Armenian community in Rojava calls for an end to Nagorno-Karabakh siege

The Armenian community in Rojava has called on the West to act against the siege of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since mid-December, the population there has been cut off from the outside world due to an Azerbaijani blockade.

The Armenian community in the autonomous region of North and East Syria has called on the international community to act against the siege of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). The Azerbaijani blockade of the region is threatening a humanitarian catastrophe there, the Armenian Society Council and the Women’s Council of Armenians in Rojava said at a rally in front of the UN mission in Qamishlo, adding that immediate action is long overdue. “The world must not allow another genocide against our people. Act humanely and with values in mind, and work for the release of the lifeline of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

The lifeline refers to the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Since mid-December, Azerbaijan has blocked this artery. 120,000 people, including 30,000 children, have been cut off from the rest of the world and thus from any supply. Previously, Armenia delivered 400 tons of food to the region every day. But under the blockade, both the import of food and medicine and the transport, for example, of sick people out of Nagorno-Karabakh are impossible.

“This policy of starvation and siege with the aim of a complete occupation of Armenian Karabakh has already claimed its first fatalities,” said a joint statement by Armenian associations read out by Kohar Khaja Dorian for the Women’s Council and Imad Tatrian for the Societies Council. They said the blockade was in violation of international and humanitarian law and should be dealt with accordingly by the international community. “Over a hundred thousand people are trying to survive in precarious conditions in the middle of winter, without food, medical care or electricity. Geopolitical and geostrategic interests of the West must not lead to soft-pedalling on human rights.”

The Lachin corridor has been secured by Russian peacekeepers under a treaty since the supposed end of the Azerbaijani-Turkish war of aggression on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Nevertheless, on 12 December, alleged “eco-activists” from Azerbaijan set up a roadblock there with the aim of stopping “illegal mining”. The aim was to demonstrate against the “exploitation of Azerbaijan’s gold and copper deposits by Armenia”, they said. The Armenian side, on the other hand, speaks of a state-coordinated action. Accordingly, the alleged eco-activists are members of the military and the secret service, and the fairy tale of environmental protection is only a pretext for a new invasion. Azerbaijan, they say, has never cared about environmental issues, and there is no such thing as a civil society in this authoritarian country.

Earlier this week, Armenia appealed to the International Court of Justice over the Nagorno-Karabakh siege to impose emergency measures against Azerbaijan and oblige it to lift the blockade. The government in Baku denies blocking the Lachin corridor to cut off supplies to the population. It accuses Armenia of transporting weapons and mines through the road, in violation of the terms of the ceasefire. A ruling by the UN court is expected in a few weeks.

An interview with the Armenian Social Council in Qamishlo

What is your name? What is your job and the work of the Armenian Council?

Kohar Khajadourian (co-chair of the Armenian Social Council in Qamishlo): We have been working for seven years for this council. After 3 years the General Council was formed in Heseke, and it was recognized by the Autonomous Administration. On this basis, branches were opened in Qamishlo and Deir ez-Zor, and one will soon be opened in Raqqa.

In general, our work focuses on the social, cultural, and historical issues, such as the history of the displacement of Armenians in the past. When the Armenians came to Syria, Kurdish and Arab people treated and accepted us very well. Now we are working with the Armenian diaspora to learn our roots, history, language, and culture: this is the main work of the Council. 

What are your political orientations?

We do not have any political orientation, as I said, our orientations are cultural and social. We are not against anyone, neither regime nor others. We align with all peoples and support the fraternity of peoples. We work for the good of all peoples and also the good of the Armenian people.

There was a conference of Armenian women, what was the purpose of this conference and what is its effect?

That was the first conference of the Armenian Women’s Union. The main objective of this union was to support women to obtain their rights, and to rid them of male domination and outdated customs and traditions in society. The Armenian woman is like any woman in society. There is no difference, she faces a lot of pressure, and we help her to be stronger. We provide women with job opportunities so that they can become more economically self-reliant.

