Monday, December 16, 2013

Armenians in Syria  

A report on the Christan fear of Islamist rebels focusing on the Armenian community in Damascus  appeared on the Deutsche Welle, the international service of the German public broadcaster. Most of this report is based on the account by Armenian Orthodox Bishop Armash Nalbandian. Many Armenians feel, that after they (mostly) came to Syria as refugees from Anatolia 95 years ago, they have to flee their homes once more:
For Bishop Nalbandian, who is of Armenian ancestry, the refugee upsurge reflects a personal tragedy. Armenians fled Turkey to Syria in 1915 after a genocidal attack by the Ottoman Turkish Army. He says Armenians came as refugees to Syria, where they created schools, churches and a new life.
Bishop Armash Nalbandian said his community felt safe under Assad's rule
"After 95 years we are suffering a new genocide," he said. "It's more difficult for us to carry this cross."
The report also adresses why Christians in general increased their support for Asad during the last year and the attitude of Christians towards the revolution has changed from the start of the revolution:
Bishop Nalbandian says in the first few months, Christians hoped the government would make significant reforms. "Unfortunately, the government lost this moment, or couldn't or didn't use this moment," he explains. "The government did some reforms according to the constitution, but actually it's not enough." The government lifted the formal state of emergency, for example, but continues repressive policies. Christians were also offended that the country's constitution mandates that the president be a Muslim.
During the past year, extremist Muslim groups gained ground among the rebels. They targeted Christian villages and other religious groups that were perceived as Assad supporters. Extremists and criminal elements kidnapped Christians for ransom.
As the extremist groups took over more areas and chaos ensued, Christians threw their support behind the government. Nalbandian says many Christians now see Syrian President Bashar al Assad as a protector.
 "Syrian Christians fear Islamist rebels" by Reese Erlich (DW)

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