BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
“I will die without having seen the motherland. I don’t care. Others will see it…” So said Setrak Adjemian in July 1983, before he and his four friends, Sarkis Aprahamian,. Vatche Daghlian, Ara Kerdjelian and Simon Yahneian, headed to Lisbon where, on July 27 of that year, they would sacrifice their lives at the altar of justice and in the name of the Armenian Cause, forever becoming immortalized and memorialized as modern-day heroes of the Armenian Liberation struggle.
More than three decades later, we can say that the aforementioned five heroes, better known as the Lisbon 5, did not die in vain since many have not only seen the motherland but some have even been able to call it home. Furthermore, their demand for justice for the Armenian Genocide reverberated around the world vocalizing the cries of the entire Armenian nation and piercing the deaf ears of the international community, which had distanced itself from the truth and justice.
They died without having seen the motherland, so Pope Francis, last month, could kneel at Dzidzernagapert and after praying for the memory of 1.5 million Armenians, could declare the Armenian Genocide the first such crime of the 20th century and call for justice.
They died so more than a century later, the German Bundestag would not only recognize the Armenian Genocide but also admit German complicity in it. They died so that world leaders would line up to pay their respects to the Genocide victims at Dzidzernagapert on April 24, 2015.
A mere five years after Sarkis, Setrak, Ara, Simon and Vatche set out to advance the Armenian Cause and through their ultimate sacrifice emboldened the entire Armenian Nation, the men and women of Artsakh rose up to demand justice. When their peaceful calls were met with gruesome aggression and violence, they took up arms, and through the sacrifice of their lives, ensured that today the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic stands tall atop the Caucasus Mountains and reminded the world that the Armenian Liberations Struggle was not over and would continue.
So much of what we, as Armenians, do today can be attributed to the sacrifices made by the Lisbon 5 and their comrades in arms, who in the 1970’s and 1980’s took a page out of Operation Nemesis and sought justice for the Armenian people when no one else would. They took matters into their own hands, because the international powers were busy elevating Turkey and hiding its criminal past, becoming accomplices in the crime of Genocide.
When the Armenian Youth Federation can boast that during that past 22 years, through its Youth Corps program, it has sent hundreds of volunteers to Armenia and Artsakh, where they have brought together local youth and served as bridge between the homeland and the Diaspora, we can say that the Lisbon 5 legacy has imparted its lessons to a new generation of dedicated young Armenian men and women. By the same token, when Armenian schools nurture and empower thousands of young people to proudly advance the Armenian Cause as part of their daily life, we can say not only they did not die in vain, but in fact their message is being heard loud and clear.
Today, the challenges facing the Armenian nation are not insurmountable even though they might seem enormous. The most fundamental lesson we can take from the selflessness of the Lisbon 5 is that personal and collective sacrifices most often translate into successes. Our dedication and commitment to a better future for the Armenian Nation, through sacrifice, will enable us to not only confront external threats but will empower us to work through internal challenges.
After all, they didn’t care if died without having seen our motherland so that we can proclaim today that not only we can see our motherland, we will fight to the end to protect and elevate it.