From The Homeland Jordan to Much Yearned for Motherland Armenia

The Armenians commemorating the Armenian Genocide Centennial in 2015 followed with Jordanians celebrating the Great Arab Revolt Centennial in 2016. This was not a mere coincidence, given the historical developments that strongly bind the two events.

As a Jordanian scholar of Armenian origin, I was recently engaged in carrying out a study on the Armenian community in Jordan, between integration in the hostland/homeland Jordan and connectivity with the motherland Armenia. The study involved interviews with senior Jordanian scholars and practitioners. The paper was presented during a conference on Armenians in Jordan organized by the Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University, sponsored by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

King Hussein of Jordan with Armenian Girl Scouts in 1957.
King Hussein of Jordan with Armenian Girl Scouts in 1957.

The Armenian Diaspora in Jordan did achieve a unique balancing act between their two identities. They remained loyal Jordanian citizens throughout the different stages in Jordan’s history and preserved connectivity with their Motherland Armenia, and exhibited sacred attachment to Armenian national issues—especially keeping alive the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire.

Several factors contributed in the successful integration of the Armenians in Jordan, starting with two key factors: joint case—if not shared suffering—and religion. These were best manifested in the statements of a senior member of the judiciary authority and three renowned Jordanian scholars Dr. Issa Dabbah, Dr. Mohammad Masalha, and Dr. Amer Sabaileh, who respectively stated the following:

  • “The people were rejecting the Ottomans, a common case between the indigenous people of Jordan and the Armenians. Just remember the massacre in Karak by the Ottomans.” (President of a Jordanian Court).
  • “The joint injustice suffered by the Armenians and the local people of Jordan who suffered persecution on the hands of the Ottomans contributed in this integration on behalf of the local people.” (Prof. Issa Dabbah).
  • “Religion played a role in the openness to local culture and integration of the Armenians in the local society. Armenians came to Jordan with their high level of culture and skills and professions needed by a political entity in a state of evolution.” (Prof. Mohammad Masalha).
  • “The Armenians have Christian identity. They have the skills to integrate. The environment was in favor to receive the Armenians, joint injustice, Habet al Karak (al Karak uprising) in 1887.” (Dr. Amer Sabaileh).

The candid elaboration of an economist/historian, an experienced educator, and the Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan must be added to the above statements:

  • “There was compassion between the people of Karak and the Armenians. The people of Karak rebelled against the Turks known as Habet al Karak. Armenians and Karakis are brothers in resisting the Turks.” (Dr. Raouf Abu Jaber).
  • “The Jordanian Constitution, that secured the rights of the minorities, assisted in the integration of the Armenians in Jordan, also the welcoming nature of the Jordanian people. Jordanian history never witnessed any incidents or confrontation between the Armenian Jordanians and Jordanians at large.” (Dr. Haidar Hijazin).
  • “Combination of factors facilitated Armenian integration in Jordan: The absence of local animosity milieu, the historical stage of the state, the size of the Armenians was not threatening. Also how they conducted themselves; respecting the local society, their professionalism, their values of honesty, their credibility, not imposing themselves. They were peaceful and did not create nor instigate conflicts.” (Dr. Musa Shteiwi) .

And below are the statements of two senior Jordanian public servants and a veteran Jordanian historian on the Armenian Diaspora”

  • “Jordanians have been always compassionate throughout decades, receiving many refugees. Armenians and Jordanians built the state together.” (Mr. Aqel Biltaji, Mayor of the Greater Amman Municipality).
  • “Armenians’ dedication to their work of precision prevents their getting involved in problems. The upbringing of the Armenian youth promotes coexistence and accepting the other.” (Mr. Fadel Al Hmoud, Secretary General of the National Council for Family Affairs).
  • “The title of the Armenians is ‘Perfectionism.Armenians are business-oriented—they like to live and not to destroy.” (Prof. Adnan al Bakhit).

All these factors were crowned with the Decree issued in 1917 by Sharif Al-Husayn for the protection of the Armenians.

The integration of the Armenian Diaspora in Jordan represents a model of successful integration enhanced by local factors and intrinsic attributes of the Armenian Diaspora and identity—foremost, the Christian values embedded in the Armenian culture.

The process of Armenian integration in the host land/homeland Jordan and connectivity with the motherland Armenia were affected by local, regional, and international factors, including the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars and ending with the so called “The Arab Spring” and the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh) and the persecution of the Christians in the Middle East, which brought back the painful memories of Armenian persecution at the beginning of the 20th century. These developments triggered the balance one way or another.

Prior to the independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union in 1991, Jordanian Armenians opted to travel to the United States and Australia. However, recent developments in the region left a mild impact on Jordan. Under the wise leadership of King Abdullah II and amid the peace loving Jordanian people, Jordan secured its stability and the safety of its people including Jordanian Armenians. Hence, Jordanian Armenians did not leave their homeland Jordan. However, they escalated the process of obtaining Armenian nationality and consolidating their bridges with the motherland Armenia, including the author of this article and her family members. This development was much affected by the revolution in information technology, which surely brought Armenia closer to Armenia Diaspora worldwide.

