Community Leader Norair Pahlavouni Passes Away

Norair Pahlavouni

Community leader, political activist, intellectual, writer, editor, and broadcaster Norair Pahlavouni, the third of his parents’ four children, was born in Samarkand, Turkestan on Jan. 27, 1924, where his father, Yeghishe Pahlavouni, had taken refuge to avoid the relentless persecutions of the notorious Soviet state security organization Cheka. Entrusting the safety of his wife Nvart and newly born child to his father-in-law, Ghukas Malentsian, a high-ranking officer in the ministry of agriculture of Turkestan ASSR, Yeghishe departed for northern Russia. After another turbulent year and separation, the young couple finally reunited in Tabriz, Iran, the “cultural citadel” of the Iranian-Armenian community in 1925, where they started a new life.

The young Norair received his early education in Tabriz in the Ghazaros Aghayan kindergarten under prominent educator Shushanik Khanazad, and his elementary and secondary education in the historical Aramian School. He received mentorship from a legion of eminent intellectuals and scholars, among them Andre Der Ohanian (Amurian), Haykak Kosoyan, and Yervand Hayrapetian. Norair’s education, like thousands in his generation, was cut short when all Armenian schools, clubs, institutions, and organizations, because of the rapprochement between the governments of Iran and Kemalist Turkey, were shut down. The role of his mother proved crucial and left a lasting impact on the young Norair.

Fate had destined the Pahlavounis to be on the move again for the next two decades, first to Rasht (1926-29) and then to Tabriz (the young couple was invited back to Tabriz by Archbishop Nerses Melik-Tangian, the illustrious prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Atrpatakan, where his mother taught Russian at the Temakan (parochial) School). In 1934, after the premature death of their daughter Seda, the couple moved to the historic city of Hamadan, and two years later in 1936 to Borujerd, where they served as teachers and principal in the local Armenian schools and institutions. After two years of service, the Pahlavounis moved to Tehran in 1938, where they settled permanently.

After graduating from the Sepehr School with distinction, Norair was accepted in the prestigious Alborz School-College. Concurrent to his studies, he immersed himself in the social and cultural life of the flourishing Armenian community in Tehran. Upon completion of his secondary education, he was preparing to leave for Beirut to attend the American University of Beirut (AUB) and was also accepted to Boston University’s department of humanitarian and social sciences, none of which were realized because of the exigencies of life. He had to sacrifice his dreams for higher education and assume the responsibility of supporting his elderly parents and raise his family, exploring various employment opportunities and careers: UKCC transportation company, accountant in the Keoroghlian flour company in Ghazvin, Anglo-Iranian Bank, director of the Dariush Film company, and finally the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), where he served as accountant and auditor for 31 years, and in the NIOC’s foreign relations data and information analysis department, a position which he held until 1979.

On July 4, 1944, Norair, with a group of idealistic and dedicated friends, co-founded the “Ararat” Armenian Cultural Organization (AACA), an institution that after six decades continues to remain the heart and soul and the anchor of the Iranian-Armenian community to this day. He served on the Central Executive Board of AACA for several terms as a member, secretary, vice-president, and president. In the same decade he co-founded the Iranian-Armenian Writers Society. Over the years he assumed more and crucial responsibilities in the life of the Iranian-Armenian community as a member of the Armenian Diocesan Assembly for several terms, delegate of inter-diocesan consultative assemblies, delegate to the Cilician Catholicosate’s World Assembly (1963-1978), and twice co-chair of the Catholicosate’s Assembly in 1972 and 1977, respectively.

Norair Pahlavouni joined the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) from his adolescent years, an organization to which he remained loyal and served with devotion and distinction to the end, assuming a number of sensitive and crucial positions. He was a member of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) and contributed to a number of publication projects in Armenian, Farsi, and English, in collaboration with his comrades-in-arm releasing, under the general title Armenology, approximately 14 booklets.

In 1960, he established and served as the editor of Alik Monthly for three years until its publication ended in 1963. From 1976-78, he served as editor-in-chief of Alik Daily, the oldest continuing Armenian-language daily in Iran. In 1978, by the decision of the Tehran Armenian Diocesan Assembly and the ARF Central Committee, he was nominated and served as the coordinating secretary of the committee in charge of the celebrations of the coronation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Pahlavi Dynasty, as well as the celebrations of 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Iranian monarchy. He received commendation for his exemplary leadership and
performance as the editor of Alik Daily with a special 50th anniversary medal.

In 1979, Norair moved with his family to the United States and settled in Boston, Mass. Shortly after, in 1979, with Jirair Gharibian, he co-founded the Armenian Independent Radio Hour of Boston, and concurrently, for a period of eight months in the same year, served as the executive director of the California-based Armenian Educational Foundation (AEF). In 1982, he was invited to join the editorial staff of the Voice of America, Armenian section, as editor and broadcaster, a position which he held until his retirement in 2003.

The pages of Alik and several Armenian periodicals are replete with Norair Pahlavouni’s editorials, articles, and essays, not to mention hundreds of pieces he edited and broadcast during his tenure in the Voice of America. He devoted his retirement years to a number of literary and academic projects, including collecting and editing essays, articles, translations, and recitations, among them: Banakhosut’iwnner, demk’er, iradardzut’iwnner (Keynote Speeches, Personages, Events), Yerevan, 2010; Khmbagrakanner, hoduatsner ew ugherdzner (Editorials, Articles, and Addresses), Yerevan, 2010; Yeghishe Pahlavouni: Hushamatean (Yeghishe Pahlavouni: Memorial Book), Yerevan, 2006; a two-CD set of recitations of selected works by Avetis Aharonian, including Ukhtavore (The Pilgrim), Hargank’ k’ez (Honor to Thee), Hayrenikd im nerir indz (O’ My Fatherland, Forgive Me), Ahazang (Alarm) Masis (Masis), and Stuernere ijnum en (The Shadows are Descending), Washington, D.C., 2006); Vahe Artsruni’s Hay-tachkakan paterazme, hay spayut’iwne, Shatakh (Armeno-Turkish War, The Armenian Officers Corps, Shatakh), Yerevan, 2002; and edited his mother’s translation of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” (Yerevan, 2003).

Norair Pahlavouni is survived by his wife Lydia, daughter Seda, son Armen, daughter-in-law Silva, two grandchildren Alina and Alex, sister Roubina, and three nieces Alenoush, Shake, and Biayna and their families.

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