|Regions with significant populations|
|Cities: Aleppo, Qamishli, Damascus, Latakia, Al Hasakah, Tell Abyad, Raqqa and Deir ez Zor|
Villages: Kessab and Yakubiyah
|Armenian, Arabic, English|
|Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Evangelical|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Armenian, Hamshenis, Cherkesogai groups|
Syria and the surrounding areas have often served as a refuge for Armenians who fled from wars and persecutions such as the Armenian Genocide. However, there has been an Armenian presence in the region since the Byzantine era.
According to the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, the estimated number of Armenians in Syria is 100,000, with more than 60,000 of them centralized in Aleppo. With other estimates by Armenian foundations in Syria putting the number around 70-80,000. However, since the start of the conflict, 16,623 Syrian citizens of ethnic Armenian background have arrived in Armenia. Of these displaced persons, 13,000 remained and found protection in Armenia as of July 2015. The government is offering several protection options including simplified naturalization by Armenian descent (15,000 persons acquired Armenian citizenship), accelerated asylum procedures and facilitated short, mid and long-term residence permits.
According to Hranush Hakobyan only 15,000 Armenians are left in Syria and the rest have been settled in Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh, with another 8,000 having left for Lebanon, and others going to destinations including Europe, the United States and Canada. However, Armenian foundations in Syria estimate around 35,000 are left based on rough estimates, including a method which multiplies the number of students enrolled in Armenian minority schools by 3 or 4, since minors would only take up around 25-30% of an age pyramid.Azerbaijan has raised concerns over resettlement of Syrian Armenians in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.
The Syrian border villages of Kessab and Yakubiyah had Armenian majorities prior to the civil war. Kessab was attacked and looted by Islamist Syrian rebels who were given safe passage by Turkey through Turkish land, though they were later expelled by the Syrian Army. Yacubiyah had its Armenian population expelled by Jabhat al-Nusra.
In 2018 Professor John Shoup said that the Armenian population in Syria formed about 2% of the country's total population, making them the fifth largest ethnic group in the country.
During the ancient times, there was a small Armenian presence in northern Syria. Under Tigranes the Great, Armenians invaded Syria and the city of Antioch was chosen as one of the four capitals of the short-lived Armenian Empire.
In 301, Christianity became the official religion of Armenia through the efforts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Armenian merchants and pilgrims started to visit the earliest Christian centres of Greater Syria including Antioch, Edessa, Nisibis and Jerusalem. Close relations were established between the Armenians and the Christian congregations of Syria after the apostolic era.
During the first half of the 7th century, Armenia was conquered by the Arab Islamic Caliphate. Thousands of Armenians were carried into slavery by the Arab invaders to serve in other regions of the Umayyad Caliphate including their capital Damascus in the Muslim-controlled Syria.
During the 2nd half of the 11th century, Armenia -being under the Byzantine rule- was conquered by the Seljuq Turks. Waves of Armenians left their homeland in order to settle in more stable countries. Most Armenians established themselves in Cilicia where they founded the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Many other Armenians have preferred to settle in northern Syria. Armenian quarters were formed during the 11th century in Antioch, Aleppo, Ayntab, Marash, Kilis, etc.
Prior to the Siege of Antioch, most Armenians were expelled from Antioch by the Turkish governor of the city Yaghi-Siyan, a move that prompted the Armenians of Antioch, and the rulers of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia to establish close relations with the European Crusades rather than the mostly-Turkish rulers of Syria. Thus, the new rulers of Antioch became the Europeans. Armenian engineers also helped the Crusaders during the Siege of Tyre by manipulating siege engines.
After the decline of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia during the 14th century, a new wave of Armenian migrants from the Cilician and other towns of northern Syria arrived in Aleppo. They have gradually developed their own schools and churches to become a well-organized community during the 15th century with the establishment of the Armenian Diocese of Beroea in Aleppo.
