GLENDALE—A roundtable discussion Friday that brought together Armenian Revolutionary Federation members, who are elected or appointed political officials, highlighted the role the ARF plays in shaping policy in their respective countries.
The roundtable, which attracted a standing-room only crowd of hundreds of community members at the Armenag DerBedrossian hall at St. Mary’s Church in Glendale, was organized as part of a weekend-long series of events marking the 120th anniversary of the ARF and featured parliament members from Armenia, the Nargorno-Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) and Iran, Lilit Galstyan, Armen Sargsyan and Gevork Vartanian respectively and former minister in the Lebanese government Shahe Barsoumian.
The roundtable kicked off with opening remarks by ARF Western US Central Committee Public Relations Office director Saro Nazarian, who underscored the importance of bringing together legislatures and government officials to emphasize the role the ARF plays in various political circles and countries.
Nazarian then invited the roundtable moderator and California Courier publisher, Harout Sassounian, who presented a brief biography of the featured speakers upon inviting them to kick off the discussion.
In her presentation, Galstyan, who is a member of the ARF parliamentary bloc in Armenia’s National Assembly, presented an overview of the political situation in Armenia and immediately turned her focus on the ARF’s activities following the party’s decision to leave the ruling coalition, which was prompted by the government’s pursuit of the dangerous Armenia-Turkey protocols process.
Galstyan detailed the activities of the ARF, both within parliament and outside, to sound the alarms in Armenia of the dangers of the protocols, explaining that the ARF’s efforts resulted in mass protests and increased opposition toward the protocols, eventually culminating in a government decision to freeze Armenia’s participation in the process.
She also explained that the National Assembly was the stage through which the ARF was able to impact issues of concern to the national security of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as well as a venue where the party can bring forth discussion of the Armenia’s socio-economic, civic society and protection of human rights issues, and address the challenges confronting Artsakh, all of which remain priorities for the ARF and its parliamentary bloc.
Sargsyan, who leads the ARF bloc in the parliament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told the audience on the activities of the ARF in Karabakh mirrored the heroic path set forth by the people of Artsakh. He emphasized the leading role the ARF played in the Karabakh liberation struggle and the critical function of the party in current efforts to strengthen Karabakh’s statehood and to preserve the aspirations of the people of Artsakh.
Vartanian, who represents the Armenian community of northern Iran in the Islamic Republic’s legislature, provided an historical overview of the role of Armenians in Iran, which, he said spans 2,700 years and continues to have its beneficial impact on the country’s social development and economic prosperity.
Vartanian highlighted the role the late ARF leader Hrair Khalatian played in the development of the main law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, based on which Armenians were recognized as a religious minority and as a result maintained its two seats in parliament and guaranteed the rights of Armenians within the republic.
Following the independence of Armenia, Vartanian stressed the role the Armenian community—especially its representatives in parliament—played in forging a close relationship between Iran and Armenia. Throughout the decades this relationship has grown into economic, political, cultural and scientific cooperation between the two countries, which has greatly advanced stability in the region.
A former minister in the Lebanese government, Barsoumian began his presentation by highlighting the special role the Lebanese Armenian community has played in the Diasporan reality, as well as in advancement of Lebanon, adding that in ensuring the preservation of the rights of the Armenian community in Lebanon the ARF has played a critical role both within the legislature and the government.
Barsoumian also emphasized the ARF’s adoption of a “positive neutrality” approach during Lebanon’s civil war—an approach supported by other healthy Armenian political factions—not only guaranteed the security of the Lebanese-Armenian community, but also was instrumental in encouraging dialogue between opposing sides after the end of the war.
During the question and answer session, community members had an opportunity to discuss a wide-range of issues with the visiting officials.
To see more photos from the event, visit the Asbarez Facebook page here. Photo Credit: Nora Yacoubian.