Aleppo Burns While We Fiddle: A Wake-up Call to All Armenians

Harut Sassounian


For almost two years, Armenians worldwide have followed the vicious civil war in Syria with great anxiety and concern for the safety and survival of their compatriots.

Regrettably, dozens of innocent Armenians were killed or injured by indiscriminate gunfire and shelling, while many others have been kidnapped. Armenian homes, churches and schools were looted, damaged or burned. Thousands of families, scrambling to save themselves, fled to Armenia and the neighboring countries.

In recent months, as the situation assumed alarming proportions, the Government of Armenia and Diasporan communities finally began making preliminary plans to help Syrian Armenians.

These efforts, although well intentioned, were too little, too late! Until now, there has not been a coordinated and comprehensive plan to deal with this enormous humanitarian crisis. Below is an outline of the three key tasks that require the immediate attention and support of all Armenians:

1. Fundraising: Tens of millions of dollars are required to meet the urgent needs of Armenians in Syria and those who have sought refuge in Armenia, Lebanon, Jordan, and elsewhere. These funds could be raised from both non-Armenian and Armenian sources.

Non-Armenian sources would include: the US Congress, USAID (United States Agency for International Development), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), international humanitarian organizations, and other governmental agencies.

Armenian sources would include: the Republic of Armenia, major Armenian organizations and businesses, and individual benefactors. Funds could also be raised from the general public through special events, mass mailers, and telethons.

It is regrettable that the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and its regional affiliates have failed to properly assess the critical condition of Syrian Armenians, as reflected in the inexcusable decision of allocating to them a mere 10% of the proceeds from this year’s Thanksgiving Telethon. This has created a strong resentment among the Armenian public toward the Armenia Fund. It is still not too late to take corrective action and allocate the full 100% of the telethon’s proceeds to Syrian Armenians both at home and abroad as refugees. Contributors to the telethon should specifically request that 100% of their donations be earmarked to Syrian Armenians. Alternatively, they can donate to the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, a pan-Armenian committee established in several countries in recent weeks. The Fund will send 100% of the contributions it has collected to its counterpart operating in Syria.

In recent days, I have received heartbreaking phone calls from compatriots in Syria, desperately pleading with Armenians worldwide to help them before it is too late! It is unconscionable to give a mere pittance to fellow Armenians whose lives are at risk every moment! The tragic fate of Syrian Armenians should receive priority attention from all Armenians at this critical juncture, as it is a matter of life and death! All other problems and projects should be placed on the back burner.

2, Lobbying: the Government of Armenia, Armenian political parties, and influential individuals must urge the Great Powers, key neighboring states, and international organizations to pressure all warring sides in Syria to avoid causing civilian casualties. If such pleadings are not fruitful, more stern measures should be taken against offenders by cutting off financial and military assistance, and charging them with war crimes. If need be, demonstrations can be held in front of embassies of countries supporting those responsible for civilian casualties.

3. Coordinating: A pan-Armenian entity should be created, similar to the committee for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, to coordinate all efforts worldwide for fundraising and lobbying for Syrian Armenians. The members of such a body would consist of the leaders of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh as well as the representatives of major Diaspora organizations. The coordinating committee must have full-time staff to carry out the necessary tasks in a timely and professional manner. The pan-Armenian entity would interface with the inter-communal committee in Syria to ensure that the donated funds serve their intended purpose.

It is understandable that due to the sensitive nature of the situation in Syria, not all efforts can be publicized. Nevertheless, the Government of Armenia and Diaspora organizations must take some concrete and explicit steps to reassure Syrian-Armenians that they are not abandoned to their tragic fate; that Armenians around the world care deeply for their well-being; and will do everything possible to support them in their greatest hour of need!

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  1. Tsoghig said:

    Very well said. I completely agree. We should focus our communities efforts and generosity on helping the Armenians in Syria. It is so sad watching our brethren die right before our eyes for NOTHING.

  2. George said:

    This is a good oportunity to Armenian’s organize their efforts, be efective and compentent = Copy the Jews

    • Hay said:

      Sadly we’ll never be like the Jews. We just can’t work together, as history has shown always. We do wonderfully as individuals (just look at all the successful businessmen, artists, etc) but cannot work as a group. Our independent minded attitude has been a blessing and a curse.

      • Taline said:

        It’s not independent-mindedness. It’s rather envy and vindictiveness that we feel for each other which naturally prevent us from truly supporting each other for a common cause. It’s like a nightmare divorce situation where a child falls victim to selfish parents who are absorbed by hatred, vindictiveness towards each other and have put aside their common responsibility and obligation towards their charge.

  3. Vrej said:

    As long as our individual aspirations are fulfilled by consuming the BEST of what OTHERS have to invent, produce and market (and profit off) our national aspirations will be exactly what they are, just a dream at best.

    A 97 year gentleman who, with the help of others, organizes an annual telethon for delivering “Christmas Gifts” to OUR own yet less fortunate children in Armenia. He literally has has to beg people into the late hours of the night to put their hands into their pockets for such a noble cause and may be collect $100,000, in a country where if every man, woman, child, old, young citizen of Armenian origin donates a single dollar, no telethon or fundraiser shall collect less 1.5 million dollars whatever the national urgency might be.

    Yet our youth, and not the so youthful, burn $4.00 per gallon gas (produced by we all know who) in $500+ a month leased cars up and down city streets racing from one traffic light or stop sign to the other, and get traffic fines at $200+ a pop, a very generous contribution to the city coffers.

    In my humble opinion and self-conscious observations, this is what a ONCE great nation has been reduced too.

    In the course of human civilization, great nations give birth to great leaders, it has never worked the other way around.