The history of the Arameans (Syriacs) is an ancient and to a large extent also tragic one. Thousands of years that far too many know far too little about, and a writing of history where we as a group without its own country have to fight against history-revising states’ attempts to change the perception of the past. Part of our long history, which as of today is fitting to inform of, is our long and strong ties to the Armenian people.
From far back in history until today, we have lived side by side with each other. Our peoples share spiritual beliefs and recognize themselves in each other’s cultures and it has been common for Armenians and Arameans to marry each other and thus approach each in kinship. This is very obvious in the diaspora as the vast majority the Aramean associations and churches in the country have members with Armenian roots. Since we are more numerous in number and Armenian equivalents are not present in all cities, it has always been obvious for them to turn to us. I have never heard anyone mention that we in our organizations would look at them as anything other than part of our community.
There is however another particular thing that we share and that intertwines our ties and that has led us to be so close to each other:
Living side by side with each other does not only mean that we experienced oppression together. The Armenian genocide is also the Aramean genocide. The disgusting ideology behind the kidnapping and murder of Arameans in Syria affected Armenians in the same country. That we understand each other’s Easter celebrations and church liturgy is one thing, but understanding how it feels to survive the same genocide is obviously of a completely different dignity.
I will not in try to explain the background to the conflict over Artsakh in more detail as it has already been well explained from lots of sources. Instead, I would like to express my solidarity with the people of Armenia and Artsakh, who should have the right to self-determination about their future. Above all, I want to use my voice to explain why we can’t afford to not stand up for them.
The mobilization that Turkey has showed along with Azerbaijan is frightening on many levels. Emmanuel Macron himself demanded that Turkey answer why they had driven 300 Islamists into the conflict zone from Syria. Azerbaijan, which has access to its modern drones and sophisticated war machines, is shelling the civilian population in the area they want to “liberate” with cluster bombs. On the one hand, it is a symbolic policy for the dictators Erdogan and Aliyev to show their supporters that they are taking a hard line against the designated enemy of the nation and Islam, and that the risk of the situation developing into a proxy war is imminent if we see a continued escalation.
The Islamist rhetoric and the way Erdogan has previously talked about “finishing what their ancestors started” regarding the relationship with Armenia takes us back to the genocide of 1915. The big difference between us and the Armenians is that today they have their Armenia, while we do not have our Aram.
This has also affected the relationship between Aramean civil society and representatives of the Armenian state, who have not always shown us the solidarity we’ve wanted. As the previous main representative of the UN in Geneva for the World Council of Arameans, I have experienced this myself as they never had an interest in cooperation or to use their much stronger voice in this context for our cause. With that said, these diplomats have since been replaced after the peaceful revolution of 2018 and they have, in my eyes, never represented any Armenian I know.
The fact that Armenia finally seemed to be on the right track with their democracy was perhaps the last straw that broke the camels back in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Because every step in the right direction when it comes to democracy, education and prosperity is the greatest threat to them in ever seeing Artsakh becoming a part of Azerbaijan again.
A genocide denying state like Turkey should not be allowed to get away with its shared offensive under the Azerbaijani flag. That is why it is important that we, like every Armenian in the world, make our voice heard. Share on social media, talk to your co-workers and make everyone around you understand that the background to what is happening in Artsakh is not just about an old Soviet Oblast, but that part of the rhetoric is actually about continuation of a genocide with nationalist and Islamist motives.
Get personal and explain to them that we were also victims of that genocide 105 years ago and ask them if they would have stood up for you if they knew you were among them? If, after reading this, you still feel that you don’t want to stand up for the right thing, I have one last tough challenge for you:
Look yourself in the mirror.