BY HEROS JOJAGHAIAN
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation has reached 120 years of age, during which time it has seen two turns of the century and persevered through a 70-year exile from Armenia. To mark this milestone anniversary in London two events were held on consecutive days, both in the beautifully revamped Navasartian Centre of West London.
Friday 14th January
Master of the ceremony Lorig Vartanian welcomed us and introduced to us the first part of the evening: a short film on the ARF’s beginnings and its life to date. This was followed by a speech from AYF London Khanasor’s chairwoman, Aida Berberian, who spoke about the importance of the community’s youth and how critical they are in the future of our struggle in the Diaspora.
A recital of Antranik Tzarougian’s “Toukht Ar Yerevan” (Open Letter to Yerevan) poem, was then executed with passion by four budding Homenetmenagan scouts; Kouyr Arda Haladjian, Kouyr Salbee Beshirian, Yekhpayr Andre Asatryan, and Yekhpayr Vahe Boghosian.
Next was the keynote speech by Viken Hovsepian, Western USA representative of the ARF Bureau, who had travelled from Los Angeles to be with us. He spoke about current Armenia-Turkey relations, the Protocols, and, most importantly, our cause as part of the Armenian nation. He stressed that there should be no divide between Armenians – be it by accent or belief, living in Armenia or the Diaspora – we are one People and our cause is one. This cause encompasses the recognition of the Genocide, due reparations, the campaign for our lands as drawn by President Woodrow Wilson, the Gharabagh conflict, the rights of Javakhk-Armenians to live in their own historical lands with their own identity, and everything else stemming from the inhumane uprooting and butchery of our forefathers in 1915.
Prominent singer Artour Apkarian and band, from Montreal, opened and subsequently closed the evening with Mer Hayrenik/Mshag Panvor and Aryounod Trosh, respectively.
Saturday 15th January
The livelier of the two events took place the following day by way of a sold-out Dinner-Dance. It began with a speech from London’s ARF body, delivered by Hrach Boghosian, discussing the strategy for the Hye Tad here in the UK. Congratulations were also mentioned for the recent Genocide recognition by Ealing Borough Council, and especially to those who were instrumental for securing the victory.
Among us that evening were Councillor Ara Iskanderian of Ealing Borough Council and Mr Stephen Pound MP, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.
Special-invitee Mr Pound took the stand next and offered his congratulations to the ARF and Armenians on the whole. He spoke of us with pride and, as always, provided us with the humour that we’ve come to know well.
Finally, Artour Apkarian, his pianist, and saxophonist, climbed on stage and kicked off the evening’s festivities with a long sequence of songs to which there was much dancing beneath the stage, as everyone was revelling in the trio from Canada. As the night drew on and dinner came and went, the time for patriotic songs arrived. The youths and young adults grouped below the band and sang wholeheartedly with Artour until, and after, the band had finished their playlist. The attendees remained engaged until the early hours of the morning when, finally, we had to call it a night.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation has reached 120 years of age, but it has not aged. It is still an adolescent. It is still driven by adolescents. And it still has the same ideal that was put forth by the first adolescents of the party: to achieve a Free, Independent, and United Armenia.