GLENDALE—An overflow crowd of community members at St. Mary’s Armenian Church hall on Sunday pledged to join the popular movement, attending the “Rally for Armenia. With our People, For our People,” during which opposition presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian addressed the gathering live via Skype to thunderous applause.
The crowd was decisive in its message. The anger that the people of Armenia are feeling today as a result of widespread fraud and election violations was echoed loudly in Glendale, as the community united its voice with the thousands who have demonstrating in Armenia following the presidential elections on February 18.
Hovannisian greeted the crowd with “Barev, or Parev” in a message that included harsh criticism of the government for allowing widespread election violations, and condemnation of foreign leaders who have rushed to validate the elections in Armenia.
The opposition leader vowed to continue the movement in the name of the people of Armenia, who lived a reawakening of sorts on election day when their votes tipped the scales in favor of the people.
Organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee and the All Armenian Student Association, the Armenian Bar Association, the ARF Shant Student Association and the Armenian Youth Federation, the rally featured musical performances by popular singer Harut Pamboukjian.
ARF Western US Central Committee chairman Dr. Viken Hovsepian was clear in his message that those who conjecture that this movement will die down are mistaken, because the movement is “pure, clean, bright and nationalistic.”
“This movement will revolutionize our homeland. Let no one criticize or intimidate [the movement] by throwing in the threat of destabilization,” said Hovsepian. “Those destabilizing the country are those who violate the right to free expression and vote of the people of Armenia.”
“We have joined the movement so that finally, after struggling for 21 years, we can achieve our right to have truly just leadership, which pursues national ideals,” said Hovsepian.
Also speaking at the rally was Armenian Bar Association president Garo Ghazarian, who was in Armenia during the elections and witnessed some of the rampant violations going on in precinct after precinct.
He recounted his meetings with international polling monitors, who he said, would privately admit to the violations but went on to publically validate the vote.
Ghazarian said, however, that the movement that was sparked after the election will endure, because the people of Armenia are not afraid and will stand firmly for their rights and fight for justice.
“The people of Armenia, in the name of securing their rights, instead of being threatened by a long struggle, on February 18, through some super human strength have risen to say ‘NO’ to the violations being forced upon them,” said Ghazarian.
“The people affirmatively heeded Raffi’s call and rose up to take ownership of their voice,” added Ghazarian.
Attorney Edvin Minassian, the former president of ArmenBar, touched on President Barack Obama’s validation of the Armenian elections.
“We as American Armenians have been deeply saddened and disappointed with President Obama, who has sent a congratulatory message to Serzh Sarkisian,” said Minassian.
“The United States in the past has also saluted ‘fine’ leaders such as Fulgencio Batista (the corrupt and brutal dictator of Cuba), Shah Reza Pahlavi, Somoza, Manuel Noriega, Pinochet, Zia of Pakistan and Suharto of Indonesia. The regrets have come after significant price was paid,” said Minassian.
The program began with Pamboukjian singing the Armenian National Anthem, after which Master of Ceremonies Tro Krikorian welcomed the crowd and explained the importance of joining our voices with the people of Armenia.
Davit Arakelyan, a student activist and the former chairman of the Armenian Youth Federation, touched on the importance of the youth and student movement that has sprung up in Armenia.
By encouraging the students, who after rising up to demand justice, have been faced with harsh resistance from police and school administration, who have initiated a lock-down of state institutions, Arakelyan loudly proclaimed the “we join with the student movement in Armenia to create a better future for our homeland.”
The AYF’s Caspar Jivalegian also spoke of the youth’s commitment to the popular movement and voiced his solidarity with the young generation in Armenia.
Tamar Shahabanian Voskanian, an international affairs expert with years of experience in Bosnia and Armenia, provided a first-hand account of the election violations that have been rampant in Armenia, especially during the February 18 presidential elections.
She did express hope that the popular movement has demonstrated that the people of Armenia are willing to stand up for their rights and are fed up with the government continued efforts to stifle the voices of its citizens.