ENCINO, Calif. — The Armenian Youth Federation’s “With Our Soldiers” campaign hosted a commemorative event honoring the fallen soldiers from last year’s Four Day War in Artsakh. The event brought together over 330 people with a program filled with speeches, spoken word, music, and testimonies, reemphasizing the Armenian community’s dedication to the protection of Artsakh.
“Commemoration events like this, especially in the Diaspora, restate our strong position to defend our people’s right to self-determination, reminding the world that the Diaspora plays an integral role in the Artsakh Liberation Movement,” said Verginie Touloumian, chairperson of the committee.
The event was held at Ferrahian Armenian School and opened with a prayer for the safety of the soldiers defending Artsakh. “With Our Soldiers” committee member and the event’s emcee Alik Ourfalian highlighted through the opening remarks the dangers of indifference in the struggle for Artsakh’s autonomy. Throughout the event, various videos were presented describing the situation in Artsakh, the details of the Four Day War, and the past work of the “With Our Soldiers” campaign.
Hratch Avedissian, “With Our Soldiers” committee member, described the steps the AYF took on April 3, 2016, when an emergency meeting was called to decide the appropriate response to the escalation of violence by Azerbaijan. At that meeting, the AYF decided to relaunch the “With Our Soldiers” campaign, which has raised $130,000 in this last year. That amount was distributed by Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian Revolutionary Federation members to 112 families of fallen soldiers in Armenia and Artsakh.
“We, as AYF members, in the face of delusional politics, show our stance — not just by words, but with our actions — further strengthening the ‘With Our Soldiers’ campaign and also, supporting initiatives that reaffirm Diaspora-Armenia ties,” Avedissian said. “We assure and prove that the safety of Artsakh can only be guaranteed through standing by the Armenian soldiers, reaffirming the idea of azk-panag, and standing against treacherous concessions.”
Performances included singer Krisdapor Arabian, Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School’s Spoken Word Ensemble, the AYF Juniors, and the Ferrahian Armenian School choir. Five AYF Juniors read biographies of fallen soldiers while event attendees held candles in remembrance of the heroes of the Four Day War. Arman Avetisyan, a soldier wounded on April 2, 2016, while defending Artsakh, relayed to the crowd the strength of the Armenian Army, stating, “Karabakh is ours, Artsakh is ours.”
The violations that began on April 2, 2016, in Artsakh were not the first of its kind since the ceasefire was signed in 1994, nor did they end after the four days. April 2, 201, marks a year since villages and civilians were attacked by a neighboring country that continues to deny the basic right of autonomy to a people who will never cease to struggle. The commemoration event remembered the fallen heroes who dedicated their lives to protecting the rights of others, the injured coping with the aftermath, and families who have lost their loved ones.
“The message we hoped to convey to our community — and especially to the youth — was that we must do everything we can to stand by the soldiers on the front lines,” said Ourfalian. “Whether it be through financial, political, or any other means, it is our duty as Armenians to fight every single day for the just resolution of the Artsakh conflict.”
Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over 17 regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.