The AYF is known for its commitment to political activism. In 2004–this took the shape of protesting former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s visit to Southern California for his disregard for the historical record of the Armenian genocide and his denialist statemen’s made to the Turkish press; a Rally Against Genocide Denial reaffirming that the youth of today continue to be determined in their quest for justice; its annual April 24 protest at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles with close to 5000 participants; and an informational booth at the System Of A Down Souls 2004 concert to encourage youth to get involved in Armenian issues. It also undertook the responsibility–on several occasions–to inform the community of vital issues.
On the education front–the AYF held its Annual Educational Seminar at AYF Camp–where members from all chapters came together in a fraternal and social atmosphere. Aside from three in-depth educational lectures about American grassroots political activism–an overview of the ARF 29th World Congress was presented. The AYF’s official quarterly publication Haytoug received a boost this year–generating a renewed interest among its young readers.
It also held many social functions including ski trips–fun camps–kebab nights–and dinner dances. Through proceeds from those social events–money was raised for current and future endeavors.
In an effort to create a philanthropic and physical bond between the homeland and the diaspora–coupled with the motivation to assist war-torn towns and villages in Artsakh–the AYF created the Youth Corps program–providing an opportunity for young Armenia’s to spend approximately five weeks during the summer in Armenia and Artsakh–where they supply the much needed resources and manpower to villages where residents are rebuilding their lives. The Youth Corps Sponsorship Program (YCSP) was created to provide one graduating high school senior an all expenses paid trip to participate in the AYF Youth Corps–a five week summer program in Armenia and Artsakh providing manpower to villages where residents are rebuilding their lives.
During the summer of 2004–AYF Summer Camp was home to more than 450 Armenian youth. Established in 1977–it provides a great atmosphere for young Armenia’s from all over to make new friends–become more acquainted with Armenian history and culture–and participate in a wide array of athletic activities. The AYF Camp Board is currently working to remodel each cabin–the lodge–kitchen–and bathrooms.
Along with the old must come the new and the AYF certainly met the challenge with innovative initiatives.
–The AYF–an international organization with over 100 chapters in more than 15 countries–has a vibrant presence in Armenia with more than 1000 members. The AYF Western Region Central Executive has begun a campaign to help its counterpart in Armenia in their efforts to create youth centers and new chapters. Although this effort began in the final quarter of the year–the Western Region has already allocated over $5000 towards this important project.
–In an effort to make Armenian literature accessible to both AYF members and the youth in general–the AYF created the Armenian Literary Project (ALP)–tasked with translating important pieces of literary work from Armenian to English. The ALP’s current project involves the translation of a publication produced in Armenia by the ARF. The publication provides answers to common questions about ARF ideology–platforms–worldview–and activities.
–Currently in the process of creating an AYF Alumni database through their online Alumni Registry and chapter archives–the AYF collected contact information for more than 2000 AYF Alumni–who are responsible for many of the organization’s successes–the education of several generations–and shaping the organization.
–This year the AYF also created www.SonsofArmenia.org–an educational initiative directed at educating the public about the liberation struggle of Artsakh and the heroes that were born from that struggle.
–From over 30 applications–seven graduating high school seniors were chosen to receive the Nanor Krikorian Scholarship gran’s totaling $3500.
–Through its Youth Guidance Program–the AYF continuously prepared and aired public service announcemen’s targeting both Armenian parents–as well as youth who are at risk for drinking and driving–violence–and drugs in an ever-changing society.
— AYF’s 2nd Annual Little Armenia Cleanup gathered hundreds of youth volunteers from all over Southern California to remove thousands of pounds of trash from the streets of Little Armenia. After the first Little Armenia Cleanup held at the end of the last fiscal year–the AYF conducted a poll of 25 Little Armenia businesses and found that the general consensus was for more AYF involvement in the community. As a result–the Little Armenia Beautification Program was created. The program includes AYF’s participation in LA City Council’s efforts of removing graffiti–cleaning litter from streets–continuously adding "Welcome to Little Armenia" light-post banners–and participating in LA City Council’s Little Armenia and Thai Town Improvement Committee.
–New websites have been created for AYF Summer Camp (ayfcamp.org)–AYF Youth Corps (ayfyouthcorps.org)–Haytoug (haytoug.org)–and launched the educational initiative of www.SonsofArmenia.org.
–Over the past several years–the AYF has faced the challenge of providing its novices a uniform educational curriculum. This year–the Novice Educational Handbook was created to serve as the uniform educational program for all novices. The handbook consists of 17 educational topics spanning over 48 pages and covering early Armenian history to the post-soviet Armenia.
International Union of Socialist Youth:
As a full member of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY)–the AYF exercised its full member status by sending four delegates to its World Congress in Budapest–Hungary this year. The congress provided the opportunity for the Western Region to share its mission and activities with the rest of the world’s leading youth organizations–while learning from and networking with them. The IUSY is the youth counterpart of Socialist International–composed of 143 socialist–social democratic–and labor youth organizations from all over the world. It was founded over 90 years ago and is currently the largest student and youth political organization in the world. Its purpose is to establish bonds of solidarity between its members and promote the principles of democratic socialism throughout the world.
