A recent WikiCamp in Syria served as part of an initiative to make Western Armenian an Internet language through Wikipedia. Initiated by Wikimedia Armenia, the program enjoyed the generous support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which has been focusing on increasing the day-to-day use of the Western Armenian language.
The camp was held from August 27 to September 1 at the Levon Shant Hall of Aleppo’s Aram Manoukian House in cooperation with Hamazkayin’s Regional Executive Board for Syria. The workshop leader was Western Armenian Wikipedia manager Azniv Stepanian-Arpajian, who had come from Armenia.
The objective of the workshop was to train Wikipedia editors and coordinators to develop the Western Armenian Wikipedia and to spread the idea of participating in Wikipedia. During the camp, participants did hands-on writing and editing work.
The workshop was attended by 25 individuals of various ages.
Working five hours a day, participants learned how Wikipedia works, and got experience with its editorial tools and policies. They wrote and published articles in Western Armenian.
On the fifth day of the camp, young editors joined the participants to learn about Wikisource, “an online community, where Western Armenian books are scanned and digitized.” They learned to digitize books and practiced correcting typos and formatting issues generated in the digitization process. The hope was that the participants would continue this effort.
At a celebration following the workshop’s closing, Ms. Stepanian-Arpajian thanked Hamazkayin’s Regional Executive Board for Syria for agreeing to host the program. She also thanked the participants, who used every means they could to preserve the Western Armenian language, which is currently classified as an endangered language; they worked hard in the belief that Wikipedia is a platform that allows people to use Western Armenian in their everyday lives.
Berj Boghigian, chairperson of Hamazkayin’s Regional Executive Board for Syria, said that the organization hosted the camp because they believe the Aleppo is a city with a vibrant Armenian presence and will continue as a core to nourish and spread the Western Armenian language. He thanked Ms. Stepanian-Arpajian, a graduate of the Hamazkayin Armenian Studies Institute in Aleppo, for bringing this program to Syria. He hoped that the Western Armenian Wikipedia initiative would serve to keep young Armenian interested in the language, and that they would use the tools provided to them to do the best possible job. He wanted them to learn, while pursuing the mission of preserving Western Armenian with meticulous attention.
Next to speak was the prelate, Archbishop Shahan Sarkisian. He reflected on what he called the positive and negative aspects of the Internet, inviting participants to work consciously and fastidiously to maintain the integrity of Western Armenian. His Grace appreciated Hamazkayin for its cultural mission and thanked Ms. Stepanian-Arpajian for her work in developing the Western Armenian Wikipedia project.
His Grace handed certificates of participation to the participants. Hamazkayin Central Executive Board member Garo Alexanian and the chairperson of Hamazkayin’s Regional Executive Board for Syria were present. After cutting a cake, everyone celebrated.