Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Armenians in Syria and Lebanon: Displaced again

[Originally posted at The Economist]

GREY circles around bloodshot eyes accentuate the deep grooves of a face that has seen decades of labour in the sun. It is clear that Hagop, a farmer, has had little rest in the fortnight since he fled his home in northern Syria. “We’re all still dizzy,” he says, looking around his new refuge, a single-storey house in the eastern Lebanese-Armenian town of Anjar, in the agricultural plains three kilometres from the Syrian border.

Hagop (a pseudonym, as he would only speak on condition of anonymity, fearing for relatives still in Syria) arrived ten days ago from Kassab, an Armenian town on the Syrian-Turkish border. The resort town was captured by Syrian rebels, including al-Qaeda-linked groups, on March 21st, sparking now-discredited allegations of a massacre of the Christian Armenian population.

In yet another example of a propaganda war being waged alongside the conventional one, Syrian and their allied Russian officials backed the claims. An online “Save Kassab” campaign won celebrity endorsement from the likes of Armenian-American reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Schools and shops in Beirut’s Armenian neighbourhoods closed to mark the “tragedy”.

Yet Hagop looked bewildered when asked if he had heard of such a massacre. He says no one was killed—a statement repeated by Anjar’s mayor, Sarkis Pamboukian.

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