“We know what we are doing. We know also what we shall do in the future.”
It is with these words that five young Armenian men, Sarkis, Setrak, Vatche, Ara, and Simon, stormed the Turkish Embassy in Portugal’s capital Lisbon, and effectively changed the course of the Armenian Cause forever.
With their act, the world’s attention quickly turned to the Armenian people’s quest for justice of an unpunished Crime and made that quest relevant once again.
The Lisbon Five pushed the envelope in the truest sense of the phrase, at a time when mainstream advocacy and peaceful protest had run its course and was being met largely with indifference.
And while some will consider the act as barbaric, cruel, and senseless, today—33 years later—it is important for us to look at the lessons that can be learned from their dedication to the cause.
If their act taught us anything, it is that we must be dedicated to the cause—not just genocide recognition, but the all-encompassing Armenian Cause, with all its facets, features, and complexities—fully and wholeheartedly.
It taught us that we cannot remain indifferent at a time when our culture, language, traditions, and customs are on the verge of loss and disappearance, especially in the diaspora, where the threat of the “White Genocide” (“Jermak Jard”) is real and in progress.
If their act taught us anything, it is that we must do our utmost not to forget our customs—that we must sing our songs, read our literature, dance our dances, and create art—because that is what these five boys would have wanted.
It taught us that we must know well our people’s history, so that we can continue their struggle against all of those who wish to remain indifferent and apathetic towards our rights to justice.
The five boys that were martyred 33 years ago never saw an independent Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh), but were so dedicated to an ideal that they were ready to give their lives to the struggle for a free homeland.
Today, gone are the days of Armenia being merely an ideal in our minds and hearts, represented by a picture of Mount Ararat on the walls of our homes. Armenia and Artsakh are both independent, and we cannot lose sight of that or ever take it for granted.
The dedication of the Lisbon boys reminds us, once again, that their fighting spirit must live on as long as our rights as Armenians continue to be trampled on—as long as what is rightfully ours continues to be in the hands of others.
Many years have passed since that fateful day in July 1983, but today, more than ever, we as a people—but especially the Armenian youth—must personify the lessons of Sarkis, Setrak, Vatche, Ara, and Simon’s legacy, as the future leaders of the Armenian nation, a generation of leaders that must keep the dream of a united Armenia alive, and work tirelessly to make that dream a reality.
Only then can the Lisbon boys find their peace and can we make sense of their selfless, “senseless” act.