Tomorrow May Be Too Late! An Interview with Harut Sassounian

Armenian Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian conducted the following brief interview with Weekly columnist Harut Sassounian last week.

Sassounian: While it is true that some efforts are being made by Armenia and the diaspora to assist Syrian-Armenians, I believe that those efforts are too little and too late. Much more must be done immediately and urgently!

Sassounian is the publisher of the California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of five major Armenian-American organizations. For 10 years, he was a non-governmental delegate on human rights at the United Nations, playing a leading role in the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the UN in 1985. He has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Sassounian has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Below is the full text of the interview.

Armenian Weekly—You titled one of your recent columns “Aleppo Burns while We Fiddle: A Wake-up Call to All Armenians.” Talk about the circumstances that prompted you to make that statement.

Harut Sassounian—I was terribly frustrated and upset that given the magnitude of the tragedy faced by Syrian-Armenians, I was not seeing a commensurate degree of concern and assistance by the Armenian government and Armenians worldwide. And when I learned that the Armenia Fund had decided to allocate just 10 percent of this year’s telethon to Syrian-Armenians, despite personal assurances I was given by the highest officials during my recent trip to Armenia, I decided to go public with my displeasure. While it is true that some efforts are being made by Armenia and the diaspora to assist Syrian-Armenians, I believe that those efforts are too little and too late. Much more must be done immediately and urgently!

A.W.—The Armenian community in Aleppo seems to be at the center of the relief efforts currently under way. Yet, there are several thousand Syrian-Armenians who have sought refuge in Armenia, Lebanon, and elsewhere, and are in dire need of assistance. They are—to state the obvious—no less Syrian-Armenian than the ones who have stayed behind. How can this challenge be overcome?

H.S.—If we raise dozens of millions of dollars, I believe that we can then have sufficient funds to assist all Syrian-Armenians—those in Syria, as well those who have fled to Armenia and elsewhere.

A.W.—The efforts of the diaspora and Armenia are focused, primarily, on humanitarian assistance. What political initiatives can and have been taken?

H.S.—Political initiatives are just as important as humanitarian assistance. I believe our political organizations in the U.S., France, Russia, and elsewhere should pressure all warring sides in Syria, and particularly Turkey, to refrain from causing civilian casualties, including Armenian. I believe such efforts are underway by the ANCA, the Armenian government, and others.

A.W.—An Armenian church was recently desecrated and burned by rebels. The incident was not reported in the U.S. media, and no voices of condemnation were heard from U.S. officials. What role should the U.S. play in this regard?

H.S.—We need to pressure our members of Congress and the Obama Administration to be more vocal in their condemnation of such unacceptable behavior by fighters armed and supported by the U.S. and its allies. They should be even tougher in private conversations with those causing such crimes.

A.W.—Talk about your connections with the Syrian-Armenian community.

H.S.—I was born in Aleppo, Syria. Before these recent troubles, I had an opportunity to visit both Aleppo and Damascus. We have a wonderful Armenian community in that country. Syrian-Armenians have tenaciously preserved their language, religion, and traditions. Many Syrian-Armenians today serve as high-ranking clergymen, teachers, and principals of Armenian schools, editors of newspapers, and community leaders throughout the diaspora. We should do everything possible to support and assist our brothers and sisters in Syria. Tomorrow may be too late!

Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

Khatchig Mouradian is the Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist at the Library of Congress and a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He also serves as Co-Principal Investigator of the project on Armenian Genocide Denial at the Global Institute for Advanced Studies, New York University. Mouradian is the author of The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915-1918, published in 2021. The book has received the Syrian Studies Association “Honourable Mention 2021.” In 2020, Mouradian was awarded a Humanities War & Peace Initiative Grant from Columbia University. He is the co-editor of a forthcoming book on late-Ottoman history, and the editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Armenian Review.
Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

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  1. Sassounian voices the concern we all have for our brothers and sisters in Syria. Be aware of what we are up against: the US government and its major political establishment is actively supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi forces fighting the Syrian government, a policy that has already run roughshod through Egypt and Libya. US foreign policy in the Middle East is causing Christians immense suffering for which the US government and its political establishment cares not one iota. My father came to America to live in peace in freedom and to escape the genocide. What would he think if he was alive today to see America aiding and abetting Muslims in the rape, murder, and pillage of Christians?

