Difference of Opinion: Experts divided in assessments of Yerevan’s help to Armenians in Syria

The opinions of political analysts over Yerevan’s providing assistance to ethnic Armenians in Syria differ.

Hayk Kocharyan, an expert in Arabic studies, told media that Armenia does not take appropriate measures to lend a helping hand to Syrian Armenians.

“The question is not exactly Syrian Armenians, but Armenia’s approach to the Diaspora in general. It doesn’t have a particular strategy carried out with its communities. Today the Syrian-Armenian community is in trouble; tomorrow ethnic Armenians may have similar problems in another country. They should clearly know what to expect from their homeland when they are in difficult situations,” said Kocharyan.

Sargis Grigoryan, another expert in Arabic studies, disagreed with his colleague.

“The thing is that we have an Armenian community, which lives in the zone of military operations. To carry out programs of security and transfer, there should be a period of relative tranquility in the region, the lack of which does not give the Armenian side an opportunity to carry out particular actions,” he said.

More than 10,000 Syrian Armenians have found shelter in Armenia since 2011 when a civil war broke out in Syria. An Islamic state was formed in the war in 2013, which is an Islamist militant group operating in the territories of Iraq and Syria. At the moment the Syrian war between different factions, including the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the official government of Syria continues.

According to political analysts, ISIS is a threat to the Middle East, but also to Central Asia, where three (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) out of five countries have allied relations with Armenia as part of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, and in that way the ISIS presence in the region may have an indirect influence on Armenia as well.

“ISIS has declared Central Asia to be one of its vilayets, which means that it is going to actively operate there too, especially that its rival Al-Qaeda terrorist group already has training bases in the territories whose capture is part of ISIS’s plans,” the expert says.