Chicago Holds Rally in Support of Syrian-Armenians

GLENVIEW, Ill.—Chicago Armenians raised nearly $10,000 at a rally held on Sat., Sept. 29 in support of Syrian Armenian Relief. Organized by the Chicago “Christapor” ARF Gomideh, with the participation of nine community organizations and churches, the rally was held at Shahnasarian Hall in the All Saints Community Center.

Homenetmen scouts during the event

Master of Ceremonies Armen Papazian welcomed the crowd and invited the Homenetmen Scouts to perform the presentation of the colors ceremony and the

Haroutiun Mikaelian

singing of the U.S. and Armenian national anthems. In his opening remarks, Papazian noted that although the event was intended to be a celebration of the ARF’s 122nd anniversary, the “Christapor” Gomideh—determining that the deteriorating situation and endangerment of the Armenian community in Syria required an immediate response by the Chicago community—instead dedicated the event to Syrian Armenian Relief.

Vasken Aivazian was then invited to give a brief history of the Armenian community in Syria. He noted some of the many contributions by Syrian-Armenians to

Vasken Aivazian

the Armenian nation. The community, he said, has been a crucible that has forged many great leaders for the diaspora. Chicago Hamazkayin Chair Haroutiun Mikaelian then gave a personal account of growing up in Aleppo, which instilled in him a life-long love of Armenian culture. He touched upon how his teachers and community leaders helped to shape his life and the lives of others from his generation.

Papazian then introduced the evening’s guest speaker, Hairenik Editor Zaven Torikian. To provide perspective on the situation in Syria, Torikian began his

Armen Papazian

remarks by comparing and contrasting the progression of attempts at regime change that recently swept across North Africa to the Arabian peninsula, and finally reached Jordan and Syria. He pointed out how, unlike in Libya where the Western powers took a direct and active role in the overthrow of Qadaffi, in Syria the U.S. worked through proxies, notably Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. He noted that this battle was seen not solely for gaining control of Syria, but as an attempt to reduce Iran’s influence in the region.

Torikian added that while some Armenians had decided to support the Free Syrian Army, and others sided with the Assad government, the vast majority of Armenians have tried to stay neutral, attempting to emulate the position of the Lebanese-Armenian community during Lebanon’s civil war. He also explained that the Free Syrian Army—heavily influenced by Turkey—is viewed with suspicion by many; the army contains, for example, an “Ataturk” Brigade and even an “Enver Pasha” brigade.

Zaven Torikian

He went on to discuss how, until recently, many Armenians were fairly well removed from the fighting, which occurred primarily outside of Aleppo. As the fighting has begun to reach Armenian neighborhoods in Aleppo, however, Armenian organizations have mobilized to help address the critical needs of the community, including food distribution. Torikian’s comments were followed by a brief question and answer session.

Papazian then invited “Christapor” Gomidehrepresentative Greg Bedian to provide closing remarks. Bedian began by reiterating some of the many

Greg Bedian

contributions of the Syrian-Armenians to the Armenian nation. He noted how Syrian-Armenians had provided aid to Armenians during the Lebanese Civil War; to Armenia following the earthquake and the Arstakh liberation struggle; and how they had sheltered Iraqi Armenians during the two wars in Iraq and the chaos that followed. Bedian concluded his remarks and began the fundraising portion of the program by stating that it was the Chicago community’s turn to give assistance to the Syrian-Armenian community, to demonstrate our solidarity, and provide them with both the moral and financial support that they need.

Participating organizations in the Syrian Armenian Relief rally included the Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church, Armenian Evangelical Church of Chicago, Armenian General Benevolent Union Chicago Chapter, Armenian National Committee of Illinois, Armenian Relief Society “Zabelle” Chapter, Armenian Youth Federation “Ararat” Chapter, Hamazkayin Chicago Chapter, Homenetmen Chicago Chapter, and the Taniel Varoujan Armenian School.


  1. It is funny how you guys are making up stuff by saying that the Free Syrian Army has a “Enver Pasha” and an “Ataturk” brigade. Do you have any sources to back up these claims by any chance? Do you have links or sources to back up those links? Nope, I thought so. Because first of all, there is a big difference between Seculars (Kemalists) and Islamists (Erdogan/AKP), and right now Turkey is controlled by Islamists, so the FSA is supporting an Islamist uprising. So, if Turkey was still controlled by Kemalists, then the Turkish government would not be supporting the FSA then. Because Kemalists mean Secular and Baathists mean Secular, so Secular groups would protect their fellow Secular groups, while they are at it.

  2. not sure of links – so basically Ataturks pictures, statues, etc have all been taken down and removed? how about the pledge the children recite in schools “Ataturk’s anthem”? and that means Turks are free to criticize or even make fun of Ataturk now in political cartoons or will they be harassed / thrown in prison?

  3. There is no such thing as an Ataturk Brigade, you can search it it is very simple, it looks like this is just lazy research and an easy way to brainwash Armenians. By the way, the CHP is against the Turkish governments policy towards Syria, they voted against the military authorization and organized the large protest on the same day. CHP is very similar to the Baath party. So if you are going to make up a false argument at least be consistent, you cannot paint the FSA as a Islamist or radical group while at the same time claiming they are pro-Ataturk. You also seem to be unaware of Ataturk’s image in Muslim Arab Middle East, as a radical secular who abolished the caliphate, created a modern Turkey removing religion from it. Many clerical circles referring to him as an infidel. Unfortunately not many Armenians are free thinkers or even have the common sense to understand this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.