    • I America your father stepped into and the America that exists today are radically different, and for the worse if I may add!

      This is another reason why Armenians, particularly those in the US need to stop helping Western and American NGOs, civil society groups, and similar orgs from implementing their globalist and inherently anti-Armenian agenda in Armenia. The US and its allies don’t care about human rights or democracy promotion, they care about their national interests just like all other nations and therefore their actions are aimed at maximizing gains. However, unlike most nations, the US and W. Europe cloak their actions under the guise of humanitarian intervention, democracy promotion, and other falsehoods.

    • It has been a long dated Zionist theory to depopulate the Middle east of its Christian population, because apparently, that would facilitate the infighting of multiple Arab factions which would become further weakened and destabilized, and hence easier to tame. Go figure. Sadly, this has become an American doctrine. The first causality of which was President Gemayel of Lebanon who was offered to allow his Christian population to be evacuated by the US 6th fleet during the civil war of that country. He refused. And you know what happened to him a few weeks later? You guessed it! He was blown up in his office. This serves beautifully Turkey’s interests to erase the proof of what is left of the genocide.

    • That is right, the America today is vastly different than the America of yesterday. Unfortunately it goes the same for the Armenians within it. America today is the product of its media… and its media is in the wrong hands. At least it’s like that in major cities. Change does not always mean that it’s good. I am ashamed both as an American and Armenian at the route we are headed.

    • As long as the Zionist control all of our foreign policy decision making then Armenians in this world are not safe..They are, as well as the Turkish nationalists are the true enemy of theArmenian people..Thats why Armenia proper needs to arm itself to the teeth to deter anyone from tryiing to finish the job that the Donemehs and the Turks started in 1915..

      Israel has purged most all of its Christian population already..

  2. This entire Syrian situation is so upsetting. Not only Armenian government was too late to respond to the situation, entire diaspora, political organizations, churches, newspapers, newsletters, and general Armenian public world wide is too late. So disappointing that the Armenian weekly and California Courier did not start mobilizing the public with your commentaries much earlier then now. This article and your interview is too late. Why was not this done a year ago???? Keghart, Canadian newsletter was the first one with an article from a concerned Armenian and I thought that will be the start for other newspapers to follow, but it took over a year for some of you to wake up.

    • Lydia,

      There is one solution to Syrian Armenian conflict and that is immigration. No other solution exists. It applies not only to Syria, but to entire middle East. Armenians should immigrate as soon as possible, not only from Syria, but also from Iran. Those families who have businesses should think of moving out their capital from Middle East, at least partially. They should secure an apartment or house for their families either in Armenia/Artsakh or abroad and arrange their children’s education elsewhere to ease their integration process in the future. It is going to get worse.

      Lydia, while I understand your concern, I do not see a reason to put all the blame on others. Mr. Sassounian does what he can. Why did not you wake up a year earlier? You can only be responsible for yourself. Donate to Syrian Armenian Relief fund that John has posted earlier and do whatever you can.

      Negativism and nagging does not help as they impair people’s reasoning.

  3. Some write ,just to write.To participate in an otherwise non-disputable or even discussable issue.HELP MUST GO FWD.
    1. From Armenia first hand news , more than a month ago was(also showing the kids… with some counts over 5000 already there In Yerevan!!!classrooms set up for both Armenian and Arabic teaching…
    2. The ARF parliamentary Spokesman and a chieftain Mr. Vahan hovhanissian flew into Aleppo the First prlaneload of aid Via Erzeroum(grounded there by Turkish authproities for a check.They did that to another aircraft (syrian aÇir that supposedly had or had radar equipment from ;Moscow—
    Other aid material has been collected,CASH too, even from pour FL aread that will be going FWD or has already to aid the Syrian Armenians.
    Ms Kim Kardashian has voiced her concern.I just wrote on her column-whatever, that she should challnege the CA armenians , sayign (if she so decided9 whatver you collect I shall double it.many others can do so.
    So why always be complainign that the armenian communities are not doing anything…
    That is in the nature of some I guess…
    We ahve alwasy helped and añlways will.Because like a long time ago an armenian Lady (shall quote her what she said in general referring to armenians being unlucky…..) that we lack latter.But now that we have a STATE/Nation status-like Israel and the World Jewry,for those who will followw what I -m saying…we must GET A MOVE ON!!! Stop negativity be affirmative forge FWD….There is no other way for Armenity but Ahead(Haratch)

