Artsakh children visit Cyprus

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Thirty children from war-torn Artsakh, uprooted from their homelands, are in Cyprus for a two-week visit, hosted by the Armenian Representative in parliament and the Ministry of Education.

The children, aged 12 to 17, arrived on December 7 and return to Armenia on Tuesday. They were among the 145,000 people from Nagorno Karabakh who fled their country in September, after Azerbaijan escalated the two-year blockade of the enclave, preventing food and medical supplies.

This followed three decades of conflict between the ethnic Armenians living on their historical lands, and Azerbaijan that was implementing its ethnic cleansing policy to clear its lands of any presence and landmarks of Armenian heritage, churches, monasteries and communities.

As of January 1, the Republic of Artsakh will cease to exist and the entire population of Nagorno Karabakh have become refugees in Armenia.

“All the children, some of them orphans, are from the conflict areas. They witnessed war and suffered from the Azeri blockade,” explained Representative Vartkes Mahdessian.

“I wanted to return a smile on their faces, and help them relive a pleasant and happy childhood, albeit for just two weeks,” he said.

Mahdessian said that the trip was coordinated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, the Cyprus Ministry of Education and his office.

Warm welcome

“They have been warmly welcomed by mayors and communities in all towns we have visited,” he said, adding that the programme has been a success thanks to the efforts of Dr Kyprianos Louis and Dr Popi Theodorou of the Cyprus Ministry, who personally arranged many of the visits.

The children, accompanied by three adults, have been to Larnaca, Ayia Napa, Dherynia, Lefkara, Paphos, Nicosia and the mountain regions, including Tamassos and the Planetarium. They visited the House of Representatives, the Armenian Prelature, Nareg elementary school in Nicosia and Larnaca and will join the Nareg Christmas celebration in Limassol on Friday.

On Sunday they will attend mass at the Sourp Asdvadzadzin church in Nicosia and on Monday they will sing Christmas carols, together with the Nareg elementary and gymnasium choir, at the Ministry of Education.

Individuals have generously assisted with the visit, providing packages, meals and support. The Red Cross and the Cyprus parliament also provided vouchers for purchases in all towns.

“They are over the moon with their visit. It was the least that we could do,” concluded Mahdessian.