By Alexis Herr
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has issued a press release condemning the destruction of the Saint Martyrs Armenian Church in Deir el-Zor, Syria by The Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The Church was dedicated to the memory of some 1 million Christian Armenians murdered by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. The destruction of the Church memorial demonstrates how deeply the ongoing conflict in Syria is impacting Syrian culture, history, and life (for an overview of the conflict, click here). Among those caught up in the escalating war are the descendants Armenian Genocide survivors. The destruction of their adopted homeland in Syria means that once again, violence has forced Armenians from their homes and jeopardized their history, community, and security.
Many Armenians who survived the genocide landed in Syria. Indeed, much of our historical knowledge comes from the refugees who crossed into Syria and recovered in refugee camps. When violence broke out in Syria nearly a century later, Armenians who had resettled in Syria were once again forced to flee. Gianmarco Maraviglia, a photojournalist for Echo Agency, has chronicled the exodus of Syrian Armenians who have fled their homes and sought out new ones in Armenia. Entitled “Land of Fathers,” the photo exhibit captures the challenges facing Armenian Syrian resettlement.
The ruins of the Saint Martyrs Armenian Church serve as a poignant example of the cost of the ongoing violence in Syria. The memorial, which also housed the remains of some of the Armenian victims of that genocide, is yet another victim of war. The Armenian Weekly describes the significance of the memorial as “the Auschwitz [memorial] of the Armenian Genocide.” This event highlights another aspect of the civil war in Syria, the destruction of a people and their history.