GLENDALE–The Armenian community of Glendale gathered at Saint Mary’s Church in Glendale on Sunday for a vigil to commemorate and honor the sacrifice of five young individuals who, on July 27, 1983, occupied the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon to demand the international recognition of the 1915-23 Turkish Genocide against the Armenians. The five individuals, who came to be known as the Lisbon 5, were forced to set off explosives, destroying the embassy and killing themselves.
The requiem service, presided over by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, was followed by a video presentation in the church’s hall dedicated to the memory of Simon Yaheneian, Vatche Daghlian, Sarkis Aprahamian, Setrak Adjemian and Ara Kerjelian–the Lisbon 5.
In attendance were members from the ARF Western USA Central Committee, members of the ARF Aharonian Glendale Chapter, members of the AYF Roupen Chapter, and members of the Glendale Ararat Homenetmen Scouts who carried a wreath in memory of the Lisbon 5 to the Church alter.
Following the vigil, Glendale AYF member Meghmik Babakhanian spoke about the influence the Lisbon 5 has had on today’s young Armenian activists, describing their sacrifice as an inspiration to her generation to learn from the past and work within the political process for the advancement of the Armenian cause.
“25 years have passed since the sacrifice of the Lisbon 5 and the political atmosphere of the world has changed. It was common for people then to resort to violence in order to be heard,” Babakhanian said, noting, however, that for Armenians–and the Lisbon 5–violence was only used as a last resort. “The times have changed and so have the means with which we struggle for justice.”
“Ara, Sarkis, Setrag, Simon and Vatche, were ardent believers in fairness, justice and human rights. Their sacrifice laid the groundwork for the worldwide political recognition of the Armenian Genocide and their high ideals continue to inspire us today,” she added. “Their memory will live eternally in our hearts and minds as we continue to seek international recognition of the Armenian genocide,” she said.
Following Babakhanian’s speech, 3 AYF badanees, Tony Ghanime, Verginie Touloumian and Nare Terzian recited a poem by famed Armenian poet Hovhannes Shiraz dedicated to the Lisbon 5. Armenian musician Nersik Ispirian also performed “Lisbon 5,” a song dedicated to the five young Armenian activists.
Babakhanian, who served as the event’s Emcee, presented a short video that included short biographies about the five boys, as well as audio reenactments of them as they spoke about themselves and relayed their message to their families and the Armenian community as a whole. The video also featured footage from the Lisbon bombing.
Following the video, Keynote speaker Hovan Tashjian spoke more about the five boys, the circumstances that lead them to Lisbon and how their actions have impacted Armenians today. Their actions were considered a surprise by the world, Tashjian said, adding that “Armenian life was not the same after July 27, 1983.”
In the early 1980s, the entire world seemed apathetic to the Armenian Cause, and the genocide question was consistently brushed aside in diplomatic forums. It was a time of great frustration for the Armenians who faced a vicious campaign to deny the Genocide by a Turkish government unwilling to engage in dialogue concerning the Armenian Genocide.
As the Lisbon 5 characterized it at the time in communiques to the world, the press and the Portuguese authorities, the wall of silence surrounding the Armenian Genocide had become so thick, that the only way to penetrate that wall was to make the ultimate sacrifice for one’s country.
Their sacrifice inspired a new generation in the 1990s, as Karabakh freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to liberate the historic Armenian territory and establish a democratic republic, explained Tashjian.
“[The Lisbon 5] were well aware that they were the descendants of the remains of the tragic act of the annihilation of an entire nation at Der Zor. They were the birth of the Armenian Diaspora and had received their national baptism in Armenian schools and youth organizations that marshaled the Armenian Cause, Tashjian said during his remarks. “In our community centers, they had felt the freedom-loving spirit of Nigol Tuman, Dro and the likes.”
Archbishop Mardirossian concluded the event with his own remarks. Echoing Tashjian’s remarks, he added that “25 years ago, on this day, a heroic event was transcribed into our modern history, when 5 young Armenians joined the martyrs of our past, who had died for our homeland and cause.”
LAS VEGASOver recent years, Las Vegas has become one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. From 1990 to 2000 alone, census figures show that the population of the city increased by 83%. Not surprisingly, a sizeable proportion of these new residents have included Armenian-Americans.
As their numbers have grown over the years, the Armenian community of Las Vegas has sought to steadily organize itself and establish local social, political and cultural institutions. The latest addition to this tapestry of Armenian community life in the worlds brightest city is the soon to be christened Sosse Mayrig AYF chapter.
We are very proud to be considered part of the founding generation of the Las Vegas Sosse Mayrig chapter and are very excited to be part of the larger AYF family, says Carnie Armenian, a key organizer of the chapter and member of its temporary care-taking bodywhich is tasked with managing affairs until the chapters official formation later this August. Armenian serves on the body alongside fellow Las Vegas youth Hera Armenian and Narineh Abadian.
Over fifteen prospective members from the community have already gone through the educational process required for AYF membership and are looking forward to taking their oath during an inauguration event set to take place late next month. Once the membership is formally established, the chapter will then hold its first general meeting to plan its yearly agenda and elect an executive body.
The momentum leading up to these developmens and culminating in the creation of this new chapter has been over a year in the making. The youth in the Las Vegas community have long shown interest in having a local AYF chapter but the possibility of this becoming a reality only began to materialize in the summer of 2007. It was then that Carnie Armenian met AYF-Western Region Central Executive (CE) Chairman Caspar Jivalagian at AYF Summer Camp in California.
Once I learned that he was a CE member and he learned that I am from Las Vegas, we both knew that we had to start working on forming a Las Vegas chapter, says Armenian. Looking back on their first encounter, Jivalagian adds, As a CE member, I was glad to meet someone from a growing community like Las Vegas and excited about the prospects of uniting a new group of Armenian youth.
In early February, Jivalagian and several of his fellow CE members traveled to Las Vegas to give a special presentation about the AYF to a gathering of interested youth. In addition to discussing the purpose and work of the organization, the CE members answered audience questions and helped clarify the AYFs mission and operation. The Central Executive took several more trips to Las Vegas in the following months, giving further presentations and educationals to prospective members.
Las Vegas is home to a growing and thriving Armenian community, said Vache Thomassian, one of the AYF Central Executive members who traveled to Las Vegas to give educationals. It was wonderful to come out to meet the bright and enthusiastic youth of the community.
These visits by CE proved to play an important role in both educating and motivating the local youth who would soon form the foundation of the new chapter. I could have never imagined a better group of ungers to help form our chapter, says Carnie Armenian of the assistance given by the AYF leadership. They were always willing to drive more than four hours to Las Vegas and help inspire us to get on our feet as a chapter.
In the course of these efforts, news about the creation of the chapter quickly spread throughout the Nevada Armenian community and across the western region. Those involved in the chapters creation explain that, even today, they are constantly finding new young people wanting to join the organization.
Interestingly enough, the majority of those currently involved in the Las Vegas chapter also happen to be female. Hence, it was decided to name the chapter in memory of one of the most heroic female figures of the Armenian liberation movement, Sosse Mayrig Vartanian.
With the momentum on their side and the support of the community, Carnie and her fellow young activists have high hopes about the potential of their growing new chapter. Our chapter is unique because we are in such a small community that even a little outreach can make a noticeable difference, says Armenian. We believe we can have a large impact on our community and get Armenian issues across to the state of Nevada politicians and representatives.
For those interested in learning more about the new Las Vegas Sosse Mayrig Chapter or the inauguration “kick-off event scheduled to take place in Las Vegas on August 23rd, please contact Carnie Armenian at CarnieArmenian@hotmail.com.