- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 28, 2003 

War Study: Armenian students watch and worry over families in Baghdad

Mihran Sedrakyan watches and worries.War in Iraq has had a damaging effect on the studies of at least three students in Armenia who have special reasons to worry about what is happening 500 miles from Yerevan.

Since last week, Armenian-Iraqi brothers Mihran and Andranik Sedrakyan and their Armenian-Iraqi friend Ara Vardan have done little but stay in their hostel and watch Al-Jezeera television showing bombs falling in Baghdad.

It is their home. And while the boys watch the broadcasts, they know their families are in Baghdad basements where rockets are landing.

"The last time we talked to our parents by phone was more than a week ago, after that we haven't heard from them," says 23-year old Mihran. "Two days after our conversation the war begun and the telephone connection ceased."

The boys sleep in the afternoon when normally they would be attending university (Mihran is studying music at the Yerevan Conservatory, the other two are at State Engineering University of Armenia). At night they watch the satellite broadcast in their Arabian friend's room.

"This is the only connection with Iraq," says Mihran, "every day till 6 o'clock in the morning we watch news of Arabian TV channels, as only they show what really takes place in Iraq, while others televise only scenes and news related to the American side."

During the last 15-minute telephone conversation Mihran and his 24-year old brother tried to persuade their father to leave Iraq. They wanted him to take their mother and 13-year old brother and come to Armenia through Syria.

"Whatever happens we must stay in Baghdad," their father said.

Mihran explains the reply of his 62 years old father with only five words, "He loves Iraq very much."

"There is a saying - 'If I have to die, let me die in my house'. My father wouldn't have said that any other way," Mihran says. "Of course there will be families among the Armenians who will move to neighboring countries, but few. All my relatives in Baghdad have remained there."

(According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia there are about 20,000 Armenians living in Baghdad and during these days the level of emigration among them is not high.)

In an attempt to comfort their sons the boys' parents promised that everything would be fine. They said that they had reserved the necessary amount of water and food so that in an extreme situation they have no problems.

Their Syrian friends living in the same hostel say that the boys worry about their families' fates; they have changed a lot and have become almost unrecognizable. According to them, they were cheerful boys with good humor, but today one can hardly ever see smiles on their faces.

Before the war started life on this floor of the hostel had been in full swing. However, the more boiling war has frozen the young men's faces. The Syrians always try to change the boys' mood, but are not often successful.

"We have gotten used to this war situation. No matter whether there is war in Iraq or not, the roar of military aircraft is a normal thing there," says Mihran. "Residents there have no fear. For example, my younger brother told me by phone that he was playing, riding his bicycle."

The Sedrakyan brothers have grown up with war and the threat of war. Mihran has a strong opinion about his country and its leader.

"Saddam is not a bad person," he says. "We have always lived well in that country. Iraq was provided with everything, and till now none is hungry in Iraq.

"The only desire of an Iraqi is elimination of external limitations for their country and establishment of relations with the world. Only that hinders us, so we don't want to change the administration."

Iraqi Armenians enjoy an exceptional respect among Arabians, the brothers say.

"None ever told us - you are Christians, so you are bad," they say.

Their father is too old for military service, but the brothers are sure that there are also Iraqi-Armenian soldiers among the Iraqi forces. They say that in such conditions if it is your country you should defend it irrespective of your nationality.

Of these three boys 21-year old Ara remained silent during the whole conversation. He refused to talk about the war, but his sad eyes told everything instead.

"After graduating we want to return to Iraq regardless of the war outcome. There it is not like in Armenia, when you remain without any money if you haven't worked for a day. There I can enjoy my one-day work for a week," says Mihran. "I cannot even provide for myself with money earned in Armenia, but I can support a whole family with money earned in Iraq."

The boys hope that this war will be the last one.

"It is hard to say what will be the result, as Saddam Hussein is a very strong person. It will not be as easy to capture Baghdad as it was to capture those few villages or small towns. The hot battles are yet to come," they say.

And if they survive those hot battles, the Sedrakyan brothers are hopeful their parents will fulfill their desire to come to Armenia this summer. The only time they have been here was on their honeymoon in 1978.


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  Photo of the week
Click on the photo above to enlarge


At today's Under-21 football match between Armenia and Northern Ireland, played in Abovian, the match had to be delayed for nearly an hour while workers cleared the pitch of snow. When the field was cleared, the home team played to a 2-0 victory.



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