Let us first understand that our enemies are smelling the blood of a very wounded Armenian nation. The once thriving Syrian Armenian community has been ravished by war. The significant Armenian community of Lebanon, once the lifeblood of the Diaspora, is now severely compromised in its capability due to economic and political crises. And last year’s Artsakh War has both crippled Artsakh and divided Armenia.
The battle over the sustainability, and even, viability of an independent Armenian nation is being waged on numerous fronts. Externally, Turkey and Azerbaijan continue to initiate open warfare and cultural destruction to wipe clean even the mention of Armenians and Armenia. Major powers pursue their interests in a way that subjugates the fundamental right of a people to live on their ancestral homeland, and Armenia’s diplomacy has failed to counter this approach or even show how Armenia’s interests complement these global interests. Internally, the current Armenian government has diminished a sense of nationalism and patriotism among Armenians.
All of these have a second confluence, the attack against the reputation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).
These attacks take on a series of related forms. First, there is the effort to separate all that is obviously and overwhelmingly good from the ARF. This takes the form of, “I support the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), but that is not the ARF” or “I support Camp Haiastan, but not the ARF,” etc. The obvious contradiction is unimportant to these agitators. All that matters is to, piece by piece, remove anything that enjoys significant popularity among the Armenian people or is respected outside the community from its association with the ARF.
The ideology and program of the ARF are also under attack. Since it is impossible to assail the Dzrakir, instead the attacks take the form of claiming current ARF policy is inconsistent with the founding principles of the ARF. Occasionally, these same propagandists will go as far as saying the claimed failures of today are in fact consistent with the claimed failures of yesterday, and thus, the ARF should never have enjoyed any significant support from the community. The corollary to this attitude is that only “they” uphold the traditions of the ARF and the party has lost its way or its time has passed. Thus, in fact, it is they who deem themselves the true ARF member.
The process is clear and the purpose unmistakable – remove what is undeniably good, attack what is debatable, vilify the current leadership and glorify the expelled. Another contradiction ignored by the agitators is these same expelled who are now glorified were previously vilified when they were still in the party. Similar logic is used to occasionally allow for the glorification of the now-deceased pantheon of ARF leaders. The message is clear: the only good ARF member is dead or has left the party. The destruction of the ARF and the resulting weakening of the Armenian nation is their sole objective.
The question that must be asked is with all these supposed failures and destructiveness, why is the ARF the only party that has withstood 130 years to remain a significant presence in Armenian political and community life? These are incompatible. In the face of such contradictions, we must take the physical evidence as the truth versus the hearsay of the malcontents. While it is impossible to list here all the accomplishments, or rather, positives that can be traced back to the ARF, it is unmistakable and undeniable that they do exist and to such an extent as to be overwhelming and unmatched.
It is natural and common to recognize and honor individuals who have served our communities during their lifetime. At these testimonials, it is customary to detail their numerous and worthy contributions to the relevant organization and community in general. It occurs to me that this misses the mark when it comes to the ARF. I do not see it as what individual members have given to the ARF, but instead what the ARF has given all of us. Personally, I will be forever thankful that the ARF has given me the outlet for what I feel most passionate about – the rights of the Armenian people everywhere and the pursuit of justice for the crimes committed against us.
The oath of an ARF member is serious and never taken lightly. At the moment of taking that oath, only one emotion is possible … only one thought … the willingness to sacrifice for our nation. The expectation is not that everyone will agree with the ARF, its policies or programs, but it is imperative to understand and convey a minimum amount of respect to a party that continues to instill the passion necessary to take such an oath for the Armenian people.
Do we need more examples than Cilicia, Kharpert, Garin, Daron, Vasbouragan, Nakhichevan and now Artsakh?
Today, the Armenian nation faces an existential threat. We should not be so deceived or confused. Turkey and Azerbaijan see a not-too-distant future where Armenia and Armenians do not exist. They openly and unashamedly claim our lands as theirs and actively work toward making that a reality. The result of Armenian lands falling under the control of these enemies has been made clear, even in the short year since the end of the last war. The lands will be wiped clean of Armenians, Armenian cultural sites and any evidence that Armenians once lived there. Do we need more examples than Cilicia, Kharpert, Garin, Daron, Vasbouragan, Nakhichevan and now Artsakh? After Artsakh will come Syunik and after Syunik will come Yerevan. Armenians would be wise to recall Martin Niemöller. To paraphrase, first they destroyed Sasun, and I did not speak out because I was not from Sasun. Then they destroyed Van, and I did not speak out because I was not from Van. Then they destroyed Artsakh, and I did not speak out because I was not from Artsakh. Now they come for Yerevan, and there is no one left to speak for me.
In the effort to weaken the resolve of the Armenian people in the face of this threat, we are being subjected from outside and within to a persistent attack against Armenian nationalism and patriotism and all those who uphold such ideals. The list is long: rewrite the history books; we must live with an unrepentant Turkey and Azerbaijan; through them, we will gain economic prosperity and physical security, etc. The naivete of the current Armenian government to ignore the lessons of our collective history is jarring. It is more important than ever today to resist such thoughts.
After Artsakh will come Syunik and after Syunik will come Yerevan.
For over 130 years, the ARF has successfully withstood such attacks, and the reason is clear. In times of crisis, it is the ARF which has stood firm and unwavering in its passionate support of the Armenian people and nation. In times of peace, the ARF has built the organizations and structures that have sustained our communities. It is undeniable that without the ARF in this region, tens of thousands of Armenians would have melted into the fabric of assimilated America. Those coming through the organizations making up the family of the ARF can be found everywhere in the broader community. It is the ARF that has nurtured this passion for 130 years and will continue to do so, and we should all be thankful for that.