The Detroit ARF Azadamard Gomideh joined Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) members and supporters across the country and around the world to recognize the organization’s 128th anniversary.
“For 128 years, the ARF has been devoted and worked tirelessly for the Armenian people,” said Gomideh Chair and Master of Ceremonies Raffi Ourlian during his opening remarks to over 200 guests at St. Sarkis Church in Dearborn, Michigan. “This year, we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the independence of Armenia. One hundred years of accomplishment was achieved because of the ARF.”
“Our vision, our dedication to an independent Armenia 100 years ago is why we have Armenia today,” Ourlian added. “Our goal is to strengthen Armenia, but also to strengthen the Diaspora. With our affiliated organizations – AYF, ARS, Hamazkayin, Homenetmen (HMEM) and Hai Tahd – nobody can do it better.”
Detroit AYF Kopernik Tandourjian Chapter President Helen Attar conveyed the ARF youth organization’s message and its thanks to the Azadamard Gomideh.
“Today, as we celebrate 128 years of the ARF, our local and regional AYF continues to thrive each year and we have the ARF to thank for that,” Attar noted. “In times of need and in times of celebration, our local ARF has supported us and made sure we have been successful in anything that we do, between providing manpower for events and creating role models and leaders for our community. The ARF has never failed to make us proud to be their youth.”
Guest speakers Ken Hachikian of Chicago and ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member Ara Chalian of Philadelphia brought news of current projects and the need for continued community engagement and action to reach the Armenian nation’s outstanding goals.
Hachikian – a financial advisor and investment banker – chaired the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) from 2001 to 2016. He now chairs the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights and updated the audience on the center’s role, work and strategy.
“In additional to our political advocacy efforts, we should be pursuing legal efforts in parallel,” Hachikian said, contrasting the ANCA’s and center’s complimentary, but different missions. “We serve justice through legal awareness.”
In his message, Hachikian described the goals of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights: to seek justice for the Armenian Genocide through strategic legal means; to identify and pursue cases that have precedential value to establish community rights;to identify and target ways and means of recovering stolen Armenian artifacts and confiscated churches from governments, museums and others; to promote scholarship on the issue of reparations; and to use international and human rights law to secure Artsakh’s self-determination rights.
“It’s nothing unusual for people to govern themselves,” Hachikian noted. “It’s not political advocacy. It’s legal advocacy. And in our homeland 100 years ago, we had 2,000 churches. Today we have 30. Look at our church artifacts. They’re weren’t given away. They were stolen.”
Hachikian cautioned that the center’s work requires patience, careful investigation and steady resources to advance meaningful wins for the Armenian community.
“We have a database with copies of 75 to 100 deeds right now. It’s a central repository to bring the appropriate claims at the proper time. Cases are time-consuming and can be five, 10, or 15-year pursuits. If we don’t start, we don’t start. We have valid claims, and they should be pursued.”
Chalian – a professor, surgeon and director of Facial and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania – brought the ARF Eastern Region Central Committee’s greetings and provided context for the day’s celebration.
“This is a celebration of Detroit,” Chalian observed. “You’re a community that we emulate in a lot of communities.”
Chalian reflected on the ARF and its members’ and supporters’ role in animating the Federation’s work from its time fighting for freedom and self-determination in the Ottoman Empire to its work today in Armenia and throughout the Armenian Diaspora.
“How many of our friends can feel that connectivity to 1890?” Chalian asked. “The ARF is a long-term and active organization, the organization that created your community, whether you’re in it or not. It’s what connects us.
“When we won our free Armenia in 1918, it wasn’t just for the land. A nation allows you to have your rights and your country. After 1920, the ARF didn’t just disappear. It created the Diaspora with organizations, ready to strike, ready to defend.”
Chalian challenged attendees to be involved and help create the ARF’s future history today.
“No movement happens without the inclusion of all generations,” he added. “Each generation needs to be active. It’s inspirational and aspirational. How do we stay relevant to Hai Tahd and our own culture? We need you; regardless of your age and experiences, all are critical to the community.”
Ourlian retook the podium to open his “favorite part of the program, to recognize individuals who make sacrifices for the Armenian nation and local community.”
“Hamgir means to believe in the cause, to work tirelessly for the cause and to love its purpose,” he added. “Today is a great day for all of us in the ARF because we have an opportunity to recognize and honor the recipients of this award.”
Ourlian presented the Azadmard Gomideh’s Karekin Nejdeh Award to AYF Detroit Chapter President Helen Attar, “a youth who we’ve seen make a difference in the community.”
Ourlian surprised three members with the Hamagir awards: Detroit HMEM Chapter scout leader Kouyr Garine Chopjian, ARS Tsolig Chapter and HMEM volunteer Ungerouhi Sosi Palanjian, and Greater Detroit ARS Mid-Council Chair Ungerouhi Sirvant Telbelian. These young women were honored for their tireless volunteer efforts and impact on the community new generation of leaders.
Finally, a special ARF Legacy award was presented in honor of deceased ARF Detroit community leader Aram Harazian. His son David accepted the award on behalf of his family. It is the second time the Detroit ARF has presented this award. The inaugural award was accepted by the family of the late Unger Varoujan Kchikian in 2015.
The celebration was capped by the presentation of several patriotic songs by Unger Shant Massoyan of New Jersey. In an emotional performance, Massoyan invoked the spirit of the ARF’s past to celebrate the potential and promise still to come.