ICC Note: The conflict in Syria has created a massive refugee crisis, larger even than Rwanda of the 1990s. Some of those who were driven outside of Syria are returning to a scarred and broken country. As Christians they are facing increased risks from the militants, whose ranks are swollen with Islamic extremists. In many places the number of Christians still remaining has been cut in half.
11/17/2014 Syria (DW) Twenty-five-year-old Harrod Joseph just returned from patrolling a Christian neighborhood in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, right near the Turkish border.
He joined the Syriac Christian security force, Sutoro, which works to secure the inner city of the three Kurdish-dominated cantons in northern Syria, half a year ago after he returned from eight months in Armenia and eight months in Lebanon.
“I was so worried about the situation and I wanted to continue my education so I went to Armenia,” he told DW.
But Armenia didn’t live up to Harrod’s expectations. He’d planned to send money back to his family in Syria but instead had to borrow money from them because he couldn’t find a job.
Eventually he got a job washing dishes at a cafe, but the wages were so dismal he could barely afford to survive in a cramped, two-bedroom apartment that he shared with seven other Syrians.
“We as Syrians got really low wages and only jobs that didn’t require any skill or education. There wasn’t much of a warm welcome. I felt like a stranger. Of course they were Armenian, but I’m a Syrian Armenian and that made a big difference,” he said.
Realizing there were no education or employment opportunities on the horizon, he travelled to Lebanon aiming to cross from there into Syria but became stuck for eight months because the border and route home wasn’t safe.
Harrod made it back to Qamishli, but after 16 months abroad, the city was almost unrecognizable.
“In the early days of the revolution, there were no checkpoints and no political parties on the streets,” he said. “When I came back the city was completely different and new – even the people had changed. So many people had left and so many refugees had arrived.”
Death is everywhere’
Sixty-eight-year-old Armenian priest Dajad Hagopian wears his clerical clothing every day even though he only gives a sermon once a week to a handful of people at the Armenian Orthodox Church in Derike. There used to be 450 Armenians here but now only 200 remain.