The Armenian Social Council and the Women’s Committee organized this conference. The council is composed of committees, such as the Women’s Committee, the Culture Committee, the Education and Training Committee, the Culture and Art Committee, the Youth Committee, the Finance and Statistics Committee, and we are also working on the census of the Armenian diaspora.

What are the problems facing Armenian women?

This conference was for the Armenian women who were under oppression and tyranny. Among the problems facing Armenian women today are the marriage of minors, deprivation of education, choosing a life partner as well as physical violence, psychological violence, and polygamy.

As we know at this stage there is work on the social contract. What is the role of the Armenians in the social contract?

Before the advent of the Autonomous Administration the Armenian people were not acknowledged, we were known as Assyrians. After that, we as the Armenian people saw that we also have the right to be part of this development. Certainly, we will have a great role in the social contract; we will demand our rights and the rights of language and culture. We must have a role, so decisions are taken as a whole people. 

On the Armenian Independence Day, are there relations between you and Armenia at the political, social and cultural levels?

Before the revolution, the Armenian people were a neutral side. As I said, we are part of this homeland but in the past the Armenian people did not join any parties, for example the Baath Party, nor in other politics.

Armenian schools were named in Armenian language, but after the advent of the Baath regime, the names of the schools were changed to Arabic. After the establishment of the Armenian Council here, people began to get involved, and many Armenians took their sides within the military forces, in addition to their involvement in the ranks of the military forces within the Autonomous Administration. We have a military column for Armenian women too.

The number of Armenians in northeastern Syria was approximately about three thousand families before 2011, from Deir Ezzor to the city of Derik, but it is now around 400 families. There are many Armenians who say that their homeland is Armenia, but do not go to Armenia because of the bad economic situation.

We hear about the existence of peace between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia. What is the council’s opinion on this issue?

We do not expect that there will be peace between us and Turkey, especially from the Turkish side, because of their practices towards us. Turkey cannot be trusted, and the choice for peace is theirs to make. They are a brutal and strong state with injustice, and Armenia does not have the necessary strength to recover its lands, but if Russia is honest and considers Armenia a part of it in all respects, then the project of Turkey will fail.

What are the council’s goals for the next 10 years?

The goal of the Armenian Council is to help the Armenian people live a good life, as much as possible, and to have a presence like any other people in all aspects, whether military or cultural. I expect that the next ten years will be better if all minorities and all sects obtain their rights; then the situation can improve on all levels.

Armenian Social Council revives Armenian heritage in northeast Syria (NPA)

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – The Armenian Social Council is working on conducting a census of the number of Armenians in northeastern Syria and reviving the Armenian language, Areef Qasabian, head of the Armenian Social Council, said on Wednesday.  

“We have been conducting a census for the Armenians who came to Syria in 1915 following the massacres committed against them by the Ottoman state,” she told North Press.

Armenians in AANES-held areas  

“As the Armenian community, we were not recognized within the Autonomous Administration, while those who were known; that is, within the Syrian state under the regime, were not recognized, they were known only within the church,” Qasabian added.

There were 25-50 families that were recognized in this way, according to Qasabian.  

She pointed out that when the council was established, they started to conduct assessments where hundreds of families were recognized.  

Mother language

Among the activities carried out by the Council, is teaching the mother tongue, which is practiced within the Council itself.

“We have teachers specialized in the field of teaching the Armenian language, and students of all ages,” Qasabian told North Press.  

“There is a big response from the Armenian families, whose ancestors mixed with Arabs, Kurds, and Yezidis,” she added. 

“Through the council, we revive the Armenian race,” Berberyan noted.  

Turkish massacres against Armenians

Head of the Armenian Social Council indicated that the Armenian people have suffered a lot from the massacres committed against them by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, as well as during the war in Karabakh, Afrin and Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain).

The massacres were not just against the Armenians, they happened to all communities, she noted.

On April 24, 2020, the Armenian Social Council was established in the city of Hasakah, and on April 24, 2019, a military council by the name Nubar Ozanyan, was established.

Reporting by Dilbreen Moosa

North Press Agency – 2021-03-31