During the early years of the Ottoman rule over Syria, there was relatively smaller Armenian presence in northern Syria due to the military conflicts in the region. A larger community existed in Urfa which is considered part of Greater Syria. The Ottoman Empire had a large indigenous Armenian population in its Eastern Anatolia region, from where some Armenians moved to Aleppo in search of economic opportunity. Later on, many Armenian families moved from Western Armenia to Aleppo escaping the Turkish oppression. Thus, large numbers of Armenians from Arapgir, Sasun, Hromgla, Zeitun, Marash and New Julfa arrived in Aleppo during the 17th century. Another wave of migrants from Karin arrived in Aleppo in 1737. There were also families from Yerevan.
Armenian population increased in Aleppo. By the end of the 19th century, the Mazloumian family established the "Ararat hotel" that became a renowned international establishment and renamed Baron Hotel.
Under the Ottomans, the area known today as Syria hadn't been a single entity but rather a collection of "wilayats," or provinces, that at times included areas of modern-day Lebanon and Israel. Nor was the population homogenous. The wilayats of Ottoman Syria each comprised an array of ethnicities, cultural identifications and economic structures. After 400 years of rule under the Ottomans, certain particularities of the political system became ingrained. In modern-day Syria before the civil war, cities were divided into culturally distinct quarters: one where you would find the Armenians, another populated by Assyrians. I especially remember the Kurdish markets, where vendors would come dressed in their bright colors to sell fruits and vegetables from the countryside.
In fact, the way in which Syria was governed reinforced the autonomy of these distinct ethnic and religious communities. The Ottomans enforced a policy of pluralism, intended to appease different nations and quell the rise of nationalist movements, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims were all empowered to assert their own identities and therefore had no need to vie for power. Each religious community, known as a "millet," had a representative in Istanbul and was allowed to organize its own affairs, including its people's education, social services and charities and even some of the legal standards by which they lived. The millet controlled all internal disputes such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the distribution and collection of taxes. The residue of this community-specific system remained in modern Syria; for example, everyone knew you went to the Armenian quarter to get your silver.
Although the Armenians have had a long history in Syria, most arrived there during the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. The main killing fields of Armenians were located in the Syrian desert of Deir ez-Zor (Euphrates Valley). During the Genocide, More than a million Armenians were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced from historic Armenia. The native Arabs didn't hesitate to shelter and support persecuted Armenians. Arabs and Armenians have traditionally had good relations, especially after they sheltered the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. There was also a minor Arab genocide in Anatolia at the same time, which meant they had affinity with one another.
Aleppo's large Christian population swelled with the influx of Armenian and Assyrian Christian refugees during the early 20th-century and after the Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide of 1915. After the arrival of the first groups of Armenian refugees coming from the death camps in Deir ez Zor and historic Armenia (1915-1922) the population of Aleppo in 1922 counted 156,748 of whom Muslims were 97,600 (62.26%), native Christians -mostly Catholics- 22,117 (14.11%), Jews 6,580 (4.20%), Europeans 2,652 (1.70%), Armenian refugees 20,007 (12.76%) and others 7,792 (4.97%).
The second period of Armenian flow towards Aleppo was marked by the withdrawal of the French troops from Cilicia in 1923. That wave brought more than 40,000 Armenian refugees to Aleppo between 1923 and 1925, and the population of the city skyrocketed up to 210,000 by the end of 1925, with Armenians forming more than 25% of the population.
According to the historical data presented by Al-Ghazzi, the vast majority of the Aleppine Christians were Catholics until the 1920s. The growth of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christian communities is tied in with the arrival of the Armenian and Assyrian genocide survivors from Cilicia and Southern Turkey, as well as large numbers of Orthodox Greeks from the Sanjak of Alexandretta who arrived in Aleppo later on after the annexation of the Sanjak in 1939 by Turkey.
In 1944, Aleppo's population was around 325,000, with 112,110 (34.5%) Christians among which Armenians counted 60,200. Armenians formed more than half of the Christian community in Aleppo until 1947, when many groups of them left for Soviet Armenia to take advantage of the Armenian Repatriation Process (1946-1967).
In an interview with Radikal, Rober Kopta?, editor-in-chief of the Agos Armenian newspaper, said that the Armenians under Assad felt relatively safe. The Armenians, according to the Economist, lived in a safe haven in Syria which made Armenians more sympathetic for Assad during the Syrian Civil War.