My unexpected and unplanned departure to the yearned for motherland was colored with far and recent memories. The memories of Armenian women in the Armenian neighborhood Ashrafiah in Amman staying late at night working as co-bread earners of Jordanian Armenian families; my grandparents and parents attending to the needs of the Catholic Armenian School and Church in the same neighborhood, and also to the needs of every Armenian seeking the help of my father Manuel in his capacity as the elected Mayor of the Catholic Armenian Community (de jure) and all the Jordanian Armenians (de facto).

Despite disappointments with both the homeland Jordan, where the rights of the so called minorities warrant further enhancement, and with the motherland Armenia whose officials do not consider the elites among Jordanian Armenians to represent and promote Armenia’s interests in Jordan, I left for Armenia with determination to enrich my knowledge of and rapprochement with Armenia—to build solid bridges between Jordan and my Armenia.

I experienced Armenian grandeur upon my arrival at Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan, where the splendid reception by the staff and the highly professional speedy performance of the passport authorities complemented by the shiny clean environment was indeed a positive start of my stay in Armenia.

As a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, the first site I yearned to visit was the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum complex, which keeps the past alive makes our martyrs proud of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who preserve the memory of the martyrs alive and seek justice. The spirit and the history of Armenia were strongly felt in the streets and every corner of Yerevan, where the affection and loyalty of its people to their city is evident through the works of art enriching every corner of Yerevan and the dignified conducts of its people, who are keen to keep their beautiful city clean and elegant.

One can easily detect an encounter between history and modernity with the accessibility to different aspects of international communication, notably with the internet that makes Armenia globally connected. What touched my mind and heart the most, was the attention given to the most vulnerable segments of the Armenian society, which were the children and people with disability. Through accessibility facilities in Yerevan and dedicating spaces as play-grounds for children, Armenia had placed a special focus on these groups of people.  I experienced a taste of the beauty of Armenian nature and ancient Armenian craft when I visited the churches of Lake Sevan and the summit of Dilijan through the mountainous forests.

To put all of these experiences during a short visit of six days to Motherland Armenia in a nutshell, the brief visit enhanced my pride in Armenia and determination to strengthen links with and to promote the interests of Armenia and between Jordan and Armenia on different levels. Returning in the very near future with other members of the family to Armenia is absolutely necessary.

Yes, in the 2789-year-old city of Yerevan, Jordanians and Armenians together will commemorate anew the Armenian Genocide and simultaneously celebrate the Great Arab Revolt with Armenia honoring Jordan and its people for providing a safe haven for Armenians fleeing the genocide.

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Madeleine Mezagopian

Madeleine M. R. Mezagopian is a published author and the holder of the Swedish Royal Medal of the North Star (Kungliga Nordstjärnemedaljen) and the Shield of the University of Jordan. She is a researcher, adviser and analyst and has served as the Executive Director at Al Arab Al Yawm (English) newspaper. Mezagopian is also a member of the General Assembly of Al-Hussein Society–Jordan Centre for Training and Inclusion.

4 Comments

  1. The Sharif’s decree to protect the Armenians is in Jordan’s National Library. Sharif Hussein bin Ali (as mentioned in this article) and his sons Faisal & Abdullah, helped save thousands of Armenian Genocide survivors scattered throughout the Syrian Desert. This story is featured in our new documentary “Crows of the Desert – A Hero’s Journey through the Armenian Genocide.” Based on the Memoirs edited by Levon Parian. Executive Producer Paul G. Turpanjian, Producer, Writer, Director Marta Houske. http://www.CrowsOfTheDesert.com

  2. This important salient article of an Armenian intellectual represent a profound timely and lively display of genuine sentiments as experienced along the long jouney of integration and statehood that needs to be told and advocated as a cherished much valued experience recalling the painful past but taking stocks to going beyond that to the future of looking how Jordan and Jordanians welcomed Armenians and opened the door widely for them and many others to participate in the long process of national integration and the hard cherished work to boost and enrich JORDAN as a sound State in a turbulent region across critical times and during good rewarding times as well. A real-politic in-depth humanitarian perspective with appreciated qualitative research much needed enduring insight.

  3. I am a proud Jordanian Armenian very thankful for the Jordanian people, who out of the whole arab world, welcomed us and treated all armenians with dignity todate, one must be thankful for the royal family, born in Amman,educated in Amman, much respected by my fellow friends the pure jordanians, the genuine arabs, be it christians or moslems love them all.

  4. Congratulations, fantastic report, I was present when that historical cover photo was taken, I am Jordanian Armenian living in Sydney Australia for the last 56 years, but I still call Jordan home.

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