When Kristapor Mikaelian, Simon Zavarian, and Stepan Zorian (Rosdom) formed the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in 1890, they surely believed that there would be others to follow in their footsteps to maintain a vibrant democratic society for Armenians, and to lead the organization into the future. They were absolutely correct, and the beat goes on. These men of vision would not be disappointed in the ARF of the 21st century.
On Sat., Dec. 1, the Detroit ARF “Azadamard” Gomideh invited the community to a complimentary dinner and program featuring speaker Asbed Kotchikian, a professor at Boston’s Bentley University and editor of “The Armenian Review.”
Gomideh chairman Raffi Ourlian greeted the 125 guests with thanks for their unfailing support of the organization. Detroit remains a stronghold for the Tashnagtsutiun, he said, noticing the hamagirs and sympathizers who filled the room.
“What can be said of 122 years of existence,” he asked, proceeding to recount the ARF’s long dedication for a free and independent Armenia, which finally became a reality in 1991; its support for Nagorno-Karabagh’s freedom; and its opposition to the Turkish-Armenian protocols “from the beginning.”
Ourlian explained the ARF’s nation-building thusly with its umbrella organizations: “The Homenetmen teach our youth to elevate themselves; Hamazkayin are our cultural soldiers with its accomplished Arax dance troupe; the Armenian Relief Society supports worldwide charities; the Armenian Youth Federation is creating the future ARF leadership; and finally the church is for spiritual guidance.”
“I challenge those who oppose the ARF, asking what have you done for the Armenian nation?” he said.
Kotchikian asked the audience to think forward regarding the ARF’s role serving Armenia and the diaspora. He said that with Armenia’s independence, the nation must adapt to a fast-changing technological world; that we are challenged to think globally, to have a larger agenda. He repeated the fact that the ARF is an organization meant to serve both Armenia and its diaspora.
“Without a state [Armenia], the fact that in 2015 we will commemorate 100 years of the genocide and 125 years of the ARF’s existence will be less important. It’s the real tangible Armenia we have had in history and we are still struggling with the idea of independence. The ARF has a clear-cut ideology of equitable social justice important for a viable society.”
Kotchikian hit a high point when he stated, “A gap was created between Armenia and the diaspora when after the election several years ago the diaspora remained silent when there was violence, deaths, and imprisonments in the homeland.”
His intellectual background is represented by extensive travel to Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and the former Soviet States of Georgia, Latvia, and Russia. He lectures in political science, international relations, and politics in the Middle East, and has published numerous articles and books.
The ARF proudly counts many Ph.D.’s among its ranks. Therefore we can only hope for a continuation of this strength and leadership, tempered with wisdom and coupled with support from hamagirs.
Also participating in the event were Emily Movsesian singing the American and Armenian National Anthems, Shoghere Ourlian reciting “We Are Brothers,” and Sebouh Hatsakordzian.
The spirit of the ARF’s original founders was alive and well that day, represented by stalwart ARF members sprinkled throughout the Armenian Community Center, including but not limited to Greg Vartanian, Nishan Apigian, Narses Gedigian, Sebouh Sarkisian, Khatchig Kafavian, Jack Garbooshian, Armen Topouzian, Avetis Mishigian, Hayg and Georgi-Ann Oshagan, Shant Jamkotchian, Krista Tossounian, Ross Bagdasarian, Serop Ghazourian, and Hovagim Manoogian.
The ARF represents the land, the air, the essence of what Armenia is and will continue to be through the strength of its leadership and accountability to the diaspora and Armenia, seeking reparations, genocide recognition, and justice for our martyrs.
We will keep our place in the sun.