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

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

A scene of devastation in Aleppo.

Regrettably, dozens of innocent Armenians have been killed or injured by indiscriminate gunfire and shelling, while many others have been kidnapped. Armenian homes, churches, and schools have been looted, damaged, or burned. Thousands of families, scrambling to save themselves, have 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 U.S. 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 percent 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 percent of the telethon’s proceeds to Syrian-Armenians both at home and abroad as refugees. Contributors to the telethon should specifically request that 100 percent 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, which will send 100 percent 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, and that Armenians around the world care deeply for their wellbeing and will do everything possible to support them in their greatest hour of need.

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. Armenia Fund is a scam and has been known for years, no surprise they are not helping Syrian Armenians which is a desperate situation and a huge crisis. They can shove the ten percent.

    • Jack,

      You sound like a scam yourself. Ever bothered to read the Armenia Fund’s mission statement?

      Does it say anything about helping Syrian Armenians or any Armenians outside of Armenia or Artsakh for that matter?

  2. Good article, everyone will read then say good night and go to bed, that’s it. This symbolizes the leadership or lack of it in the diaspora and in Armenia. No national purpose or real pride except for talk and nice speeches that no one pays attention to. This might be a real wake up call to the diaspora as to how we will react, with the same indifference when unfortunately Azerbaijan attacks Karabagh. Amateurs and incompetence all around us and the very few who can take advantage of this situation and pretend that they are doing something useful, they are making sure that they are playing the part to the T. Good luck to my compatriot Armenians!

    • And what are YOU doing Saaten Maagar?? Please enlighten us with your wisdom so we may follow in your foot steps to help out.

    • .. .Additionally, please inform us of the intelligence you have gathered “when unfortunately Azerbaijan attacks”. This information will help us. Thank you and regards.

  3. I am not surprised that the government of Armenia has been so slow in coming forward with a timely and meaningful plan to deal with the crisis that has been facing the Armenian community in Syria for almost two years. People usually get exactly what they deserve. The leaders Armenia has attracted are the leaders they deserve. The country deplete of intellectual capital, spirituality and wisdom… I am not surprised Azeris have not taken it over. But than why would they? there is nothing there to take. But, unemployment, prostitution, Mafioso’s masquerading as government officials. Yes, I do still have hope that in few generation things will come around.

    • Yep, keep reading the junk articles about Armenia and Artsakh copy-pasted from AP “sources” – this is exactly what they want you to believe in. And they will post negative information about Armenia and Artsakh over and over again because it works. Makes the “Diaspora” feel good.

      I was born and lived my entire life outside Armenia and have not noticed any “intellectual capital, spirituality and wisdom” here. If it left Armenia, where did it go?

      Take a look at the unemployment numbers in YOUR county, check Craigslist for prostitution, are you sure your government officials are clean? Are your local Armenian organizations free of nepotism and corruption? Can they publish their independently audited annual report online?

  4. To those above,who either with Satan Maagar, or Magyar(Hungarian,supposedly or a T. with such a name to confurse the Good stock Armenians.
    Anmd or full Armenian name ,but with full disheartening stance…
    such as ¨am not surprised Axerbaijanis not taking over¨Here.just Hold it there Mr.
    If you do not sattelite T.V. and watch how the NEW ARMENIAN ARMY paraded just a couple months ago on main sq. in Yerevan.I watched it with pride and millions overseas….
    We do not help Syriain armenians.Whoever wrote that must be trying to dissuade us that the Armenian Spirit is dead. No , it is not ,to the chjagrin of our adversaries and their agents (within us)…
    AGBU. sent in a check for a million dolalrs, ARF, flew into Syria TWO PLANELOADS of food and medicines..and preparing for other Arilifts…
    Armenians know who to come to aid ea other on the eleventh can rest assured as to that….
    Witness the Earthquake .
    And someon above wished to stain the All Armenia Fund.It is doing a tremendous job both in Armenia and Artsakh…
    And this is not all.The whole of the Armenian diaspora(including the huge one in Russian Federation Armenian Diaspora has not even begun, to really move.just about to start.
    No G.D. toikish propaganda can stop the Armenian Spirit from moving/forging ahead… Our train will not stop(even though I admit there are quite a few jealous and bad spirited Armenians who when not admitted into the arena ,try to fish in murky waters and upset the mainstream Flow FWD…

  5. all i can say is that the syrian armenians are in a very desperate state, they have lost there homes,businesses,jobs and any chance or hope of normalcy some must move to Armenia and live there with the encouragement of the government with free housing,jobs and financial help,and also it is our duty to takes millions of dollars to accomplish this goal with the help of Armenia, the Diaspora and others.

