Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. Today, there are nearly 45 million people around the world who have been uprooted. More than 15 million of them are refugees while the rest are displaced persons within their own countries. The people who have immigrated to Armenia from Azerbaijan (over 300,000), Iraq (over 26 families), Syria (over 6000) still have refugee status.
For many years different events have been organized all over the world for International Refugee Day which aims to integrate refugees into society. This year Armenia joined the team and organized events with this goal of integrating refugees, such as Iraqi-Armenians, Syrian-Armenians and refugees from Azerbaijan, into society. Several creative flash mobs were orchestrated on the 16th, 20th and 23rd of June.
On the 16th of June several groups of refugees, and even other people who expressed interest, took papers and pencils and went for a ‘drawing walk’. Every interesting sign or architectural design on the way was replicated by the walkers. Sargis Rshtuni from Syria, who moved to Armenia last year, stated that in Aleppo they had an “Art Camping” youth movement and were making this kind of art. He said a “lost patterns of our country” project was carried out in Aleppo too, but the conflict put a stop to everything. Now we want to create similar projects in our new homeland.We are going to copy the patterns and design elements from buildings to prove that the art can be good and cost-effective at the same time.” Tamar Vardanian, from Iraq, was also among the participants; she didn’t have much to say but she was enjoying the flash mob. For every question she simply responded with a thumbs-up.
A “White Umbrella March” flash mob on the 20th of June, with around 100 participants, walked through the streets of Yerevan shouting: “Even one refugee family is too many!”, “Even one refugee without hope is too many”, “Even one kid without citizenship is too many”… The slogans help one understand how important it is to support and help these people and to fight against forced displacement. This peace march was a tribute to those people who must find the strength to start a new life out of nothing.
Another event was organized on the 23rd of June; a basketball match where the main participants were refugees from Syria and Iraq but also many young people who stand in solidarity with this issue. Basketball is a team sport as it connects people and teaches them to support each other on the path to victory. Taking part in sports and being involved in group activities is a good way for refugees to overcome many obstacles but, most importantly, to overcome the past and start a new life.
All of these events, which were overseen by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Armenia, were organized in order to publicize the problem and allow more of the Armenian population to understand and recognize that this issue needs a solution.