Youth & Student Conference in Armenia:
The AYF Western Region participated in the ARF Youth and Student Conference held in Armenia–where representatives from AYF regions and ARF Student Associations from around the world gathered to discuss their respective region’s experiences–activities–and challenges.
Americas Social Forum:
The AYF participated in the Americas Social Forum–which is a part of the World Social Forum–providing an open meeting place where groups and movemen’s of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism–come together to pursue thinking–to debate ideas democratically–and network for effective action.
La Crescenta, CA – The AYF enlisted 16 new youth in its Western Region ranks on Sunday, November 7 at the Crescenta Valley Armenian Center.
To become full fledged members of the AYF applicants must complete an educational program and thereafter take an oath during a formal ceremony.
In his opening remarks on behalf of the Central Executive, Shant Baboujian, chairman of the AYF Western Region, stressed to the youth the importance of duty, responsibility and service to their respective communities and the Armenian Cause in general.
Thereafter, Baboujian invited past members of the AYF to share their memories and experiences with those taking their oaths. After a short question and answer session Baboujian introduced Dikran Sassounian, ARF Central Committee member and “Gnkahayr” of the evening to preside over the oath ceremony.
Sassounian explained to the youth that joining the AYF is not difficult, but each member is expected to work hard, display commitment to the organizationís goals and to contribute to the forward progress of our cause. Sassounian then proceeded with the oath ceremony, through which the youth pledged to devote their energies toward achieving a free, independent and united Armenia.
“Prior to taking their oath our newest members successfully completed the AYF Educational Program, designed to educate them about Armenian history, the Genocide, our struggles, and the organization in general” said Razmig Haroun, Education Director of the AYF. “Due to the continuous submission of applications, we expect the addition of another 20 members to our ranks in the coming months.”
The Central Executive presented each new member with a symbolic gift at the end of the ceremony, after which the new members, past members, and ARF members had the opportunity to interact.
Encino, CA – More than 250 ARF Badanegan and AYF members participated in a mixer on Sunday, November 14 at the Holly Martyrs Ferrahian Encino campus. The mixer, organized by the AYF Central Executive, created the opportunity for ARF Badanegan members to better acquaint themselves with the AYF and its members.
In his opening remarks, Tro Tchekedjian, Central Executive member, reaffirmed that the AYF is always available to assist and serve as role models for the ARF Badanegan. Thereafter, the AYF and ARF Badanegan members challenged one another over basketball, soccer and football games.
After lunch the Crescenta Valley, Glendale, Hollywood, Montebello, Orange County, Pasadena, South Bay, and West Valley ARF Badanegan chapters participated in a song competition. All competitors were required to sing “Karekin Njteh” and a second song of their choice.
All chapters were awarded symbolic gifts such as maps of Armenia or Armenian Genocide posters. Third place winners of the competition were the West Valley junior and senior chapters, second place was the Orange County chapter, and first place was the Pasadena chapter.
“Given that the ARF Badanegan and the AYF are a part of one family, this mixer is the first of many joint activities the CE will organize for the members of both organizations,” said Nora Ounjian, AYF Central Executive member. “ARF Badanegan members will transfer to AYF within the coming years; therefore we will do our best to assure that they are well informed and educated about our structure, manifesto, goals, and procedures.”
Armenian Youth Federation Representatives Meet with Consul General, Voice Opposition to Turkish EU Membership
Los Angeles, CA – Over 100 Armenian American youth protested at the Consular Offices of the Netherlands in Los Angeles on Thursday, December 17, 2004. The protest was a reaction to the impending talks with the Republic of Turkey regarding membership in the European Union. Official representatives of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) met with the Consul General of the Netherlands and expressed their opposition to Turkeyís possible membership in the European Union. Every six months, the Presidency of the EU rotates and the Netherlands took on this position until the end of December, 2004.
During the meeting, AYF Chairman Shant Baboujian and Secretary Nora Ounjian relayed an official letter voicing the communityís opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. The letter outlined numerous human rights violations by the Republic of Turkey and specifically called upon European Leaders to hold Turkey accountable for perpetrating genocide against Armenians between the years of 1915 – 1923.
“While we appreciate and commend the recent developments demanding Turkish recognition of the Armenian Genocide, we will continuously voice our opposition to Turkish membership in the EU,” said Baboujian. “Turkey must first address is abysmal human rights record and denials of the Armenian Genocide before any talks about membership are initiated.”
More than 100 youth, from various community based organizations, spanned across two blocks of Wilshire Blvd. during the afternoon rush hour protest, holding placards, which read slogans such as “No EU for Turkey” and “First Justice, then EU.” Protesters also distributed fact sheets to by passers about Turkeyís denial of the Armenian Genocide; occupation of Cyprus; blockade of Armenia; and human rights abuses of various minorities living within the Republic of Turkey.
The Los Angeles protest was one of many protests taking place around the world this week in an international Armenian effort to voice opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. The largest such demonstration was undertaken by the Armenian National Committee of Europe, which organized a massive protest in Brussels on December 17. Thousands of concerned citizens of various European nations gathered to demonstrate and urge European leaders to consider Turkeyís gross violations of basic human rights.