Time for Action: Syrian-Armenians Need Your Urgent Assistance

There has been too much talk about the tragic crisis in Syria by self-described analysts and experts who have managed to spread misinformation, while inadvertently jeopardizing the safety of the Armenian community.

At this late hour, rather than propagating half-baked political ideas, the Armenian Diaspora should concentrate on providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Syrian-Armenians.

It is encouraging that Armenian organizations have started raising funds to meet the needs of Armenians in Syria. Going a step further, in some countries, social, religious, and political organizations have formed coalitions to extend the needed help in a coordinated manner. Hopefully, these groups will shortly issue statements about the specific needs of Syrian-Armenians, the amount to be raised, and the mechanism to distribute the funds.

In the absence of a diaspora-wide structure that would represent all Armenians worldwide and deal with their collective problems, each community is trying to form its own umbrella organization. In some instances, several joint committees are established in the same community, each dealing with a specific issue. To avoid redundancies, it would be preferable to form a single joint committee in each community with subcommittees dealing with separate tasks.

Additionally, two pan-Armenian bodies can play a critical role in this humanitarian crisis—one located outside of Syria and the other inside the country tasked with the coordination and distribution of humanitarian assistance from all sources: (1) The entity outside of Syria—which is yet to be formed—would not only coordinate aid from the diaspora and Armenia but, more importantly, secure assistance from governments, international organizations (United Nations, World Council of Churches), and non-governmental organizations. (2) The recently created pan-Armenian entity within Syria is comprised of all Armenian religious and charitable organizations. It is charged with communicating the needs of the community to the outside world, receiving the incoming aid, and distributing it to Armenians throughout the country.

While a comprehensive assessment of the Syrian-Armenian community’s extensive needs has not yet been made, it is clear that millions of dollars are required to provide thousands of destitute families with food, water, medical care, fuel, electricity, and tuition for needy students. It is imperative that the aid be shared with all people living in or near Armenian neighborhoods, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation.

In order to carry out such a worldwide large-scale fundraising drive, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund should consider dedicating its telethon this year to Syrian-Armenian relief. Major organizations and benefactors should be asked to make generous contributions to preserve the historic Armenian presence in Syria that predates the genocide. The All-Armenian Fund has already taken a first step by opening a special bank account in Yerevan to solicit donations for Syria, which so far has raised $50,000. This amount has been spent on airlifting hundreds of children from Aleppo to summer camps in Armenia.

Funds should also be urgently raised to provide housing and living expenses to Syrians who have recently moved to Armenia either on a temporary or permanent basis. This is not the time for arguing over the difficult choice between helping Armenians stay in Syria or move out, since their very survival is at stake. Everyone must respect the wishes and judgments of Syrian-Armenians and support their personal decisions. After all, since their lives are on the line, their choices must not be questioned. This is also not the time to make judgments on the quality and quantity of assistance provided by the Armenian government to Syrian-Armenian refugees. Such assessments can be made at a later date, after the storm has subsided.

Finally, even though financial assistance is the most urgent need, equally important is conveying the message to Syrian-Armenians that they are not alone in their greatest hour of need! They should be made to feel that Armenians and good people around the world sincerely care for their wellbeing and are doing everything possible to safeguard their survival.

Such a hopeful and caring message is critical not only for Syrian-Armenians, but to all Armenians throughout the world. The pain of any one community must be shared by all Armenians, who should rush to help the stricken community, because they are all members of one big family. This spirit of mutual support would assure all Armenian communities that in cases of misfortune, they will not be abandoned to their tragic fate.

In view of the dire situation of Armenians in Syria, let’s set aside all other considerations and rush to their rescue!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Dear Harut, we agree with you and job well done for taking the initiative.

    But when you are making this important plea, please include information on how one can make the donations: names of organization/fund, addresses, emails addresss etc. so that we can expedite the fundraising drive.

    I do like the reference you made that in Syrian communities we need to help everyone irrespective of their race, religion. All the best.

    Tripoli, Libya

  2. I could not find Mr. Sassounian’s contact information quickly enough so I hope this is ok until more official channels of communication are secured.

    We are non-denominational, apolitical group of capable and talented Armenians attempting to work with anyone and everyone with an open heart and an open mind and a desire to help Armenians. We are young. We are motivated. We are concerned. We are overcoming our divisions. We meet on Tuesday nights in Fort Lee, NJ.

    We have a major benefit concert coming up on Dec. 8th at Felician College, in Lodi NJ featuring Armenian singers and dancegroups: Elie Berberian, Adiss Harmandian, Garo Gomidas , Varouj Vartanian, JAQ Hagopian, Alyne Corrigan, Anna Harboyan, Antranig Dance Ensemble, Akhtamar Dance Ensemble, Yeraz Dance Ensemble, Shoushi Dance Ensemble, and Yerakouyn Band along with other talented youth performers. Tickets are $50.

    The money from this benefit is going to provide immediate relief to Armenians in Syria.

    Event Flyers, facebook page, and contact info is coming out this week. Please stay tuned.

    Our ranks include members from the entire spectrum of Armenian groups, organizations and churches (in no particular order in an attempt remove seeds of bias):
    Hamazkayin, HMEM, Hye Doon, AYF, ACYOA, Knights of Vartan, ARS, Tekeyan, Armenian Student Associations from the tri-state area, AGBU, ARF as well as Diocese, Prelacy, Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic Churches.

    If anyone is interested in finding out more and/or getting involved please email kar.tonoyan@gmail.com Our divisions and obstacles are slowly starting to melt away.

    • I meant to include the following:

      A group of concerned individuals have answered Harout Sassounian’s call and have formed a group on the east coast to work with all of our community organizations, groups, and churches to help Armenians in need (which at the moment happen to be in Syria). [something similar to http://www.syrianarmenianrelieffund.org/ whom we have asked to advise on collaboration because we are essentially doing the same thing]

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