NEW YORK (Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America)–Though telephone and other communication lines between Iraqis and the outside world have been cut–some news about Iraq’s Armenian population has nevertheless emerged.
Fifteen Armenian families have left Iraq and are now in Damascus–Syria–and another 20 families are in Aleppo. Syria’s Armenian community is working with the refugees to find temporary shelter and employment.
The Armenian Church in Iraq’s second largest city Basra–reportedly suffered slight damage this week. Though the actual cause of the damage is unclear–reports confirm that they are minor. There were no reports of casualties from the Armenian community in Basra–or elsewhere in Iraq–though communication remains problematic.
The church in Basra is one of four Armenian churches outside Baghdad; the others are in Kirkuk–Zakho–and Mosul. Iraq’s capital is home to three Armenian churches. There are no reports of damage to those Armenian churches.
ARMENIANS IN IRAQ
In 1990 there were between 18,000 and 20,000 Armenia’s in Iraq. Some 12,000 were in Baghdad and the rest in the cities of Kirkuk–Mosul–and Zakho–all north of Baghdad–and Basra in the south of the country.
Armenia’s have been living in Iraq for centuries. Many came as traders in the early 17th century during the Ottoman-Persian wars. The Armenian Genocide led to a great modern influx–and Armenia’s are grateful for the refuge given them in Iraq. Many Iraqi Armenia’s left during the Gulf War bombings and the subsequent economic privations.
Soorp Asdvadzadzin (St. Mary) Church in Baghdad was established in the 17th century–and a replica of the original building stands on its site. Some relics from Sepastia from the Forty Martyrs (Karasoun Manoog) were brought there. Baghdad has two other churches–Soorp Errortutiun (Holy Trinity) and St. Gregory. The latter holds up to 1,000 people.
Outside of the capital Baghdad–there are four churches in Iraq–one in each of Kirkuk–Zakho–Mosul and Basra. The Diocese of the Armenian Church in Iraq has–for over the past 20 years been headed by Most Reverend Archbishop Avak Asadourian.
From the website of the Armenian Diocese: www.armenianchurch.org