WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — The valor displayed 125 years ago on the plain of Khanasor by nearly 300 Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) fedayees was celebrated on Sunday, July 29 at a picnic hosted by Detroit’s ARF Azadamard Gomideh.
Picnic attendees enjoyed dinner and a meaningful program on a perfect summer day at Marshbank Park. Shant Massoyan sang patriotic songs, and additional musical entertainment was provided by DJ Mardig Alajajian.
Gomideh member Toros Bardakjian served as master of ceremonies and reminded guests of the reason for the picnic against the backdrop of the existential crisis occurring in Armenia and Artsakh under the regime of current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Bardakjian outlined the historical circumstances that caused the ARF to embark on the expedition in 1897 and avenge the Kurdish Mazrig tribe’s 1896 slaughter of hundreds of Armenians who survived the Defense of Van and were heading to Persia under a truce agreement when the Kurdish tribe attacked.
Recounting the events leading to the battle, Bardakjian spoke of the military operation led by 26-year-old Artskah-born fedayee Sarkis Vartan Mehrabian, later known as Khanasori Vartan.
“In this battle, the ARF targeted the specific Kurds who were responsible for killing the unarmed men and women who were seeking safe passage into Persia. We have learned that we must defend ourselves. Waiting for someone to step in and help has resulted in empty promises,” he explained.
“We continue to reap the benefits of the work of those heroes,” Bardakjian concluded. “We are here now, 125 years later. Let us feed off their bravery and courage and stand up to protect our freedom and our people in Haiastan. Don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. Take action and help the ARF Azadamard Gomidehoutiun. We have a strong Armenian community in Detroit and we need all hands on deck!”
ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member Sebouh Hamakordzian followed Bardakjian to provide an update on Artsakh rebuilding projects funded by the Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) through its Artsakh Fund initiative to enhance and support Artsakh’s security, population retention, repatriation efforts and social and economic development.
Examples of current projects in Noragyugh village, Askeran and future projects in Hatsi village, Martuni, were outlined with a call for donations to support the critical work occurring in the region. Hamakordzian also reminded attendees of past project highlights, including nearly $100,000 in direct financial aid to the families of soldiers, heroes and martyrs of the 2020 44-day war perpetrated by Azerbaijan, as well as over $30,000 to the Verelk program to fund Artsakh business start-ups and nearly $50,000 to Aghavno village to build and restore the village school, medical clinic and town hall.
Hamakordzian said that over $212,000 has been raised in the past year for the ACAA’s Artsakh projects, and he observed the poignant connection between the day’s Khanasor celebration and the fact that expedition commander Khansori Vartan was born in Artsakh.
The program closed with a memorial prayer for the souls of the Lisbon 5 on the 39th anniversary of their martyrdom. Conducted by Rev. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, the requiem remembered Vatche Daghlian, Setrak Ajemian, Sarkis Abrahamian, Simon Yahniyan and Ara Kuhrjulian.