  6. Harut this is a good article, but like everything else is too late. It makes me very angry that non of the Armenian organizations and the Armenian Republic paid any attention to this situation when it first started. I remember when I read the first article about Syrian Armenians in, I wrote in my comments asking where are our organizations, leaders and our homeland at a critical time like this. Why aren’t these leaders organizing exodus of Armenians from a critical area, why isn’t Armenia helping these people to go to their homeland? Armenians are leaving the country, why not populate the country and meantime help the Syrian Armenians. If I could see this coming where were the Armenian politicians???? We are slow and we don’t learn from the past experiences. Entire Armenian organizations, population in Armenian and in diaspora have to concentrate and focus their efforts in helping the Syrian Armenians. If we don’t help ourselves who will??? Shame to our religious leaders, shame to our Organizations that ask for money on a daily basis from us, shame on Armenian Republic and their government for not being vigilant at a time like this.

  7. Dear Sassounian and Armenian Weekly,
    You are both late, everybody is late. And frankly, too late.

    Wish you good luck in your homeland and in your diaspora,
    No hard feelings.

  8. For once I am to come up with the truth of the issue at stake.Don´t be surprised.
    Arabs(in the eyes of the Persian(Iranian) intellectual-diplomat or at the very least educated person is they say…
    1. ¨FROM THE ROOT ARAB¨, meaning or conveying rather, that they are difficult to give in, to compromise to come to a mutual agreement..
    You want facts, examples?, I have heard from a fdew Syurian Armenians that the father of Bashar Asad(pres. of that country) ordered to bombard and kill some 40,000 of his compatriots ,just because they belonged to another sect….
    2.The Arab mindset(which also is as above) differentiates one arab country, or area from the other ,as though they were adversaries and the least they are to be kept away from….instead of uniting and becoming strong.Tribesman mentality…
    3.Armenians in Those countries who did make good and thrived in commerce,construction etc., should have LEFT for Armenia and Artsakh ten or more years ago,when they witnessed the strengthening of both over the years. They probably believed what the adversaries trumpeted(viz. turco-azeris) that Armenia is retrograding, not progressing…
    I hear and have heard there are many millionaires amongst our Syrian armenian compatriots(even in Yerevan) these people should extend a hand to their brethren and sisters AT LEAST NOW.
    START BUILDING -(with capital they amassed) NEW TOWNSHIPS……in this connection read my articles on…….click on top left user submitted articles..
    Yes,they could right away present PLAN for Townships, exclusively for their Syrian(Arab-Armenians) or Iraqui ones to come and settle down in RA…However in NEW TOWNSHIPS…with all the infrastructure needed…Indeed since it is a bit late, they can for a few months reside in cities of RA/Artsakh with expenses covered by their own savings and some help form Millionaire Syrian armenians of Yerevan:::::
    Even AGBU and other Relief socieities will extend a hand..BUT COME THEY MUST…great Turkey is on the Syrian border,waiting to bust in!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Sassounian’s article has a very negatiive and critical tone .
    The situation in Syria is tragic and sadly there are no indications that it is on the path of resolution.
    In the Diaspora, most if not all, charitable organizations and political organizations on all sides of the aisles have embarked efforts to collect contributions to assist and help the Armenian community in Syria.
    Based on published reports material amounts of money has been collected and substantial sums of money have already been donated.
    The big question is whether the money that has been collected or donated so far has been spent on its purpose or not, and if it has really helped or not.
    It will be helpful and encouraging if the press, or the organizations or the Funds that were created, give an accounting and a disclosure of how the moneys were spent.Full disclosure is imperative not to lose trust.
    This will greatly alleviate the negative comments and give us assurances that something positive is in reality being done.
    Vart Adjemian

  10. One more time Mr. Sassounian tells everybody else what to do. I think it is time that he takes the initiative and organize what he is proposing. He is on every imaginable community committee. Let him show us the correct way of achieving the set goals which he invariable sets for others.

