BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
ENCINO–The need to accelerate efforts to garner international recognition for the Armenian Genocide was the message conveyed to the more than 2000 community members–most of them youth–who had gathered at Ferrahian School’s Avedissian hall for a vigil organized by the Armneian Youth Federation Central Executive and commemorating the 84th anniversary of the Armeian Genocide.
The floor of Avedissian Hall was covered with carpets–with only a few rows of chairs set up for spectators. As the program began–the participants of the vigil converged on the floor. Joining them was State Assemblyman Scott Wildman and Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian. Also there to represent political officials were Gregory Krikorian representing Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.); Mannik Khatchatrian representing State Senator Adam Schiff; and Baydzar Thomassian representing Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg.
The standing room hall was the venue for political declarations–music performances–poetry reading–video presentation–slide show and most importantly–a rededication of the youth to the furthering of the Armenian Cause.
"Hai Tahd–Hai Tahd–Hai Tahd–Forever," exclaimed Raffi Hamparian–the keynote speaker of the evening when concluding his brief–yet engaging and powerful depiction of the state of the Armenian cause today.
Through anecdotal references and factual presentations–Hamparian outlined the mission confronting each Armenian at the turn of the century. He explained that as Armenian-Americans–each person had a duty to articulate the need for the US to recognize the Genocide–for the simple reason that since the US refuses to provide due acceptance of the Genocide–it–too–becomes an accomplice in the crime.
"We as Americans," Hamparian said–"cannot allow our country to become an accomplice to the crime of Genocide. We as Americans must not allow American policy to be dictated by Turkey."
Hamparian went on to outline that an unwilling White House–a hesitant Congress and a slew of public relations companies employed by Turkey were the some of the obstacles preventing the US recognition of the Genocide.
Yet he emphasized the importance of participation by each and every Armenian to right the wrongs of the past as a memorial to the fallen victims of the Genocide. He stressed that Armenia’s owed it to the Genocide martyrs to fight for the fruition of the Armenian Cause.
Finally–he urged all Armenia’s to marshall the cause and become an active component of Hai-Tahd–in order for the next century to become a victorious period for Armenia’s throughout the world.
Also urging the US recognition of the Armenian Genocide–was Assemblyman Wildman–who–earlier that day took part in a demonstration also organized by the AYF at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles.
Wildman also detailed efforts in the State Assembly to mark April 24 a state-wide day of remembrance for the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Councilman Manoukian also emphasized the importance of getting active in community endeavors and the political process. In remarks which he delivered in Armenian–he stressed the importance commemorating the Genocide as an ode to its victims and an opportunity to renew the deman’s of the Armenia’s.
Finally–he cited his elections as an example of fervent participation in the American political process–saying that without the active involvement of the Armenian-American community–the strides made in the city of Glendale would not have been possible.
Joining is solidarity with the Armenian community at the vigil were two representatives from the Kurdish community.
Maya Mikoyan–a Yezidy Kurd who was born and brought up in Armenia–spoke of the respect and humility demonstrated by the government and people of Armenia toward the Kurdish minority living there. She also cited the current massacre of the Kurdish population in Turkey as another example of an unpunished crime.
In her remarks in Armenian–she stressed the need for Turkey to be punished and brought to justice for its crimes against humanity.
Another representative of the Kurdish community–Gavan Azboy–echoed the same sentimen’s–adding that the current crisis in the Balkans mirror the atrocities of the beginning of the century.
Furthermore–he apologized to the Armenian community for the Kurdish role and complacency in the Armenian Genocide–saying that the Ottoman Turkish government forced the Kurdish population to join in the massacre of Armenia’s–as a way to ensure the survival of the Kurds under Ottoman rule.
He urged the Armenia’s and Kurds to united under one banner in fighting Turkey.
The program concluded with remarks by Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee chairman Hovig Saliba–who praised the youth for its vibrance and activism in organizing the event and emphasizing the vital role the youth play in the realization of Hai Tahd.
Saliba remarked that the youth have always been at the forefront of the Armenian liberation movement of struggle. He added that the vigil was a testament that the youth would not neglect the cause and had rightfully claimed the torch of justice.
The representatives of elected officials took turns presenting proclamations from their respective offices commemorating the Armenian Genocide–with Krikorian announcing Rep. Rogan’s efforts in authoring and sponsoring a bill in Congress recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Khatchatrian pledged Sen. Schiff’s commitment to Genocide recognition–while Thomasian read a strongly-worded declaration by the LA City Council condemning the US government for its hesitance to provide due recognition to the Genocide.
Intermittently throughout the program–popular Armenian singers would take the stage and through songs expressed their commitment to the Armenian Cause.
Singers Koko Hayitian–Karnig Sarkissian–Harout Pamboukjian and Nersig Isbirian–each performed their renditions of Armenian folk–nationalistic and patriotic songs–with Sarkissian taking the stage twice and performing the culminating songs of the evening.
Slides depicting Genocide victims–Armenian national heroes–Karabakh freedom fighters and youth activists were shown simultaneously during each performance.
The musical moment of the evening–however–belonged to the rock ‘n roll band I.O. which performed a set that included a rendition of "Tzayn me hunchets Erzeroumi Hayots Lerneren…" receiving applause and cheers–enciting excitement in the audience. I.O. is comprised of AYF and non-AYF Armenian youth who have performed several shows in Los Angeles-area clubs. Their performance Friday–highlighted the evening’s commemoration.
Also participating in the program was young Armenian-American poet Ara Babaian who recited a piece by Rouben Sevak–who was among intellectuals–writers and leaders rounded up by Turkish forces on April 24–1915 and killed–becoming the first victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Babaian told the audience that he expresses his commitment to the Armenian Cause through poetry and urged all to continue the struggle.
The evening program began with an impressive flag ceremony by the Homenetmen San Fernando Valley Massis chapter’s scout troop. The national anthems were performed by noted singer Garineh Avakian.
The Master of Ceremonies–AYF Central Executive member Christopher Guldjian stressed the importance of the gathering–stating the AYF’s commitment to leading the Armenian people to the eventual realization of the Armenian Cause.
Friday’s youth vigil could be deemed one of the more unique events in the past decade–for it gathered young and old under the same roof for the singular purpose of commemorating the Genocide and reaffirming the Armenian-American community’s commitment to the Armenian Cause.