According to the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, the estimated number of Armenians in Syria is 100,000, with more than 60,000 of them centralized in Aleppo, with other estimates by Armenian foundations in Syria putting the number of Armenians in Syria around 70-80,000. However, Since the start of the Syrian Civil War, 16,623 Syrian citizens of ethnic Armenian background have arrived in Armenia, of whom about 13,000 displaced persons remained and found protection in Armenia as of July 2015. The government is offering several protection options including simplified naturalization by Armenian descent (15,000 persons acquired Armenian citizenship), accelerated asylum procedures and facilitated short, mid and long-term residence permits.
According to Hranush Hakobyan only 15,000 Armenians are left in Syria and the rest have been settled in Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh, with another 8,000 having left for Lebanon, and others going to destinations including Europe, the United States and Canada. However, Armenian foundations in Syria estimate around 35,000 are left based on rough estimates, including a method which multiplies the number of students enrolled in Armenian minority schools by 3 or 4, since minors would only take up around 25-30% of an age pyramid.
Armenians in Syria are present in both rural and Urban areas. The villages of Kessab and Yakubiyah had Armenian majority prior to the civil war, and both are located near the contested border region of Hatay Province. Kessab was attacked and looted in an ambush by Syrian Rebels who were given passage through Hatay province by Turkey,(although they deny this claim) and Yacubiyah had their Armenian population expelled by Al Nusra. Excluding those villages, Armenians are primarily urban. Most Armenians of Syria live in Aleppo, with other cities including Latakia, Damascus, Qamishli, Raqqa, Tell Abyad, Al-Hasakah, Deir ez Zor, Al-Malikiyah and Ras al-Ayn, although some of which have had their populations expelled such as Raqqa and Deir ez Zor. In Aleppo, the Armenian quarter was targeted by rebel forces. In 2015, the local St. Rita Catholic Armenian church was also destroyed, according to unconfirmed reports at that time, by rebel fighters.
On April 24, 2019 the "Martyr Nubar Ozanyan Brigade" was formed as an Armenian brigade of the Syrian Democratic Forces on the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Marziya Church in Tell Goran.
The majority of Armenian organizations are based in the city of Aleppo, acting in the form of cultural, sport, youth or charitable associations:
Cultural associations based in Aleppo:
Charitable associations based in Aleppo:
Sports associations based in Aleppo:
Students associations based in Aleppo:
The Armenians of Aleppo have also formed compatriotic unions based on their roots, named after towns and villages where their ancestors have migrated from, during the Armenian Genocide. Nowadays, there are 11 compatriotic organizations operating in Aleppo: Dikranagerd, Daron-Duruperan, Marash, Urfa women's, Urfa youth, Palu, Zeitun, Kilis, Berejik, Musa Ler and Garmouj compatriotic unions.
Other notable community structures in Aleppo include:
Armenians in Syria are mainly followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, with a minority of Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals. The Church has a very important role in unifying Armenians in Syria.
After 301 AD, when Christianity became the official state religion of Armenia and its population, Aleppo became an important centre for the Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Yet, not considered an organized community in the city, Armenian presence was notably enlarged in Aleppo, during the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (12th century), when a considerable number of Armenian families and merchants settled in the city creating their own businesses, residencies, and gradually schools, churches and prelacy. The Armenian church of the Forty Martyrs in Aleppo was mentioned for the first time in 1476. In 1624, as a result of the growing number of Armenian residents and pilgrims, the Armenian prelacy started to build a quarter near the church which kept its original name Hokedoun (Spiritual House), up to now. It was designated to serve as a settlement for the Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
The majority of Armenians of the Armenian Apostolic (also known as Oriental Orthodox Armenian) faith are under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of Cilicia (based in Antelias, Lebanon) of the Armenian Apostolic Church. However, the Diocese of Damascus pledges allegiance to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
The Apostolic Armenian population in Syria belongs to one of the 3 following prelacies:
Catholic Armenians are members of the Armenian Catholic Church. The Catholic Armenian population in Syria belongs to one of the 4 following prelacies under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of Cilicia:
The Armenian Catholic Church has 2 Convents in Syria:
Armenian Evangelicals (also known as Armenian Protestants), belong to Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East of the Armenian Evangelical Church.