    Sona Yacoubian

  11. Another alternative and in addition to allocating 100% of the funds collected on Thanksgiving is to get the Armenian government to match the funds by collecting the $500 million a year that they have not collected over the last 10 years from the ultra-rich in Armenia. There is no good reason why Armenia today is not a paradise for the natives and those Armenians, like those from Syria, that need a safe place to live that they proudly call home.

    And for those who think that the Armenia fund is doing a splendid job in Armenia develop with the donations the Diaspora gives every year, be sure to visit: and also view:

    • why don’t you organize another protest against the Consulate of Azerbaijan ?
      See if you can meet the Axeri Consul again and convince him to his Government stop spending US$3+ Billion @ year on defense.
      Maybe that will help.

      Oh, sorry forgot: you only organize protests against Armenia.
      You only meet the Consul of RoA and complain.
      You and your patriotic group are never to be found in front of the consulate of Axerbaijan.

      AYF was there on September 7th, 2012: 1000+ people.
      Where was your group ?
      Didn’t you promise you’d organize a protest before AYF ?
      Maybe you got mixed up and ended up in front of the Consulate of RoA in Glendale.

      Your dear friend, Avery the Coward.

  12. We need to make greater donations this Thanksgiving than ever bearing in mind the peril in which our Syrian Armenian brothers and sisters are in.

    Also, Vartan Oskanian, an Aleppo-born Armenian, should consider giving all the funds he appropriated from Western donors to the Armenian community of Syria.

  13. Where I /we live the small Armenian community of South Florida collected 11,000 dollars in three events .Next the Thanksgiving will also be another means of collecting further donations.I understand it has been decided in armenia that 4% of total to be collected will go to Syria Armenians…
    If it is around 30 million then some million dollars or so.
    Like I wrote above ,the Rich amongst the Syrian armenians ought to do better.
    I BELIEVE MY EYSES NOT WHAT ARA Manoogian above has inserted. Ikeep watching all the details of canals, been built to irrigate farmlands, Schools , hospitals houses etc., all biuilt by the All aRmenia Fund and this on the T.V. that shows in detail all corners of the jobs done.
    Could it be that either of them is FAKE,i.e. cut and collaged by experts in cinematography? or is this one rather the fake one.Because, next I am in Armenia i shall go to their main office and ask to be shown some at random.
    Now then to Avery.:-
    Dear Avery I have been to Civilitas a few tiems there very well situated,at (One North Ave.) location.There are a dozen or so personnel in those highly efficient offices and doing a good job,organize near monthly seminars etc.,that requirres funds. Mr. Oskanian don´t forget received the donation to spend he found FIT. There was no strings attched to it. When the Fiasco hearings at Parliament were on..he offered to show all documents and also prior to that Session the very little amoutn of $140,000.-(out of near two million received) was deposited baack to the Civilitas acct. Rest he declared he has documeents to show how have been spent.
    Why don´t people forget that -ten twenty times bigger amounts to the one in question, nearly, received from IMF, EU., this that country,almost every month…Now that is the question .Vartan Oskanian was the scapegoat….. .

  14. Gaytzag,

    I never said that Armenia Fund is not doing projects. Most of the projects they are doing are things that the government can, should and are obligated to do. In addition to this, they are doing those projects that have the greatest room to skim funds, which they have and still do today. Those skimmed funds go to some very bad people who in some cases are used to the detriment of the citizens of Armenia and Artsakh that the Diaspora wants to help with their donation. If you read my white paper, with objective eyes, you should better understand where I am coming from and what is really going on behind closed doors at the Armenia Fund in Armenia (which is the entity that the funds collected in the Diaspora are entrusted to).

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