Armenians Of Iraq Wish To Return

By Khidhr Domle

Kurdish Globe
May 14 2008

Photo: Arton Khalatian, an Armenian priest, is seen with a number of
his church members. PGLOBRE PHOTO/ Khidir Domle

Fear of religious extremism repels Armenians.

No longer willing to send their daughters to unsafe schools, Armenians,
an ethnic minority in Iraq, fear for their lives once again.

Narsik Gharib can remember Turkey’s Armenian massacre, and he seemed
anxious about rampant religious extremism and the staging of military
operations by Turkey in Kurdistan Region.

According to his point of view, the latest Turkish border operations
were for the purpose of misleading the international community toward
forgetting the Armenian genocide.

"The report by Congress about Turkey’s Armenian genocide was the main
cause behind bombing Kurdistan Region borders by Turkish forces," said
Gharib, the head of Avzruka Miri Village, close to Tigris River and 40
km west of Duhok city. "Our life is still in jeopardy because ethnic
minorities are in danger in Iraq and there is religious extremism,"
he added.

"Our situation is good here, but some families can’t earn their living
easily and some have left their homes in Baghdad. But the KRG did
donate a number of houses to some families," said Gharib while in
the St. Fartan Church of Armenian Orthodoxies.

More than 100 Armenian families live in the district. They all
lived here before the 1980s, and then migrated to Baghdad and other
cities. They returned after 1991 and 2003.

Saint Arton Khalatian has worked in Baghdad for more than 10 years;
he is now in Avzruka Miri and wishes to return to Turkey.

"We hope we will be back in our land, but Turkey neither recognizes
Armenians nor allows us to speak our mother language," said Khalatian.

He added: "Armenians as an ethnic minority are in danger and most of
them are being outcast; they left Baghdad and headed to Syria, Jordan,
and Europe, and others to Armenia. More than 20,000 Armenians were
living in Baghdad before 2003. Most of them have left Iraq, fleeing
the cities of Basra, Kirkuk, and Mosul. About 1,000 Armenians remain
in Zakho city and 1,000 in Duhok city."

Armenians faced mass killing by Turkey in 1915. They are well aware
of the unsafe situation that face them in Baghdad. "We don’t feel our
situation here is stable and we are also afraid to send our daughters
to school," said Foria Kifork. "When the Armenian Church was subjected
to terrorist activities, we thought about leaving Baghdad.

"There are few facilities for us. For example, we want to keep our
language, but our children are studying in Kurdish and Arabic and
only one hour in Armenian. It used to be that our kids studied in
Armenian," added Kifork. The government here doesn’t treat them badly,
she clarified, but the spread of religious extremism frightens them.

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