126 youngsters join the ranks of the Armenian Youth Federation Junior organization.
GLENDALE—An overflow crowd of more than 1,500 community members, organizational representatives, political and religious leaders filled the Glendale High School Auditorium on Sunday to mark the 126th anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. This year’s festivities were dedicated to Artsakh and included a special ceremony, during which 126 youngsters join the ranks of the Armenian Youth Federation Junior organization.
In an informative and compelling address, the evening’s keynote speaker Armen Sargsyan, a member of the Artsakh National Assembly representing the ARF faction and a former minister of culture, sports and youth affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, detailed the ARF’s consistent and unwavering involvement with Artsakh’s liberation movements dating back to 1918.
Sargsyan detailed the Artsakh liberation struggles of the 1918 independence era, when Karekin Njdeh and other spearheaded the defense efforts against Turks and Azerbaijanis. He continued by listing other instances under Soviet rule, when Armenians of Artsakh rose up to demand reunification with Armenia, all the way to 1973, when, he said, a decision to reunite Artsakh with Armenia was taken, but then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev rejected the decision.
During all these times, whether through active involvement or outside support, the ARF played a crucial role in the advancement of the self-determination of the Artsakh people, until 1988, when with the demonstrations that sparked the modern-day Artsakh Liberation Movement were not only abetted but also spearheaded by the ARF.
In his remarks, Sargsyan turned his attention to the current challenges facing the people of Artsakh, as well as the peace process, saying that calls for concession of land in exchange for peace, a position being advanced by Baku, are unacceptable. He called any concession of territories, without mutually beneficial gains would be dangerous and absurd. He said the struggle for Artsakh, and the victories that have been achieved are part of our national aspiration of a Free, United and Independent Armenia.
Delivering the ARF Western US Central Committee’s message, its chairman Daron Der Khachadourian echoed similar sentiments, by rejecting the so-called “Land for Peace” position and emphasizing that any territory that has been won by the blood of our people cannot be conceded.
In his remarks, Der Khachadourian also addressed some of the concerns facing the Western United States, and highlighted the need to elevate and advance our national education, emphasizing the importance of speaking the Armenian language and continuing the unique traditions, which make us Armenian.
His call for effectively leveraging the capabilities, knowledge and abilities of all factions in the Armenian-American community would create an opportunity to collectively advance a national agenda that focuses on the strengthening of the republics of Armenia and Artsakh and thus, guaranteeing the national security of the Armenian homeland.
One of the most impressive and moving parts of the program was the AYF Juniors oath ceremony. As 126 new members of the junior organization filed onto stage, the Mistress of Ceremonies Souzi Ohanian, introduced a member of the ARF Western Region who actively participated in the Artsakh war, Shahen Aghababian, who officiated by administering the AYF Juniors membership pledge.
The members of the audience were visibly moved by the ceremony, as the juniors in unison recited the pledge and thus began their life-long commitment to the Armenian Cause.
Turning to the audience, Aghababian said at the conclusion of his remarks, “I would like to the new generation of Armenian leaders.”
Aghababian, who has been a decorated veteran of the Artsakh war, recently returned to Stepanakert, where he was awarded the “Defender of the Homeland.” In a surprise announcement, Aghababian introduced his fellow ARFer and friend, Vatchik Sarkisian, who fought alongside Aghababian but was unable to visit Stepanakert last year to receive the same honor. Armen Sargsyan, on behalf of the Artsakh people, decorated Khachatrian with the “Defender of the Homeland” medal.
Also speaking during the program was Puzant Berberian, who presented the message from the Armenian Youth Federation, which turned 84 the day before the ARF Day celebration. He reflected on the work his organization’s “With Our Soldiers” campaign has accomplished since the four-day war in April. He recounted about his own experience as an AYF volunteer visiting the families of fallen heroes on behalf of “With Our Soldiers,” and how that experience made his and the AYF’s resolve stronger to advance the Armenian Cause.
Two video presentations highlighted the Artsakh movement and the ARF’s role in advancing the liberation struggle and an in memoriam segment honoring Western US ARF members who passed away in the past year were shown during the program.
The evening’s festivities began with an impressive flag ceremony by the Homenetmen scouts and the participation of the Homenetmen marching band. The scouts, who filed into the auditorium through the audience and from the main entrance carries the flags of the nations that have recognized the Armenian Genocide, alongside the US, Armenia, Artsakh, State of California and ARF flags.
The anthems of the US, Armenia, Artsakh and the ARF were performed by Lorie Partamian, Toukhman Khachadourian, Tro Krikorian and Karnig Sarkisian respectively.
The evening’s program included performances by the Gevorgian Dance Ensemble, the Rose and Alex Pilibos students who recited works by noted Artsakh writers, as well as singers Razmig Mansourian, Tro Krikorian and Karnig Sarkisian.
The program concluded with an impressive performance by the Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School choir under the direction of Araksia Varteresian.