Kaiser addresses the youth on the Armenian Genocide revelations
During the end of April the Armenian Youth Federation helped organize a series of lectures with renowned genocide scholar Hilmar Kaiser in Southern California. The series kicked off on April 23, 2008 when Dr. Hilmar Kaiser spoke at a rally at the California State University, Northridge. The event was organized by the AYF, the ARF-Shant Student Association, and the local CSUN-Armenian Student Association. Kaiser’s address included new photos of the deportations of Armenian men, woman, and children taken during the different phases of the Armenian Genocide. Students learned about the importance of certain details in each photo. “Dr. Kaiser exposed us to new information which we had never seen before” said Levon Baronian, ARF Shant-Chairman. “It is important to be knowledgeable of such findings for they can prove to be instrumental in our fight for Genocide Recognition.”
On April 27, 2008 the AYF met with Dr. Kaiser for an educational symposium. The two hour forum touched upon several significant issues, and shed light on the importance of being educated about all aspects of the Armenian Genocide. “I didn’t know how vital it was for us to actually physically go and research the Ottoman Archives,” said Rosdom Saliba, a 17 year old member of the Pasadena AYF chapter. “If we want to counter denialist claims about the Armenian Genocide, we must educate ourselves about the sources that support the truth. It’s becoming more and more apparent that many important sources are still hidden in the Ottoman archives, waiting to be uncovered.” Saliba continued.
To round out the week, the AYF organized a series of visits for Dr. Kaiser at the Mesrobian, Ferrarhian, and Sahag Mesrob high Schools. At the schools, Hilmar gave a detailed account of the Armenian Genocide before answering questions and engaging in long discussions with the students. Armenian high school students were intrigued by the new information and had many questions. Speaking after the meeting, students vouched that they would increase their knowledge of their own history, and told Dr. Kaiser they would await his follow up visit in the fall. Nareen Melkonian, a Senior at Ferrahian, said, “He [Kaiser], as a non-Armenian is doing so much for our cause, and that inspires us to put more effort and do our part as the new generation.” Sahag Mesrob student and AYF member, Vache Labbad, echoed the sentiment stating, “We all realized that as Armenian youth we have a lot of work ahead of us, and that the genocide is not just a historical issue.”
The high-schoolers were particularly interested in the Turkish opposition towards the Genocide in 1915, and were seeking information on the Turkish youth perspective. “It was good to see our students being interested in their history. The administration and teachers always try to remind the students that it is important to be educated about all the aspects of the Armenian Genocide” said Tro Tchekidjian, a High School History teacher at Mesrobian High School.
As the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide passed, the Armenian Youth Federation continues to provide a variety of avenues to ensure that all Armenian youth are equipped with adequate knowledge to fight against Turkish denial and lobbying firms hired to distort the Armenian Genocide. “We are creating a setting where Armenian youth of all ages can acquire information which they would find difficult to gather on their own. It is important for us to equip the youth with such knowledge to continue our campaign against genocide denial” said Vache Thomassian, Vice-Chairman of the Armenian Youth Federation.
Dr. Kaiser intends to visit California again in the fall and is hopeful that he’ll have more new research to present and discuss with the youth. “It was a very good experience for me to discuss my research with the students and the AYF. They asked more questions and were more persistent than most academic audiences. This is the new generation of community leaders. After I had lectured at schools some years ago, I met many of the students later on as presidents of student unions, community and ANC activists, scholars and researchers. The Armenian community does the right thing by investing in the youth is investing in the future with the AYF as a reliable partner” said Kaiser.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization; with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world. Inspired by our past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advances the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth.