17 February 2005

The Iraqi Armenians in the post-war era

We received the following article written by Ara S. Ashjian of Baghdad, Iraq and would like to share the information with our readers:

Due to the war on Iraq in March-April 2003, the Armenian community in Iraq, fortunately, had little casualties. Few Armenians lost their lives during military operations, and a number of houses belonging to Armenians were damaged.

In the aftermath of the war, the Armenian Club and the priest residence at the northern city of Kirkuk, and the Armenian Club at the southern city of Basra had been looted by the mob.

Armenians worldwide took role in aiding their brothers and sisters in Iraq. For instance, a relief committee was established in California, USA, which donated monetary assistance to aid Armenian families who were facing distressing circumstances due to the war and to rebuild damaged residences.

The Catholicos of All Armenians H.H. Karekin II issued an appeal to all Armenian dioceses worldwide to aid Iraqi Armenians. Consequently, the Community received from the Holy See of Echmiadzin all the donations of the Armenian churches worldwide. Donations were also made by the Karaghozian and other Armenian Relief Foundations, and the Armenians Aid Fund, USA; the Committee to relief the Iraqi Armenians in the UK; and the Armenian community in Germany.

Efforts to uphold the educational and the religious rights:

The Primate of the diocese H.E. Archbishop Avak Asadourian and the community officials exerted considerable effort in the post-war era to uphold the educational and the religious rights of the Iraqi Armenians, in order that the forthcoming constitution will take into consideration the Armenians' as well as other Iraqi minorities' rights.

The establishment of the Armenian National School of Baghdad was one of the priorities. The Diocese formed a committee to achieve the aim of reopening the National School that was nationalized 30 years ago.

The Primate had many contacts with the officials of the former Iraqi Governing Council and the Ministry of Education to achieve this goal. As a result of these efforts, and for the first time in the history of Iraq, the right to teach Armenian along with other languages in Iraq was stated in the country's transitional constitution.

It is noteworthy to observe that the Primate and the officials of the Community had also made efforts to recover the building of an Armenian secondary school in Baghdad, which was impounded by the previous regime.

It is our hope that this building, which needs large amount of funds for total renovation because it was burned and looted, will soon open its doors as a secondary school.

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