GLENDALE–The 109th anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was marked Sunday–December 5–at the Glendale High School main auditorium. The ARF Day Celebration–organized by the Western US Central Committee–had as its keynote speaker–Armenian National Assembly member–and ARF Executive Council of Armenia member Vahan Hovanessian–however–political and local issues could not allow him to leave the country.
The keynote speech was delivered by Edward Hovanessian who was persecuted and eventually exiled by the former Soviet Union for his political affiliations and nationalistic views toward. Armenia–He founded the Armenian Research Institute. Presently he has returned to Armenia where he serves as an advisor to the Minister of Culture–and is the president of the Armenian Research Institute.
Hovig Saliba delivered a speech on the behalf of the ARF Western US Central Committee–Melkon Melkonian spoke on the behalf of the Armenian Youth Federation and the Mistress of ceremonies for the evening was Lena Bozoian.
In his remarks–Hovanessian spoke candidly and powerfully about the coup attempt which took place in the Armenian Parliament on October 27th–and then discussed the role of the ARF in present day politics in Armenia. Hovanessian stressed the influential role the ARF plays in strengthening national pride in the Armenian political system.
"We often forget the period when the ARF was born –when people used to refer to it as the first time an organization was born not around an idea–not around a principle but around character. And the people that rallied around the organization and became its members continue to have the same ideology today–that’s why the ARF is not for everyone. It’s for those that understand that its not just a principle but a person’s entire character," he said.
Hovanessian then reminded the audience about the organizations re-establishment in Armenia when missionaries were sent throughout Armenia to spread the word about the organization–but because the nation spent 70 years under communism it wasn’t easy to find people that had the character to become part of the organization and the ran’s of the organization was comprised of people who did not have that key aspect. The organization was founded around three key principles–namely socialism–nationalism and revolution. It is mainly the third aspect that brought about the most discord and backlash. The world community initially praised revolutionary work and the battle against injustice and thought a revolutionary organization to be a proper means of preserving and advancing a struggle and reaching our ultimate goals.
Hovanessian said that the ARF’s nationalist agenda is composed of garnering recognition of the Armenian Genocide and continuing the Armenian Cause. He added that although President Kocharian addressed key issues to the United Nations in the past–there is no outlet in Armenia by way of which to fruitfully address and solve these issues. The weight of developing and addressing these issues remain firmly on the shoulders of the ARF. "We helped strengthen the church–the socialist movement–the same commitment must be given to strengthening culture and education." Hovanessian praised the ARF Executive Council of Armenia for continuing to fight for the rights of the laborer in a political atmosphere where the common man is often overlooked.
Hovanessian concluded his speech by saying–"Armenia does not have government by the people and for a long time–it will continue to not do so. The ARF has to have the leadership position to be able to give power back to the people and to protect and advance the interests of the work and the farmer. The political scene in Armenia is far from healthy. What happened on October 27th is an indicator of that–if the ARF is not allowed to take the initiative and continue to fight for the Armenian Cause and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide nobody else will. The ARF does have the internal strength–but it must be allowed to pursue its objectives in what is a very shaky system–to ultimately realize the goals of the Armenian people."
Also present at the celebration were Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles Armen Melkonian–and other leaders of the ARF and affiliate organizations–Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-43)–Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian–State Assembly candidate Paul Krekorian–as well as representatives of the Social Democratic Hunchakian party and the Armenian Democratic League Western US (Ramkavar party).
During his remarks–representative of the ARF Western US Central Committee Hovig Saliba–in addition to using the podium to discuss the 109th anniversary of the organization also took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the Armenian community’s achievemen’s and life in general spanning the last one hundred years.
"The end of the century is almost here–a century that saw everything from genocide to the nation’s first period of independence–from coming of the Communist regime that would last for 70 years to the Independence of Karabakh–from the heroic freedom fighters of old to the armed struggle of the recent generations."
Saliba expressed hope that the government in Armenia will work to strengthen itself internally and all the forces working within government work collectively to rebuild the government and strengthen it.
Regarding Karabakh–Saliba stated that other than preserving its independence and restoring it as part of Armenia–any other option would take us back to the situation we had prior to 1988. He also went on to comment the community’s active participation in rebuilding and renovating Karabakh.
Saliba continued to praise the community in keeping the spirit of the ARF and its ideals strong and healthy. But reminded those present that they cannot allow–anit-ARF forces to deter them from their goals and objectives and taint the history and spirit of the organization.
"We are not interested in engaging in futile discussions with divisive entities in the community–whose agenda does not stem from the interests of the people–but rather it is self-serving," commented Saliba.
He reminded the audience of the days under Soviet rule–at which time the ARF was persecuted and its members exiled–and traced the development and spirit of the ARF until today. Saliba particularly highlighted the growth and proliferation of Horizon TV–praising its commitment to serve the community and the Asbarez. newspaper for becoming the largest Armenian publication in the world.
Saliba also highlighted the work of the Armenian National Committee of America and its regional offices in Boston and Glendale–commending their hard work for advocating the community’s issues to the nation’s leaders and the participation of the youth in AYF and other organizations.
Saliba summarized the goals of the Armenian people in three points–the realization of the Armenian Cause–strengthening of the Armenian nation–and strengthening Karabakh.
In his opening remarks–Lena Bozoian stated–"As much as the surroundings in which the ARF conducts its work change–the ideology of the organization–one based on using all its forces to work for the Armenian people and the Armenian Cause."
Melkon Melkonian gave the speech on the behalf of the Armenian Youth Federation. The ARF has worked tirelessly to pursue the goals of the community for more than 100 years and that drive and determination has echoed to the youth. This organization that was founded by Karekin Njdeh–on the belief of "staying Armenian–thinking Armenian–and being Armenian."
The program began with a flag ceremony conducted by the Homenetmen Pasadena Azadamard chapter and was followed by the singing of the national anthems by Garen Gharibian.
The celebration also included a video presentation on the ARF’s activities in Armenia–rendition of patriotic songs by the father-son duo of Haybert and Raffik Allahverdian and performance of Armenian melodies by the Winds of Passion ensemble–as well as rendition of patriotic songs by Karabakh freedom fighter Mgrdich Mgrdchian accompanied on the piano by Armen Aharonian.