  4. I’ve felt the need to say this for a long time: Harut, you need to temper your rhetoric. Armenians do not “fiddle” while Aleppo burns. Institutional efforts — be it from Diasporan organizations or the Government of ROA — are not the only channels of humanitarian assistance to our Syrian-Armenian brothers and sisters. My grandfather’s family is from Aleppo, and I need not mention the prominence and involvement of my family in the Aleppan Armenian community. Nonetheless, we have been providing them with assistance in their relocation efforts and legal issues surrounding granting of visa/refugee status, etc. I am not generalizing my experience to that of others, but it is important to understand that the overwhelming majority of assistance provided — and, effective assistance, at that — has been from existing social networks.

    Similarly (and on a separate note) the overwhelming majority of financial, human, and capital assistance provided to the Republic of Armenia has been conducted on an individual level of participation. The majority of Armenians do not need to donate $20-$100 annually to Telethons, such as the All-Armenia Fund, which are renowned for their corruption, abusive business practices, mismanagement of resources, and misappropriation of funds [1]. Rather, we already provide assistance, and we do so in the most effective manner: through direct remittances to relatives on a monthly basis (with a far greater magnitude and volume of financial transfers, as well). These are the majority of Armenians — a ‘silent majority” — who do not frequent online discussion boards, forums, or Armenian sites. We must refrain from conflating what is discussed on ‘this’ and ‘that’ website as being representative of broader Armenian opinion, for (most often) they are very incomplete representations of Armenian thought.

    While many Artasahman-Hayer love criticizing Hayastanci Armenians for their “lack of patriotism,” “Soviet mentality,” and “anti-Armenian tendencies,” they conveniently forget that it was the citizens of the Former Soviet Republic of Armenia who successfully defended Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) from further Azeri occupation, and it is the citizens of the ROA who — today — travel the world in search of employment to support their families back in Armenia (thus, providing a vital lifeline to the economy of the ROA). This may seem unrelated to the topic of discussion, but this opinion guides the philosophy of our Diasporan organizations and those who compose its leadership (Harut included). It is necessary that I address this popular point of criticism within the framework of the current discussion.

    Harut, you are a full-time agitator. All you do is cry about this and condemn that. In the real world, people have duties and obligations which consist of more than writing vacuous articles with a false sense of urgency and ‘beating of the drums’ attitude. You overestimate the resources and willingness of Diasporan Armenians and Diasporan Armenian communities. This is odd, however, for — in reality — you are very well aware of our organizational capacities, and the significant constraints we face in almost every aspect of our operations. You must begin carefully qualifying your rhetoric.


    • This is exactly the problem with Armenian assistance efforts – we are too tribal and too localized. We assist our “families” to save them but loose our nation.

      Perfect example of “village” thinking. And villager’s belief in propaganda articles about corruption in Armenia. DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT KIND OF CORRUPTION IS GOING ON IN WASHINGTON?

      Anything that these stupid websites can bring up pales in comparison!

      Yet, we send our tax $$ there every April 15th and do not pay the Armenian tax on April 24th…

    • Voskanap, I agree with you. But donating money to an organization which is then just going to reapportion those funds among various families or individuals represents the same principle — the only difference is that this process is slower and more inefficient.

      If we want to help from the Diaspora, we must improve the conditions in Armenia. The majority of Armenians themselves reject help from the Diaspora. We are a proud people. Who would want to accept shirts from another family, or any other form of used goods? Only those people who desperately need it accept assistance, and they do so to their great displeasure.

