The situation of the Armenian exiles who arrived in Syria after the genocide committed against the Armenians was difficult. They arrived in Syria at a time when the First World War had not yet ended, there was famine and the country was still considered part of the Ottoman Empire. Faisal, the son of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif and Emir of Mecca, played an important role in the events of that period of Syria’s history. Not only was the liberation of Syria linked to him, but he also played a major role in improving the situation of the Armenian exiles.

From the beginning, Faisal had a positive attitude towards the Armenian exiles: The support provided to the Armenian exiles is well-founded and is carried out within the framework of laws and official orders. One of Faisal bin Hussein’s supporters, Emir Ali Nasser, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Arab forces of Northern Syria in 1918. In December, in Aleppo, he organized efforts to raise funds for the Armenians in exile.

In January 1919, Emir Faisal met with Boghos Nubar Pasha in Paris and discussed with him measures to improve the situation of Armenian refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as some issues related to Armenian-Arab relations. In this difficult situation in the region, a number of government decisions were taken in Syria that contributed to the rescue of Armenian exiles and their return to the Armenian environment. Among them was Faisal’s order on the return of Armenian women, children and girls to the Armenian environment, which was published in the Aleppo newspaper “At-Taqaddum” in January 1919. According to the decree, those who refused to return the women and children or hid them were even punished.  After Faisal’s order, the gathering of Armenian deportees from the deserts accelerated. By Faisal’s decree of June 25, 1919, L. Yotneghberian’s group was authorized by the Syrian authorities to take the Armenians of Hauran and transport them by rail to Damascus and Deraa. Faisal’s support greatly facilitated the search for captured Armenian women and children. 

The situation of the Armenian exiles improved slightly with the government’s decision to provide monthly allowances and food to the Armenian exiles and with Faisal’s decision of March 26, 1919 to postpone the debts of the Armenian merchants in Aleppo.

Faisal pursued a special policy towards national minorities and made support for the Armenians one of his key points.  On May 9, 1919, he reaffirmed his position in an official statement made at the government house in Damascus. The support of Faisal and his supporters, as well as the activities of national, charitable and missionary organizations, helped to improve the situation of Armenians in exile. During this period, existing orphan collection committees were reorganized and new ones were formed, which ceased to operate underground and began to work more focused and efficient.

During the years of Faisal’s reign, Armenians in exile tried to socially consolidate and integrate into the socio-economic life of the country. Despite political, religious, linguistic and other obstacles, the Armenian exiles who emerged in Syria at the turn of the century were able to gradually shape the local Armenian community by cooperating with the Syrian Arabs.

Narine Margaryan