Chemical Attacks in Syria and the Armenian Experience

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(The Arshagounyats Family story, one of many who’re part of “Aleppo” CCO’s Adopt A Family project.

Family Members

Anahit Arshagounyats (48 years-old) – Cleaning Lady at a hotel’s restaurant
Hovig Arshagounyats (60 years-old) – Unemployed—suffers from a medical condition that prevents him from conducting physical labor
Daron Arshagounyats (22 years-old) – Handyman—Installs Air-Conditioners
Sossie Arshagounyats (19 years-old) – Unemployed: searching for a job and waiting to receive her high school diploma from Syria to attend university
Andranig Arshagounyats (8 years-old) – 2nd grade Middle School Students

 Family Background:

On Aug. 21, 2013, as the world witnessed the horrific images of innocent children, men and women forever lost in the heinous chemical attack in Eastern and Western Ghouta, outside Damascus, President Obama was forced to announce that the “Red Line” had been crossed. In fact, the “Red Line” had been long before the Ghouta attack.

On March 19, 2013, Daron, 20-years old Armenian from Aleppo serving in the Syrian army, was one of the first responders to the chemical attack that struck the Kfar De’il town in Khan-al-Asal outside of Aleppo claiming the lives of 25 people (16 Syrian Army soldiers) and wounding dozens.

As a first responder, Daron was exposed to the chemical agents. He assisted more than 30 soldiers and civilians affected by the attack, before the chemical agents took their toll and he collapsed. One of the locals put him in his car and drove off towards the nearest military hospital.

“On the way to the hospital [subconsciously] I attacked the driver… I tried to strangle him,” said Daron. “I didn’t know what I was doing. Everything was blurry… I was paranoid… He the driver kicked me out of his car and left me on the side of the road.”

Daron crawled towards the nearest tree and laid on his stomach. A taxi driver passing by the tree saw him and stopped to ask, “Are you a Syrian soldier?” Daron did not know if he should lie or tell the truth, but he replied, “Yes. I am a soldier.”

The taxi driver picked him and took him to the hospital where he was placed in the intensive care room for 5 days. Two days after he was admitted to the hospital, his parents were informed of his condition, so his mother rushed to the hospital.

A few weeks later, after Daron recovered his consciousness and strength, his mother received permission from the army to take him home for a few days. The military officials requested that she returns Daron back to the army within 4 days. “They told her [Anahit] ‘if you don’t return him back to us, we will arrest your entire family,” said Daron. “After a few days, my mother took me back to the hospital and signed me in.”