05 August 2004

Exodus of Armenians from Iraq

Associated Press journalist Salim Abraham reports on August 3, 2004, that Iraqi Christians are slowly fleeing to Syria, due to pressures exercised by Muslim extremists (the wave of the immigrants is going to increase after the bombings of the five Churches in Iraq on 1/8/2004). This exodus is taking place in small but steady numbers.

Christians number about 750,000 people among Iraq's total population of about 25 million. This number includes some 20 thousand Armenians, who live in different parts of Iraq, mainly in the capital Baghdad.

According to the report, scores of Iraqi Christian families move to Syria and Jordan every day. It is estimated that there are now 10,000 Iraqi Christians in Syria (the majority of them has arrived after the Iraqi war began in March 2003). Syria and Jordan are considered by many of them as a transit point to other countries.

Many of these people apply for a visa to Canada, Australia and other Western countries. Iraqi Armenians may hope to settle down in Armenia, but only those who have some savings and are willing to wait as long as it is required to obtain Armenian citizenship make their way to Yerevan.

Present day Armenia is unfortunately not in a position to assist misfortunate Diasporans of the Middle East. Aid in the dictionary of the modern Armenian State is generally perceived to be channeled from Diaspora to Armenia and not in the other direction. Even granting citizenship to destitude immigrants could prove to be an arduous task for Armenian officials. Thousands of Armenian immigrants who escaped Azerbaijan some 15 years ago are still stateless, living in poverty-stricken slums in Armenia, while their relatives who chose to immigrate to Russia enjoy full citizenship there. AZAD-HYE

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