07 Dec 2012 11:00
Upon making their dream return to their motherland, Armenian-Iraqis did not anticipate the problems they would face. They made the decision to return to Armenia from a small separated community in Baghdad after the US-led invasion of their adopted country in 2004.
Instead of the open-armed heartfelt welcome they expected, they were met by difficulties in communicating with the locals, making relationships and finding jobs. They needed to pay for gas, electricity, and basic food supplies, something they weren’t used to because they were free in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
10 Armenian-Iraqi families live in Darbnik, a village 8km from Yerevan, where 90 percent of the population is composed of refugees. The village has a history of housing displaced people. In Soviet times it was predominantly populated by Azerbaijanis. The latter then left at the start of the Armenian-Azeri conflict in the 1980s, leaving their village to Armenians who under the same circumstances had fled Azerbaijan.
The families have been living in Darbnik’s former agricultural college, which was renovated by the UN. The village is devoid of any churches, drug stores, or markets. Even normal transportation is absent.
Most Armenian-Iraqis have created a small Armenian-esque Baghdad in their apartments, saving memories with photographs and other items brought from their former homes in Iraq.
They often spend their time watching news or soaps from their adopted land on cable TV.
Like before, they still live in a closed community. Being neither Iraqi nor Armenian they are living, as they say in Armenia, “a life between the stones”. But unlike in their previous lives, there is no idealized motherland to yearn for.