BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
As is widely known by now, SARF—The Syrian-Armenian Relief Fund—will host its “Save a Life” telethon this Sunday, February 21, to raise much-needed funds for our brothers and sisters living in war-torn Syria. An alternate mission of the telethon is to raise awareness about the critical role of the Syrian-Armenian community in our national reality as the first bastion for survivors of the Armenian Genocide and a reminder of Historic Armenian lands.
SARF executives and the telethon committee has created momentum in the community about the upcoming telethon. But its success will be determined by the amount of funds raised for the cause, the imperative for which is more immediate now that at any other time.
Once again, Armenians are caught in the epicenter of historic events. Unfortunately, the scope of this tragedy is uncomfortably reminiscent of the conditions endured by our ancestors a century ago, including the fact that Turkey is once again an agitator and an aggressor in this conflict, which has cost hundreds of thousands of live and displaced millions more.
Since its inception, SARF has been able to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Armenian communities impacted by the Syrian war, especially in and around Aleppo. It was on the forefront on the movement that sprung up here and elsewhere around the world when with the direct knowledge of the Turkish government, Islamic militants attacked Kessab and invaded the mainly Armenian-populated city, looting and pillaging not only homes but community institutions before they were driven out.
More important, however, the SARF movement gives the Armenians of Syria hope that they are not alone in their fight for survival and perseverance.
Throughout the years, I have encountered readers’ comments about the necessity of such efforts and those who argue that instead of raising funds for Syrian-Armenians we, as a collective, should actively in work to relocate them to Armenia.
Since the start of the conflict, tens of thousands of Syrian-Armenians have relocated to Armenia, where they have been granted citizenship and some government assistance, however, Armenia does not have infrastructural capacity to care for all those who choose to relocate to the homeland.
But more critical than practical and logistical solutions to the problems arising from the conflict is the reality that Syria still remains one of the critical communities of the Armenian Diaspora and remains home to thousands of families that have generational roots in that country. Those who contend otherwise—and often in a terse and self-righteous tenor—do not seem to have a clear understanding of our national history and view our Armenian reality from a shortsighted—uninformed—perspective.
The Syrian conflict has taken its toll on the Armenian community there. We, along with the rest of the world, have witnessed the destruction of our churches and community centers, the Armenian Genocide memorial complex in Der Zor, once referred to as the Auschwitz of Armenians by President Serzh Sarkisian, as well as homes, businesses and other institutions.
SARF’s “Save a Life” telethon is the time and place to reflect on those losses, to celebrate the important role of the Syrian-Armenian community and to come together, as one community and one nation, to elevate the spirit of those who are not merely clinging on but preserving our community in Syria and who deserve our financial and moral support as they confront this humanitarian tragedy.
The SARF “Save a Life” Telethon will air on Sunday, February 21 from 2 to 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Horizon Armenian Television, US Armenia and ARTN networks. Make your donations now at SARFtelethon.org.