The education is an important factor in maintaining Armenian language and patriotism among the Armenian community in Syria. Aleppo as the main host of the community, is a center of Armenian long-running schools and cultural institutions. Armenian students who graduate from those community schools, can immediately enter the Syrian university system, after passing the official Thanawiya 'Amma (High School baccalaureate) exams.
A total of 9 schools operate in Aleppo including 4 secondary education schools (high schools):
Other elementary schools in Aleppo under the administration of the prelacy:
Many schools were closed mainly due to the "Armenian Repatriation Process" to Soviet Armenia, between 1946 and 1967:
Syrian Armenians were integrated in the political life since the Ottoman rule over Syria. Like other religious communities, the Syrian community organized its own affairs under the millet system, including affairs such as education, social services, and even some of their laws. The millet governed internal disputes such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and tax collection and spending.
After the establishment of the Syrian state, Hrant Maloyan an Armenian General officer from Mu? had served as the head of Syrian Security Forces during the 1940s and 1950s. On the other hand, another Armenian military General officer from Ayntab; Aram Karamanoukian had become the artillery commander of the Syrian Army during the same period.
Armenians have had almost continuous representation in the Syrian Parliament from 1928 onwards. The Armenian-Syrian members of Parliament were (in chronological order) Mihran Puzantian, Fathalla Asioun, Nicolas Djandjigian, Movses Der Kalousdian (later on also MP in the Lebanese Parliament), Hratch Papazian, Henri Hendieh (Balabanian), Hrant Sulahian, Bedros Milletbashian, Ardashes Boghigian, Nazaret Yacoubian, Movses Salatian, Dikran Tcheradjian, Fred Arslanian, Abdallah Fattal, Louis Hendieh, Krikor Eblighatian, Aram Karamanougian, Roupen Dirarian, Levon Ghazal, Simon Ibrahim Librarian and Sunbul Sunbulian (until 2012). As a result of the 2012 parliamental elections, currently the People's Council of Syria did not have any Armenian member. But in the elections of April 2016, two Armenians were elected to the Syrian Parliament, Jirayr Reyissian and Nora Arissian.
The current Cabinet of Syria has one Armenian member after Nazira Farah Sarkis has been named as State Minister for Environment Affairs in June 2012.
Syria has a rich tradition of media and publications in Armenian language. Armenian dailies -currently defunct- had a great run at the beginning of the 20th century. The daily Hye Tsayn (1918-1919), one-every-two-days Darakir (1918-1919) and Yeprad (1919) were among the first published newspapers.
A stream of publications followed in the twenties and the thirties of the 20th century: Souriagan Sourhantag (1919-1922), Souriagan Mamul (Syrian Press, 1922-1927), the dailies Yeprad (1927-1947), Souria (1946-1960) and Arevelk (1946-1963). The latter had also its annual yearbook. Arevelk had also published 1956 its youth supplement Vahakn (1956-1963) and its sports supplement Arevelk Marzashkharh (1957-1963).
Yearbooks include Souriahye Daretsuyts (1924-1926), Datev (1925-1930), Souriagan Albom (1927-1929), Daron (1949), Hye Darekirk (1956) and Keghart (since 1975).
Currently, Kantsasar weekly is the official organ of the Armenian Diocese of Beroea in Aleppo. It was first published as Oshagan in 1978 and was renamed Kantsasar in 1991.
Syrian publishers have a great contribution in translating several Armenian literature and academic studies into Arabic. It is noteworthy that the first ever Arabic language newspaper was published by the Aleppine Armenian journalist Rizqallah Asdvadzadur Hassoun in 1855 in Constantinople.
Al-Yarmouk (formerly Homenetmen Aleppo) and Ouroube (formerly al-Ahd al-Jadid) are Syrian-Armenian sports clubs based in Aleppo. Being among the oldest sporting clubs in Syria, al-Yarmouk and Ouroube have several teams participating in different Syrian National competitions including football, basketball (men and women), table tennis, chess and other individual sports. The clubs have their own training grounds in the city of Aleppo.
During the first half of the 1940s and 1950s, many Armenian players had represented the Syrian football on the national level including Ardavazt Marutian and Kevork Gerboyan. The former player and trainer Avedis Kavlakian of the 1960s was selected by the Syrian press as the best Syrian footballer of the 20th century. Kevork Mardikian from Latakia is a prominent football trainer and one of the best Syrian footballers during the 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays, his son Mardik Mardikian is a member of the Syria national football team.