      The best help we can offer them is to improve the legal, economic, business, and political conditions of Armenia: a professional police force, a trained and competent civil service, responsive governmental institutions, and a clear and fair legal code governing commercial transactions. These are all necessary ingredients to any formula of success.

      If worst comes to worst, and if Armenia is unable to reform itself internally — from within — the state of Armenia can just serve as a temporary hub for Armenians worldwide, facilitating processes such as humanitarian assistance and population exchange to Disporan communities. Armenia was already the most densely-populated former Soviet republic. It’s only natural it undergoes a process of contraction after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending its extensive and mutually-beneficial economic ties with their constituent republics (like Azerbaijan).

      Today’s geopolitical reality is different, however. Peace with Azerbaijan will not be possible in this generation, or the next. Armenia must protect its borders and maintain the combat-readiness of its armed forces (in addition to those of the Nagorno-Karabakh Repbulic).

  5. In the short run we must come together as one and help eliminate the sufferings in the Armenian communities in Syria. I don’t know what we can do logistically but we can certainly help financially and let our political and community leaders take care of the logistics in alleviating the situation.

    In the long run, however, we must have a change in our mind-set. The Middle East is changing and the Armenian leadership along with the Armenians living there, in Arab countries in particular must make preparations to adapt to the change. Puppet regimes are being toppled and replaced with worse alternatives as far as the Armenians and other Christian communities are concerned. The Armenian government in Armenia and the Diaspora as a whole must unite as one and have contingency plans in place to promptly deal with unexpected situations no matter where such tragedies occur.

    We must be realistic about the fact that many of our well-established communities still live in volatile and troubled regions in the world. We must wake up and stop being so trusting and complacent and work toward being self-reliant given the fact that such destruction and devastation can be brought upon a century old Armenian community by a bunch of mad thugs deliberately or otherwise. One way to do this is to have a militia as a deterrent for situations such as this to protect the community, their assets, lives and livelihoods. Imagine the condition the Lebanese Armenians would have been in had they trusted and relied on the government in charge to protect their neighborhoods in the 1970s civil war there.

    We must be proactive instead of being reactive in dealing with such situations before it gets worse and cause sufferings for our communities.

  6. What I don’t understant is why Turkey is not mentioned more when the situation in Syria is mentioned. I mean up to, but maybe even more, 75 percent of all weapons go through Turkey to reach the terrorists in Syria. It is Turkey that is doing the most in destabelizing Syria to form a sunni alliance. So I am baffaled that Turkey isn’t mentioned more. I even think AW should write a story just on Turkey’s destabalizing role in its neighbour.

  7. A bunch of Azeri Turk terrorist were killed in Syria just in a few days ago. Their pictures with passports indicating that they came through Turkey with visas and stamps are easily available on the web. Before that there were Chechen terrorists caught red handed fighting in Syria.

    Why is it not covered in the news? Why are these terrorists and mercenaries still called “Syrian army” when they are not Syrians?

  8. Turkey provided refuge for Syrian dissidents. Syrian opposition activists convened in Istanbul in May to discuss regime change, and Turkey hosts the head of the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad. Turkey has become increasingly hostile to the Assad government’s policies and has encouraged reconciliation among dissident factions. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to “cultivate a favorable relationship with whatever government would take the place of Assad.” Beginning in May 2012, some Syrian opposition fighters began being armed and trained by Turkey.

    In 2012, the United States, United Kingdom and France provided opposition forces with non-lethal military aid, including communications equipment and medical supplies. The U.K. was also reported to have provided intelligence support from its Cyprus bases, revealing Syrian military movements to Turkish officials, who then pass on the information to the FSA. The CIA was reported to be involved in covert operations along the Turkish-Syrian border, where agents investigated rebel groups, recommending arms providers which groups to give aid to. Agents also helped opposition forces develop supply routes, and provided them with communications training.Furthermore the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) monitors Syrian army movement, eavesdrops on phone calls and radio traffic within Syria from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

    And very sadly this isn’t mentioned at all by Western Media. It is a very scarey thought, if one thinks, what will happen to the region if Essed is outsted and a Suni Syria is formed.

