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.”