In basketball, Mary Mouradian, Ani Karalian, Elisabeth Mouradian and Magi Donabedian were members of the Syria women's national team during the 1980s and 1990s. Sari Papazian and Vatche Nalbandian from Aleppo are current members of the Syria men's national basketball team.
Many Armenians from Syria had achieved national and international fame in the spheres of music and drama. Salloum Haddad from the Armenian village of Yacoubiyah is a famous contemporary actor in Syrian and Arab drama. Ruba al-Jamal (died in 2005) was a prominent classical Arabic songs performer born as Dzovinar Garabedian. Many other Syrian-Armenian singers and musicians became renowned artists among Armenians around the world like George Tutunjian, Karnig Sarkissian, Paul Baghdadlian, Setrag Ovigian, Arsen Grigoryan (Mro), Karno and Raffi Ohanian. Many others have achieved international fame including Aram Tigran, Haig Yazdjian, Avraam Russo, Wadi' Mrad, Talar Dekrmanjian and Lena Chamamyan. The conductor of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra is Missak Baghboudarian from Damascus.
Armenian theatres in Aleppo include:
Armenian musical ensembles in Aleppo include:
Armenian dance groups in Aleppo include:
Armenian art academies in Aleppo include:
Armenians were among the pioneers of modern medical sciences in Syria. The first X-ray generator in Syria and Lebanon was brought by Dr. Asadour Altunian (1857-1950) to Aleppo in 1896. Dr. Altunian opened the first-ever private hospital in Aleppo in 1927. Later, he founded the first nursing school in Aleppo and Syria. After his death in 1950, Dr. Asadour Altunian was honoured by the government of Syria with the Honour Medal of Syrian Merit of the Excellent Degree. In ophthalmology, Dr. Robert Jebejian (1909-2001) was among the first ophthalmologists in Syria. He founded the first-ever private ophthalmological hospital in Aleppo in 1952. Dr. Jebejian had published many valuable researches about leishmaniasis and trachoma. In 1947, Dr. Jebejian performed the first-ever corneal transplantation surgery in the Middle East and the Arab World.
In 1915, the Syrian region of Deir ez-Zor, mainly a desert became a final destination of the Armenians during Armenian Genocide where they were killed. A memorial complex commemorating this tragedy was opened in the city. It was designed by Sarkis Balmanoukian and was officially inaugurated in 1990 with the presence of the Armenian Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. The complex contains bones and remnants recovered from the Deir ez-Zor desert of Armenian victims of the Genocide and has become a pilgrim destination for many Armenians in remembrance of their dead.
Kessab (Arabic: , Armenian: K'yesap) is a Syrian border town located in the Latakia Governorate northwest of Syria at a height of 800 meters above sea level just 3 kilometers away from the Turkish border, and 9 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea.
Kessab is an ancient Armenian town, over 1000 years old. Today, The population of the town and the surrounding villages is mainly Armenian with a minority of Syrian Arab.
Kessab is a summer tourist resort and a very popular destination.
The Armenian embassy of Damascus (since 1992), was the first Armenian embassy opened abroad after the independence of Armenia. The official visit of the newly elected Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrossian to Syria in 1992, was the first international official visit of an Armenian president after the independence. Since then, the relations between the two countries are developing especially after the creation of a joint economical committee between the two governments and the establishment of co-operation between the commercial chambers of Aleppo and Armenia since 2008. The recent visit of president Bashar al-Assad to Yerevan in June 2009, came to maintain the bilateral relations.
Armenia has also a consulate general in Aleppo since 28 May 1993. In 1997, the Syrians opened their embassy in Yerevan which is located on Baghramyan street, few meters away from the presidential palace.
The first president of the new Republic of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan was born in Aleppo, Syria.
Syria has several other ethnic groups, the Kurds... they make up an estimated 9 percent...Turkomen comprise around 4-5 percent of the total population. The rest of the ethnic mix of Syria is made of Assyrians (about 4 percent), Armenians (about 2 percent), and Circassians (about 1 percent).