On May 27, a follow-up meeting took place in Berdzor to discuss how support could be provided to help the growing Syrian-Armenian community with their integration into Karabakhi society,organized by the Artsakh Youth Development Center with the support of the NKR Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs.
In addition to representatives from the Syrian-Armenian families, the meeting was attended by Davit Ghukasyan, Head of Youth Affairs in the NKR Government, Harut Avanesyan, representing the Kashatagh region Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs, and 15 people from the Artsakh Youth Development Center (AYDC) based in Stepanakert. Armine Vardanyan from AYDC joined the Government representatives on the stage during the Question and Answer session.
Although Berdzor ( previously called Lachin) is on the main road from Goris ( in Armenia) to Stepanakert it is still about one hour’s drive from Stepanakert and is remote from those facilities and opportunities.
For a number of the Syrian-Armenian people who have fled their original homeland the main issue is the language which is a major hurdle towards full and meaningful integration. Some can speak Armenian ( which will be Western Armenian – not Eastern Armenian spoken in the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh), however there will also still be some major differences with the Karabakhi dialect. From a teaching perspective there is the full range of ages from young to old who need tuition which means that there will need to be a number of options on teaching styles. During these early stages the Syrian-Armenians do have access to a number of interpreters however there are not enough to help everyone on all occasions.
The main obstacle at the moment is finance, in order to provide books and computers, as well as all of the necessary teaching and interpreting staff. There are also limited internet connections in Berdzor which curtails the use of computer-based teaching methods, as well as access to social media, and the integration and learning benefits that that offers. There are many resources available in Stepanakert which, in some cases, would be free to the user, however access to Stepanakert is not straightforward and does not really provide a routine practical alternative.
The Syrian-Armenians were deeply committed to understanding all of the aspects of the local culture ( a modest Culture Centre has been established in the village) and were passionate about identifying the problems that they were facing to help with their integration . The representatives from the Government, as well as those from AYDC and the Federation of Youth Clubs of Armenia, were also very keen to offer support in whatever way they could. The next stage that was recommended to the people representing the community in Berdzor was to work out the plan of what would be required, and the costs, such that it could be provided to the Government authorities with some genuine hope that this could be supported.
From a distance, it can be easy to think that the re-settlement of people from a common ethnicity is a simple process, but for the Armenians this is never straightforward because of the complications of history. The most refreshing part of this occasion was that people, whose only connection is a shared-history based on their ancient lineage, had an innate desire to support their fellow Armenians who, once again, had felt compelled to leave their place of residence due to conflict.
Whether they have moved to a safe homeland, only time will tell; I hope, for their sake, that they have found peace.
Many Thanks to Lusine Hambardzumyan of Artsakh Youth Development Center (AYDC) for being my interpreter during the whole event.
Categories: Life and People Artsakh