Chicago Marks ‘Lisbon 5’ Anniversary

GLENVIEW, Ill.—The Chicago-Armenian community marked the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of the “Lisbon Five” on Sun., July 28, with a special Requiem Service at All Saints Church and a commemorative program organized by the Chicago ARF “Christapor” Gomideh.

Khajak Arakelian reads the words of Setrak Ajemian’s father Onnig as (L-R) Armen Papazian, Nairee Hagopian, and Maral Abrahamian look on.
Khajak Arakelian reads the words of Setrak Ajemian’s father Onnig as (L-R) Armen Papazian, Nairee Hagopian, and Maral Abrahamian look on.

The portraits of Setrak Ajemian, Ara Kurjuhlian, Sarkis Abrahamian, Simon Yahneyan, and Vatche Daghlian were displayed near the altar as Archpriest Zareh Sahakian delivered his sermon focusing on their sacrifice.

Following church services, the crowd gathered in Shahnasarian Hall for a memorial dinner offered by the All Saints Church Ladies’ Guild and a commemorative program hosted by the Gomideh. During the memorial dinner, a special slide presentation showed photos of the Lisbon Five, along with the messages they left behind. The presentation also included the text of the communiqué issued during the operation, as well as pictures of the Turkish Embassy compound as it was surrounded by Portuguese security forces.

The commemorative program was opened by Greg Bedian, representing the Gomideh. After brief opening remarks, he read the text of the communiqué issued by the Armenian Revolutionary Army during the attack and then introduced a video presentation showing the pictures of the Lisbon Five, the Portuguese security forces entering the Turkish Embassy compound, the funeral and burial of the Lisbon Five, and video clips of the five young men singing “Verkerov Li.”

From a distance of 30 years, in this post-September 11 world, Bedian said, it might be difficult for some to comprehend such an act. To put the Lisbon operation in perspective, he quickly reviewed the trajectory of the armed struggle waged in the 1970’s and 1980’s, from its inception by genocide survivor Kourken Yanikian in 1973, “which was the spark that ignited a powder keg of frustration amongst Armenians, particularly the youth,” to the infamous “Orly” operation, which took place only 12 days before Lisbon. He continued by outlining how Lisbon differed from previous acts, and how “anonk katsin anveratarts” (the Lisbon Five had gone not as assassins but as martyrs).

Nairee Hagopian, Armen Papazian, Khajak Arakelian, and Maral Abrahamian were then invited to the podium to read excerpts from the words of the fallen Ungers’ families. The sentiments of the family members drew applause from the crowd, as they too shared their pain and pride.

Bedian then spoke of the lasting impact of Lisbon on the Armenian people. He described how their sacrifice inspired and motivated an entire generation of youth to dedicate themselves to the Armenian Cause, from those that would pursue justice through political activity, to those who would fight in Artsakh’s war of liberation. Abrahamian returned to the podium to recite Hovanes Shiraz’s poem, “Lisboni Voghchagechnerin.

Following the recitation, Bedian noted that in 1983 he, too, was 21 years old, the same age as Sako and Simon. “I went on to finish college, become an engineer, marry, and raise a family,” he said. “Neither Sako nor Simon, nor Ara, Vatche, or Seto got that chance. They will forever be 21, 20 and 19.”

“They gave it all up for our nation, to serve as examples of sacrifice, to move the Armenian Cause forward.” He then asked the crowd to rise for a moment of silence to honor the memory of the Lisbon Five. He concluded the program by stating, “May god grant them peace, and may we soon obtain the justice for which they sacrificed themselves.”

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles written and submitted by members of the community, which make up our community bulletin board.
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