Social Alienation of Syrian-Armenian Immigrants in Armenia: Sociological Analysis

By Shushan Ghahriyan
CRRC-Armenia Yerevan State University Scholarship Holder

The Syrian crisis, started in 2011, forced many Syrian-Armenians to leave Syria and resettle in Armenia. Followed by the challenges brought by war, in Armenia they faced problems that are common for the locals as well. Thus the research is focused on bringing out the manifestations of social alienation among Syrian-Armenians.
To analyze the phenomenon of social alienation among Syrian-Armenian immigrants we will refer to M. Seeman's (1959) approach to social alienation who defines the concept in terms of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement. Later, isolation was divided into social isolation and cultural isolation (Middleton, 1963).

According to our results, powerlessness predominantly refers to inability to control desired outcomes of behavior and it is mainly expressed in socio-political situations. Respondents most often mention that they cannot change anything in Armenia, cannot improve their conditions as mostly everything depends on the Government and changes should come from there. This feeling of powerlessness is connected to the fact that Syrian-Armenians do not yet consider themselves as a part of the Armenian society.  
Social isolation
Powerlessness is closely related to social isolation. According to the interviews we can say that social isolation causes the feeling of powerlessness. When talking about social isolation we need to take into account the place of origin of Syrian-Armenians. In contrary to the ones from Allepo (a large city in Syria), people from Qamishli (a small city with strong community ties), feel more isolated as they cannot restore former ties and relationships as well as the community life they used to have.
Cultural estrangement
Cultural estrangement manifests in value differences. Syrian-Armenians are affected by oriental culture and this has its effects on their outlook. It was also mentioned that Syrian-Armenians are more business-minded than the locals.
Normlessness mainly refers to the ineffectiveness of laws. Usually problems in Armenia are being solved through “mediators”, people who are considered as informal problem solvers. This way of problem solving is very common in the Armenian reality. Thus we can say that this institute of “mediators” is to some extent a social capital in the Armenian society. From this viewpoint normlessness is not as obvious as other dimensions of alienation among Syrian-Armenians because they do not have the relevant social networks through whom it would be possible to solve problems in Armenia. Thus they rely only on formal, legal regulations which do not function properly.
Switching to the next dimension that is meaninglessness we should mention that it is connected with the person's past experience in different aspects and spheres. The notions of meaninglessness can be divided into two parts. The first is that it is meaningful to start a new initiative in Armenia, to have long-time plans, as Armenia is desired and sweet homeland for Syrian-Armenians and they still think that it is worth linking future with it. The second is that everything is uncertain in Armenia and one cannot predict what will happen in the near future. That's why they do not see any meaning in initiating, creating, planning something.
And the last dimension of social alienation is self-estrangement. It mainly refers to the situation when Syrian-Armenians lost something from their self. Most of Syrian-Armenian immigrants cannot realize themselves in Armenia as they do in Syria. When talking about self-estrangement first of all we should mention the loss of prestige and respect they had in Syria. We can state that self-estrangement is more specific to men. As for women, here in Armenia they have more opportunities for self-realization which was difficult in Syria surrounded by Muslims who have their strong rules concerning women.

To sum up, we should mention that these issues if not solved can deepen the feeling of alienation and create obstacles for integration to the society in Armenia.

About YSU Scholarship
Highly appreciating partnership with Yerevan State University and strong commitment to contribute to the excellence of social science research in Armenia, Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia has launched Yerevan State University Scholarship program in 2014. The goal of the program is to encourage young researchers, who make their first steps in social science research. For that purpose, CRRC-Armenia provides single-time financial support to two Master’s students from the departments of Sociology, and Economics and Management to allocate resources for field organization and first-hand high-quality data collection and analysis for their master thesis.