to Armenia, receives assistance from the Government. The return of Syrian Armenians is first of all associated with the ongoing events in Syria, and it cannot be called repatriation. Glory and honor to all those who have chosen the Fatherland’s path. They are safer, they are on their ground in Armenia. Here there are problems in terms of their social, cultural and educational integration. I can say that the system which currently operates in our country is implementing a huge work in terms of integration of Syrian Armenians. Four working groups are active and each group has representatives from all structures. They are trying to be useful for the especially vulnerable.

– What is your vision regarding Syrian-Armenians?

-Long time is needed for restoring Aleppo. We would be very happy for peace to be established in Aleppo as soon as possible, but, unfortunately, the grounds don’t yet allow being optimistic. If peace is established in Aleppo, many of our compatriots will return – to regain what they had. However I think those Syrian Armenians, who are already established in Armenia, will remain here. Today, the lives of our compatriots in Aleppo is endangered, and nobody can say what might happen to them tomorrow. In this regard, those people who continue living in Syria are heroes. They are very attached to their community. Armenians living in Syria continue keeping and preserving the Armenian spirit in flames of fire. Today 2800 students study in Syria’s Armenian schools. I cannot find words to address those teachers who teach the alphabet to children under rains of fire, who pass on the Armenian history and religion

-As result of the worsening of situation in Aleppo, is there increasing in flow in the recent period? Overall how many Syrian Armenians are currently living in Armenia?

– 20 thousand Syrian Armenians or Syrians have found refuge in Armenia after the latest events. Until September 30 – “the bloody Friday”, 428 people arrived in Armenia, 50 people each month on an average. 67 people arrived in Armenia during October, in November – 27. There is no panic. Just as bombs start exploding in Syria, people think about returning to Armenia, and just as the situation is getting calmer, they decide to wait a bit more. The instruction of the Armenian President since day 1 was – “help Syrian Armenians wherever they are”. Just recently, at the initiative of the Armenian President, two aircrafts carrying humanitarian aid arrived in Aleppo. We received dozens of letters from local children, who were expressing their gratitude for the assistance.

– Which of the projects would you point out in terms of preservation of Armenian identity, education in Armenian communities of the Diaspora, which have been more efficient or which inspire good results for the upcoming months and years?

– We single out four main columns, which are the foundation of the Armenian home: that is – the Armenian education, Armenian family, Armenian language, Armenian culture and belief. Especially the fourth generation has lost the Armenian language in many places. We have problems, when children don’t speak any more Armenian, and that’s the reason that we prioritize the knowledge of Armenian language when we work with all Armenian communities. We provide 1/5 of our budget to textbooks – to be delivered to different schools in the Diaspora, in order for the teachers to be able to teach with textbooks from Armenia. We also carry out training programs for teachers.I am grateful to all Armenian structures of the Diaspora, because in addition to work they are engaged in preservation of Armenian identity. People who are concerned with keeping the community Armenian must be appreciated and encouraged, so that they continue their activities of preserving the Armenian identity.  One of our upcoming issues is to boost the “What do you do for Karabakh” movement, which was formed during the 8th Pan-Armenian Forum of Journalists, since Karabakh must be our priority concern, we have to protect the cause of Karabakh and carry it till the end and it must be done also through the efforts and powers of the Diaspora.

-What visits have you made or are you planning to make to Armenian communities of different countries?

– Unfortunately, this year I only had two visits to Armenian communities and I have received more than 40 invitations. I will likely have two more visits until the end of the year. The shortage of the visits, however, we try to fill through telecommunication. Almost every week we establish contact with Armenian communities, discuss programs and community issues.

-Being the first Diaspora minister, in your opinion what is the biggest problem of Diaspora Armenians which has yet to be solved?

-The biggest problem in Diaspora is the lack of trust. Today, the Fatherland needs both assistance and support of our compatriots. We are not saying come make charity in our country. We say, come, invest, make profit – by decreasing unemployment and migration. Today the Fatherland has all legislative conditions for starting a business. Our unity must not weaken, our unity must not be seen only occasionally. Every day we have to think by the formulas of honoring one another, moving forward together, supporting the Fatherland and the Fatherland supporting the Diaspora.

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