LONG BEACH, CA–Questions about Turkey’s human rights record and denial of the Armenian Genocide hampered an annual gala in Long Beach marking the founding of the Turkish Republic on Saturday, October 25, when over 50 activists from the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) demonstrated outside the hotel hosting the celebration in protest of the republic’s contentious and violent history.
Organized by the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California (ATASC), the Turkish Republic Day ball commemorates Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and other Turkish ‘founding fathers.’ The event marks the founding of a Republic, the establishment of which was no less bloodier than the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire that preceded it. Ataturk is hailed as the harbinger of the “new” Turkey for the Turks while many see his rise to power as a continuation of the centuries of persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey.
“The birth of a state through the wholesale destruction of millions of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian people is a feat we believe is not worthy of celebration,” said Vache Thomassian of the Armenian Youth Federation.
“If individuals feel that they can celebrate historical atrocities we will be there to remind them that crimes against humanity cannot be masked with balloons and champagne,” Thomassian said. “We will continue to pursue awareness and recognition for the Armenian Genocide and we will continue to bring to light those individuals that try to distort and rewrite history.”
Most of the participants at the demonstration were young Armenian-Americans who were determined to draw attention to Turkey’s laundry-list of human rights violations. Chants and statements read by AYF activists outside the Long Beach Hilton Hotel penetrated deep into its lobby, triggering discussion on the issue among many guests and passerbys. Meanwhile, a smaller group of AYF members silently demonstrated in the hotel lobby, wearing t-shirts depicting a bloody Turkish flag and the words “republic of inhumanity.”
“We were able to loudly and clearly get our message across to all those inside and outside the hotel,” said Thomassian. “No one went inside that event or building, without considering the the role of the Turkish republic in the Armenian Genocide.”
Although this was the first time the AYF confronted the ATASC and the Long Beach Hilton on the issue of the Genocide, Long Beach has long been a hotbed of Turkish activity against the Armenian American community in Southern California, hosting Turkish dignitaries and organizations that actively deny the Armenian Genocide.
In 2002, the California State University in Long Beach (CSULB), invited the then Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Osman Faruk Logoglu, to speak on US-Turkish ties to an audience of over 200 students, professors and members of the community.
Logoglu’s presentation, however, quickly became a public relations fiasco for Turkey, as Armenian National Committee (ANC) and AYF activists in the audience continuously asked the ambassador to explain his government’s abysmal record on human rights.
AYF and ANC activists, joined by the CSULB Armenian Students Association had also staged a peaceful protest outside the CSULB Main Library, distributing fliers and speaking with members of the campus community about the facts of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s internationally condemned record of human rights.
Years later, in 2006, CSULB Professor Tulin Mangir, coordinated students and members of the local Turkish community to disrupt an Armenian Genocide commemoration vigil, organized by the Armenian Students Association at UC Irvine.
Mangir, the former Vice President of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and current faculty advisor to the CSULB Turkish Students Association, wrote an open letter to UCI’s chancellor, condemning the Genocide commemoration event and accusing Armenians of “perpetuating a genocide against Turks.” Mangir, the chief instigator of the protests, also pressed charges against the UCI ASA for physical abuse, but the university dismissed the charges, considering them to be unfounded.
“As a definite pattern emerges connecting a number of dubious Turkish organizations and initiatives to Long Beach, the Armenian-American community will pay closer attention to this developing relationship,” Thomassian said, adding that the AYF will continue to take issue with, and act upon, any group that tries to misrepresent history and deny historical truth.
LONG BEACH, CA – Over 50 members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) converged around the perimeter of the Long Beach Hilton Hotel Saturday night to demonstrate in protest of an annual banquet honoring the establishment of the modern Turkish republic and its founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Hosted by the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California (ATASC), the Turkish Republic Day Ball differentiates itself from other benign cultural or social events, celebrating the founding a state established through genocide.
“This event, which deifies Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and other Turkish ‘founding fathers’, seeks to commemorate the establishment of a Republic built on the ashes of 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide; a feat we believe is not worthy of celebration,” said Vache Thomassian of the Armenian Youth Federation.