  9. Yes Ararat and Buskov,
    what you have set forth ,as we muest do this we must do that etc., are commendable.Most here on this forum and others keep repeating same.
    Thanks for reminding us what we ahve to do. But as you have indicated these are rhetorics-please do not take it as directed to you -after all you also mentioned that ,and I quote”temper your rhetoric..”.
    You see ,one may know a bit more than the other here as rgds to what is being done to alleviate the pain of our brethren/*sisters in Syria.
    Example,I keep abreast of the news first hand from Armenian T.V. channnels, enter and rad weeklies, magazines on line and actually receive -paper format a couple of Armenian weeklies.
    AGBU donated one million dollars.Other donations have been made through establishments such as ARS*Armenian Relief Spociety, Relief for Armenia, this that and the Gov.t in RA has admittd so far close to 10,000 refugess.
    Kids are placed in schools wherein alongside Armenian Arabidc anmd Western armenian is taught to them .This is just the beginning.ort was rather.Since more than 2 planeloads of Caids by aRF were flown into Aleppo etc.
    As rgds puppet regimes being toppled over and replaced with worse ones,that is ,or was to have been expected. I really ought not to say the following here,but if I don’t now, someone will and that will be afterwards,when our people-Armenians-have suffered much more.
    The belief that we should and *we do, respect and reciprocate our gratitude to some*not all, arab nations is true…
    But hold it there-as Saroyan would have said- Syria,Iraq and a few small pther countries like Lebanon ,Trnajordan did so.We di our best to serve in those countries,[paid our taxes and taught them-forgive me for saying this- quite a few trades as well.In general we have paid in full our debt to them adn wewill always be grateful to them for saving quite a few thousand of our orphans etc.,
    But that does not mean why we do not undertand that those people have the different sects, tribes whatever amongst themselves and frankly they themselves cannot put aside ages old antagonizms amongst themselves and become united,rather cooperate at least-we also lack this a bit BTW-but ours is not to that extent to fight brother against brother …
    Thereofe my argument is to try to pull out from those areas.Actually we ARE BEING SORT OF PRESSED TO LEAVE AND FIND SAFE HAVEN ELSEWHERE.NOW THEN…
    God’s sake I wrote before go build NEW TOWNSHIPS,IF THIS IS NOT AS YET FEASIBLE ,requries big capital * what I advocate A s a -NATIONAL INVSETMENTMTRUST FUND-then small clusters of a whole district buy buildings or build more on a street where Arab Armenians live already.Persian armenians have done that in Yerevan….
    it is a pity that both Diaspora and RA do not TRUMPET WHAT I JUST WROTE, YES THEY SHOULD TRUMPET IT OUT LOUD!!!!!
    I HAVE SAID ENOUGH.EXCEPT THAT by now we must have had some sort of a SUPREME COUNCIL IN DIASPORA.Outline of this also i have given sevral times over here and elsewhere///
    It is not in my incumbency to enter into hypothetic or otherwise REAL POLITIK…but that also is a field that interests me immensely.Reason being that while I lived in Europe for a Qtr century I was acvtive in FRANCE and still have quite a few friends there who carry on but on a smaller scale as the scene is left to those who are much younger and these have come forth with other ideas..
    The Armenian mindset is thus.That is always a NEW one pops up with a new objective,such as the Western Armenian *something.Thank God they dropped the word Parliament-I wrote tham few yrs ago when in forming stages that I would agree to join them but please drop that word Parliament.We are not kurds, we do have A PARLIAMENT IN YEREVAN!!!
    Whatever.Well let me take off for the time being and please forgive me if I have taken your precious time/
    Hope I have made the point that we oiughjt to shift into ARMENIA/ARTSAKH as quickly and as much as possible//////

