Xinhua – 24/4/13
While marking the 98th anniversary of the Armenians’ Martyrs Day, Scores of Christian Armenians participated in the prayers ceremony that was held Wednesday in the Syrian capital of Damascus to stress their deeply- rooted affiliation to Syria.
“The Christians are the sons of this country and our duty is to encourage dialogue and promote the coexistence between the sons of Syria and we carry such responsibilities over our shoulders,” Armash Nalbandian, primate of the Armenian Church of Damascus, told Xinhua at the Armenian Church in the old quarter of the capital Damascus.
“We are also keen to stay here and also to remember our martyrs across Syria,” Nalbandian said.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire arrested more than 600 Armenian intellectuals, poets, diplomats and leading figures in Istanbul and slaughtered them due to growing unrest at that time.
The Armenians have been pushing for Turkey to acknowledge the genocide, however, Turkish officials acknowledged the death of large numbers of Armenians but said the overall death toll was exaggerated and that the deaths occurred in the civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Currently, around 100,000 Armenians live mostly in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo and about 7,000 others live in Damascus.
After two-years of deadly conflict in Syria, a small portion of Armenians have chosen to go back to Armenia due to the deteriorating situation in the war-torn country. “About 6,000 Armenians went back to Armenia last year and are waiting for the situation in Syria to clam down and they are determined to come back because Syria for is a home country the Armenians and they are Syrians of an Armenian origins,” Arshak poladian, the Armenian ambassador to Syria, told Xinhua during the ceremony Wednesday.
Vartan Kogahitan, a participant told Xinhua that “every year in this time, the Armenians and other Christian factions join us in a prayer for the peace of the martyrs. I would love to go to Armenia, but here is my country and Armenia comes next.”
The small-scale return of Armenians to their original country has also come as Syria has engulfed into a sectarian violence with reports of targeting Christians and Churches as well as other minority groups in Syria by radical groups.
On Monday, two bishops were abducted while traveling outside Aleppo city when gunmen cut off their car, killing their driver and snatching them to unknown location.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday submit a complaint to the UN Security Council about the kidnapping and accused an armed group affiliated with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front of being behind the abduction.
The ministry underscored that Syria is determined to confront the organized Takfiri terrorism “which targets its national unity and the cohesion of its society which is culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse,” adding that this diversity has been a characteristic of Syria for hundreds of years and represents a model of coexistence in the region.
The kidnapping has also raised the ire of Christian communities nationwide amid conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the two priests.
Syria’s Christians, who pose 10 percent out of Syria’s Sunni- majority populations, still showing unwavering support to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad after more than two-year of deadly conflict.
Observers believe that the Christians’ backing to Assad emanates from fear that a regime change could deprive them of the veneer of protection Assad has long ensured for them.
Damascus still contains a sizeable proportion of Christians, with churches existing in various areas of the city, mainly in the district of Bab Touma.