For four hours demonstrators, lined outside the hotel, chanted slogans and read short statements highlighting Turkey’s past and present human rights violations, while a smaller group of AYF members inside the hotel silently demonstrated in the lobby, wearing t-shirts depicting a bloody Turkish flag and the words “republic of inhumanity.”
“On October 29, 1923 Ataturk’s Republic of Turkey was formed and recognized as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire,” Arek Santikian screamed into a megaphone outside the hotel. “This Republic continued the oppressive and murderous policies employed by the Ottoman Empire, continuing to repress minorities, squash free speech and deny the Armenian Genocide.”
Chants and statements read by AYF members outside the hotel echoed throughout the hotel lobby, reaching all the way to rooms on the hotel’s top floors, according to AYF members who were inside the Hilton.
Meanwhile, two members, inside the banquet, shouted “recognize the Armenian Genocide” repeatedly during a moment of silence held in memory of “Turkish victims” killed by Kurds, a repressed minority currently under siege in Turkey.
The demonstration’s objective, according to the AYF, was to remind the event’s patrons of the historical truths surrounding the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
“Undeniable human rights violations such as the denial of the Armenian Genocide, the continual blockade of Armenia and outright rejection of free speech in Turkey are issues which must be brought to like during such a ‘celebration’,” said Thomassian.” Although we feel every ethnicity and nation has an indelible right to observe their respective cultural milestones, this instance is one which the AYF cannot remain quiet.”
“The demonstration was a success with everyone inside the hotel lobby was talking about the demonstration and the Armenian Genocide,” Thomassian said, adding that even detectives on scene sympathized with the AYF’s cause.
ENCINO, CA The Armenian National Committee of the West San Fernando Valley (ANC-WSFV) and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Sardarabad Chapter are working together to urge all registered Armenias to vote in the upcoming general election.
Dozens of young activists in the San Fernando Valley are working together through the ANC and AYF to contact thousands of Armenian Americans, by phone, flyers and by going door to door urging them to head to the polls on November 4th.
“This election cycle presents tremendous opportunities for Armenian Americans to express themselves through voting,” said Nichan Kulukian, chairman of the ANC-WSFV. “Whether it is on the foreign or domestic policy front, we cannot allow ourselves to remain on the sidelines this election.”
As part of the “get out the vote” campaign and in order to better serve the elderly or disabled community, the ANC-WSFV and the AYF Sardarabad Chapter is providing transportation to polling sites for residents of the San Fernando Valley on November 4th. Individuals or those who know of individuals who need a ride to and from the polls are encouraged to call the ANC office at 818-500-1918 by November 3rd.
“We just want to do our part to help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to vote in this crucial election,” said Sam Bebekian, chairman of the AYF Sardarabad Chapter. “For many of our members, this is their first election in which they can vote so they are inspired to help others also participate in this fundamental civic privilege.”
The ANC of the West San Fernando Valley advocates for the social, economic, cultural, and political rights of the areas Armenian American community and promotes increased Armenian American civic participation at the grassroots and public policy levels.
NEW YORKOn October 5 the New York Armenian Youth Federation-Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Hayortik chapter led the Greater New York Armenian community in celebrating the AYFs 75th anniversary. The event gathered members from local organizations such as Hamazkayin, Homenetmen, Armenian Relief Society chapters, and representatives from the Republic of Armenias Mission to the United Nations. Also present were St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church pastor Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, St. Illuminators Armenian Apostolic Cathedral pastor Rev. Fr. Mesob Lakissian, Bishop Anoushavan Tanelian from the Armenian Prelacy. The capacity crowd joined the AYF at the Armenian Center in Woodside, N.Y., to recall the historical significance of the organizations founding and to honor its continued strength today.
After the singing of Mer Hairenik chapter executive member Sossi Essajanian welcomed clergy and guests. “Returning to our roots and for 75 years thereafter we continue to show that from the AYFs tree blooms youth that stand guard for Armenias rights today, tomorrow and always,” she said. Following this introduction Hyortik executive member Razmig Haroun addressed the audience on behalf of the chapter. In his remarks he talked about continuing the ideals and vision of AYF founder General Karekin Nejdeh. He said that what was given to the youth after 75 years todays members will take as a foundation for the next 75 years.