  10. FOLLOW UP to my above post.Please take these as suggestions.Dump them if not benmeficial for the Nation/State of Armenia-Armenity.
    1.I disclose a sort of a secret thinking that I thought what our present leaders in Diaspora thought(my hypothetic but also partially myself convinced that it was is so).That….we keep the Middle Eastern aRmenian communities ,say syria, Irxaq, Lebanon,Iran ,Trans Jordan for a near future that great Turkey will miraculously change its positionb as to us(yet another well wishing,but empty) and then all those good armenian people from Middle East would repatriate to Western Armenia. True?, I don´t know, but quite near truth.Realizable? indeed!!
    If and this is an important if the powers to be USA,RF and EU somehow changed their lenicency towards great Turkey….
    2. It has not come to pass. Thje middle East(always) a near boiling huge conundrum has errupted and will further start off with other areas being caught on in the Arab Spring ,etc., For there are energy issue there.namely OIL that is so far a very precious material and bought at low prices and /or bought at fake prices(have in mind the Kick backs) that make these prices low and the aarea very attractive for the BIG seven8viz the Oil sister co.s) AND THIS HAS BEEN THERE,I.E. THE RACE FOR TAKING OVER THE WELLS ,READ OIL WELLS AND EXPLOITATION OF SAME FOR LONG..
    None of our business, let great Turkey eat the meat(misu oude ) of the others there.For who cared for us when our meat was being eaten???pray tell me.
    FOURTH No.4 and final. WE do have a somewhat stable Republic of Armenia supported by its- now- well positioned Diaspora.
    If latter is in a slumber, we shall wake it up and put all our resources into supporting R.of armenia and Artsakh.And I dont´ mean by raising for All armenia FUND 21 million dollars, B U T …
    Make important alliances with both IRAN and Gerogia,not heeding what the powers say either Russia or the Wstern alliance..they are all -as above described. it is not seldom that one nation/Sate has partnership with others in tandem with adversaries while also allying itself with the other party.Hoep you understand me and there are plenty of examples for this.
    Hence do please spread out the word that the DIASPORA IS TO WAKE UP!!!! and soon. Soonest possilbe.AS the events in the Middle East are bound to further develop to the worst.Think that way…please and oh one more isseu.
    In order that I may not scolded,indeed we shpould keep enough of our brethren in those Mid eAst countries to take care of OUR CENTURIES OLD ALEPPO AND THE LIKE,Antelias et.d, even these are within the boiling POT area and may be destroyed again and again!!! <SHIFT OVER TO A SMALL BUT WELL PROTECTED AND ARMED ARMENIA.YES WE CAN BUY ALSO VERY SOPHISTICATED MILITARY HARDWARE FROM ANY COUNTRY WITH…BUCKS,CASH.nO SUCH THING AS GREAT tURKEY LETTING US HAVE CENTIMTER OF LAND.
    this is the last aprt.
    our dear B a r association should prepare OUR CLAIM FOR BLOOD MONEY AND LODGE IT WITH THE PERTIENNT INSTANCES.LAND ISSSUE? I believe it goes without saying that it will by and by come to be riped up when the k u r d i s h issue is ready to be on ¨¨their¨¨AGENDA.

  11. Please do reaad my 3 previous posts here ,dated No.5 and 15th.
    in one I believe i did mention that we are LUCKLESS people as to a lady I suded to know*senior,by now probably passed on-hope not-but whatever.
    Now, I wish to convey following most important for our small Homeland,again suggestion format./
    Mr. Manuel Barroso EU Secretary is in Yerevan,Armenia and …Georgian FM.
    I am certain the georgian FM is there*-otherwise seldom do any important Georgian visit neighbpour Armenia- for obtaining a morsel so to speak …
    EUROS 43 ……B i l l i o n….. ..
    I wish our mr. Tigran Sargsyan -premier-would present his PLEA FOR AT LEAST a T E N T H of amount granted GREECE!!!!!
    Armenia badly needs that…
    Whereas, we go after political issues all of us whether in Homeland or Diaspora, few are SMART AS THE G R E E K S to go for Economic Aid.
    Please somehow convey this to authorities in Yerevan right away….
    I don’t have the means to do so and if I write to president or his …I do not think it will reach him.They are busy with RECEPTIONS of Foreign dignitaries form TOGO to Uganda-I wish more from rich countreis-but those are not as important as the ……………E U. Mr. Manvel Barroso is IMPORTANT!

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