“This is not suicide, nor an act committed by insane people. This is a sacrifice at the altar of freedom.” So read a statement issued by the Armenian Revolutionary Army on July 27, 1983, after five of its members—Setrag Adjemian, Sarkis Aprahamian, Vatche Daghlian, Ara Kerdjelian and Simon Yahneian—made the ultimate sacrifice for the Armenian Cause when they blew up the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, saying, “we have decided to blow up this building and remain under its rubble.”
There is no question that the selfless sacrifice of the Lisbon 5 40 years ago today changed the trajectory of the pursuit of the just aspirations of our Armenian Nation, with its aftereffects still impacting the Armenia psyche.
Perhaps, one of the most important manifestations of their heroism came mere five years after the 1983 incident, when the Artsakh Liberation Movement was sparked in February 1988 forever changing the course of the Armenian nation.
The Artsakh movement was based on the very ideals and principles for which Setrag, Sarkis, Vatche, Ara and Simon set out to martyr themselves. The people of Artsakh awakened a dormant Armenian nation by advancing principles of freedom and justice and stood up to decades of Soviet and Azerbaijani oppression, marshaling our nation closer to our ultimate goal of a free, united and independent Armenia.
And, more that 30 years ago we, as a Nation, won. Artsakh was liberated and we basked in the glory of that collective victory. It seems, however, that we lost sight that there were actual individuals who sacrificed themselves at the altar of freedom during that movement and the ensuing war — the people of Artsakh and the soldiers who continue to protect the borders of our homeland.
Today, once again, it is the very people who were the torchbearers that sparked the Artsakh Liberation Movement, who are making the ultimate sacrifice by committing to remain in Artsakh and fighting tooth and nail for their ancestral homeland.
Artsakh authorities have declared it a disaster zone and are comparing our ancestral homeland to a “modern-day concentration camp” as Azerbaijan’s eight-month-old blockade is advancing a humanitarian crisis the likes of which our nation has not seen in more than 100 years. The fate of the people of Artsakh — and also our Nation — is being decided by countries and individuals who have an agenda that does not necessarily include the well-being of Armenians, our homeland or our Nation.
The 44-Day Artsakh War in 2020 saw a revival of the Armenian national spirit. Perhaps, it was the Armenian government’s defeatist slogan “Haghtelou enk (we are going to win)” that drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets of Los Angeles and elsewhere to demand justice and express our solidarity. Yet the losses — the defeat — were so crushing that we became paralyzed as a nation.
“The note from the ARA [Armenian Revolutionary Army] said it had resorted to ‘armed struggle’ because peaceful means for ‘the pursuit of our just cause’ had failed. ‘The wall of silence built around our cause was too thick to be pierced.’ The ARA said it carried out the attack because ‘Turkey and its allies refused to recognize the Genocide of Armenians,’” Asbarez wrote in its July 30, 1983 issue when covering the Lisbon 5 news.
Is the “wall of silence” around the cause of Artsakh — human rights, justice and self-determination — not thick enough yet for us to pick ourselves from our bootstraps and mobilize into action?
This is a clarion call for all of us to take stock of our lives and commit ourselves to the sacrifices that make a nation strong, viable and secure. As we honor and remember the valiant sacrifice of our national heroes, let us ensure that their selfless actions for our Nation was not in vain.
Let us take lessons.