Turing to the AYFs work today Haroun talked about Armenia. He said, “Today Armenia is facing many changes, in particular in relations with its neighbors. Just as always the Armenian Youth Federation made its voice heard during [Turkish President Abdullah] Guls visit [to Armenia] not with hatred but proving that there are people who defend Armenias rights and reiterate that friendship requires mutual respect otherwise it is a mockery.” Haroun concluded by stating again the thread of continuitythe idealscelebrated this evening: that the AYF is always read to serve the Armenian nation. Here he recalled Nejdehs words about the timeless nature of ideas: “It is only the idea that does not have a death, neither a casket nor a grave.”
Next the St. Illuminators Armenian Day School students took the stage to recite Baruyr Sevags “Mer Oukhduh,” followed by a singing of “Artyok Ovker en.” Hyortik member Nanor Harutunian then gave a historical and educational presentation about the AYF, in particular its work in the Greater New York area. Presented in both Armenian and English Harutunian explained the reasons for the founding, the aim of the first convention, and some programs as they were carried out by the Hyortik chapter. She continued to discuss the acquisition of AYF Camp Haiastan in 1940, emergence of political activity in the 1960s, the establishment of the National Junior Seminar in 1971, and the Tri-Regional seminar in the 1980s. The historical portion also highlighted the “Tebi Yerkir” outreach program established in the 1990s that featured a summer internship program in Armenia. She then turned to the AYF and in particular the Hyortiks today, talking about the over 1000 members fleshing out the strong rans of the organization regionally today. Her presentation covered the Olympics in recent years, the organizations ungeragan spirit, its focus on an educational foundation, efforts on the political front, and work with the AYF junior organization.
Harutunian concluded that the AYF stands as the leading Armenian-American youth organization. She said that with its various programs and emphasis on leadership and nationalistic spirit the AYF continues to serve as a gathering place for the youth wherever they live. Her presentation was also accompanied by a slide show of more than 70 images ranging from the founding AYF convention, to pictures of an AYF baseball team, to the building of Camp Haiastan and camping trips in the 1970s. Later slides depicted the Hyortiks as they remembered slain journalist Hrant Dink, celebrated the Artaskh Liberation Struggle, and celebrated anniversaries of the Khanasor Expedition and the Lisbon 5 event.
Following these commens a short documentary was presented by Hyortik member Justin Kaladjian. The film featured interviews with members from different generations who passed through the rans of the AYF Hyortik chapter. Interviewees talked about the AYFs activities when they were members, how they served the local community, and their constant focus on keeping the Armenian spirit alive in the youth while standing guard for the Armenian Cause. All generations also emphasized the fraternal spirit that is the bedrock of the organization.
The stage was then given to the Hyortik juniors to contribute their reflections on AYFs 75 years. Junior chapter president Mesak Sarkissian spoke briefly about the role of the AYF in the Armenian community at large stating that the New York junior chapter is active and vibrant. “Inspired by our past and motivated by the needs of our people, we are always ready and willing to work in furtherance of the Armenian cause. We realize that we are the future of the Armenian community and we are ready and willing to do our part. Through our dedication and enthusiasm we are united in our commitment for a free, independent and united Armenia.”
The ARF Armen Garo Gomideh also offered a few words of reflection presented by unger Hrant Markarian. In his commens Markarian talked about the youth and the future, first reflecting on the importance of the organizations foundation. He said, “For 75 years you dedicated your lives and today that organization lives and breathes in all of us.” He also spoke about the vision of AYF founder Karekin Nejdeh; he said, “[He] was not just a person but an idea,” and with this thought asked todays youth to continue building on his vision.
Finally Bishop Anoushavan Tanelian spoke about the continued spirit of the youth. He said, “Today is a day of celebration. When we leave this center we will all feel a bit younger.” Tanelian also spoke about the establishment of the organization 75 years ago by Nejdeh and reflected on the impact of his vision for the youth and the Armenian nation. “The youth are the backbone of the community,” he said and then turned his commens to the new cohort of youth and stated that “What the past generations have not seen you will make a reality.”
After these concluding remarks the event ended with the singing of Harach Nahadag after which current and former AYF members were invited on stage to cut a cake brought in honor of the anniversary. Over 60 people filled the stage for a “chapter” picture after which attendees mingled and enjoyed refreshmens to a background of Armenian patriotic music.