ENCINO–Hundreds of community members gathered at Avedissian Hall in Encino on Saturday–April 21 for a youth rally organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) to commemorate the 86th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The event was planned not only to observe the Genocide–but also to motivate the new generation in seeking ways to gain recognition of the Genocide.
Speakers included ARF Central Committee representative Viken Yacoubian; legislative assistant to Congressman Steve Rothman Raffi Hamparian; Greg Krikorian of the Glendale School Board; Michelle Topalian–wife of Mourad Topalian; and Talar Chahinian of the AYF.
A short dramatic skit and recitation opened the evening’s program. Slides and video presentation were included. Talar Chahinian spoke about the increasing number of young Armenia’s growing up not speaking Armenian or learning about their culture. Chahinian stressed the need to create more awareness in terms of educating the new generation of Armenian Americans about their heritage. "The future of the Armenian nation is at the hands of the youth," said Chahinian. She believes that addressing this issue of preserving our culture is a means of fighting the Turkish goal of annihilating our people.
Michelle Topalian–wife of Mourad Topalian who spoke at last year’s rally–thanked everyone on behalf of Mourad and the Topalian family for all the love and support they received during their difficult times. The continued support is what is allowing Mourad to sustain himself while in prison. Michelle was on stage with 7-year old daughter Alique. She mentioned Alique’s reply to her principal when asked what to tell all the other school children about her father’s incarceration. "Tell them that St. Peter–St. Paul–and St. Nicholas all went to prison for believing in Jesus Christ. They did things people thought were wrong–but they did it because of their love of Jesus. My father did something wrong–and he had to go to jail –but he did it because the Turks have never apologized for killing all the Armenia’s–and he believes they should." Michelle said that both she and the principal were astonished at Alique’s comprehension of the situation. Alique also spoke and thanked those who have helped her father and urged all to stay true to their beliefs. She asked community members to continue their support by writing to her father.
Greg Krikorian spoke of the denial of the Genocide–which he referred to as the "spreading plague." He called on all Armenia’s to fight this plague which is infecting educational institutions around the world. Krikorian said the new generation is responsible for continuing the fight for justice–and that the Armenian Cause must be carried by individuals on a daily basis.
Raffi Hamparian urged today’s youth to continue to fight for justice–just as his grandmother encouraged him to do so as a child. Hamparian focused on the need to end the Turkish government’s insidious campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. He mentioned the efforts of dedicated people like ANC-WR Executive Director Alex Sardar and AYF CE field-worker Vicken Sossikian and a thousand others like them who fight the denial of the Genocide on a daily basis.
Hamparian mentioned the passing of a Genocide resolution by the Michigan House of Representatives just this past week. He also mentioned the passing of resolutions in Maryland–Arizona–California–New Mexico–and Minnesota in recent months. He spoke of the Turkish Genocide denial campaign he witnessed in Maryland–and how it crumbled. " As the Maryland General Assembly readied for a vote on the genocide resolution–I received a phone call from a State Senator who said Raffi–I must tell you about the strangest thing I saw this morning – parked outside the general assembly were two dark black Lincoln towncars – clearly from the Turkish Embassy. This was meant to intimidate state legislators–yet it only aggravated the public officials."
Another example of the Turkish denial campaign mentioned b Hamparian had to do with the Turkish Ambassador’s desperate attempts in Annapolis. During the same week the resolution was being considered in Maryland–the Turkish lira collapsed–causing many to wonder about the stability of the Turkish economy. The Turkish Ambassador to the United States chose to fight the Genocide resolution personally in Annapolis–rather than meet with World Bank officials in Washington DC. This demonstrates the desperation of the Turkish government. Hamparian said he is optimistic that serious gains are being made toward US recognition of the Genocide.
ARF Central Committee representative Viken Yacoubian spoke of the role played by the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Youth Federation in the struggle to gain recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Along with the struggle to gain recognition of the Genocide–Yacoubian added that the Armenian Cause also upholds the principle of a free–independent–and united Armenia with the liberation of western Armenia. Yacoubian said that international recognition of the Genocide is much appreciated–however–the international community must follow with other steps in order for Armenia’s to feel fully gratified.
"The Armenian government’s positive approach to the Armenian Cause is commendable–nevertheless–we expect Yerevan to put forth additional deman’s. Any attempts at renouncing our territorial deman’s will be rejected," said Yacoubian.
The ARF Central Committee representative also emphasized the role of the youth in fighting to prevent the establishment of Turkish chairs at various universities in the United States. Yacoubian concluded his remarks by encouraging the youth to work toward solutions through constructive activism–broad participation–and untiring faith.
Musical performances were also featured by Harout Pamboukjian–Nersig Ispirian and alternative rock band IO.