Where we are, where we are going and what we must do

A reflection on my time in the AYF-YOARF and some words for the future

Aram Balian pictured on the left at a protest outside the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington, DC on January 17, 2023

There is no doubt that choosing the Armenian ethos, the Armenian way of life, is exponentially harder than taking the carefree, assimilative path. It’s a choice – one that comes through lived experience in Diasporan Armenian communities that makes us face the essence of our definition of self. It’s a choice that sometimes puts us at odds with the very foundations of a globalized society, that of a cultural melting pot.

And yet, thousands of us make, or made, that difficult choice, day in, day out, by being a part of the Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF). It is a choice we take willingly, passionately, lovingly. It is a choice I will never forget and a choice critical to who I am today.

I chose, as did thousands of alumni, current members and supporters, because I am proud to be Armenianto be one tiny, insignificant part of a heritage stretching back thousands of years. 

I chose, because I am proud of my identity and my heritage, and I am determineddetermined to learn, compete, struggle and lead. I am determined to ensure our nation will stand, even as forces internal and external look to destroy us. 

Where we are…

Our nation, our 5,000-year-old history, culture and heritage, today teeters on the precipice of disaster. Our homeland has been riven apart by genocidal forces hellbent on the removal of the Armenian people from the annals of history. The removal of an “impediment” in the realization of a “pan-Turkic” dream.

But my AYF-YOARF stands in the way. Let me repeat: our organization, with but a few hundred members in the Eastern Region and a few thousand globally, stands in the way. 

We are the “radical” Armenian diasporans that Azeris and Turks endlessly target in diatribes. We are those “radical” few who have not and will not give up our choice to be Armenian. We are the “radical” few who will fight to remain Armenian. 

I made that choice. And I would make that choice 100 times over.

From serving on the Central Executive for three years, as well as in my local chapter and on central councils, to participating in seminars, athletic events, dances, internships in Armenia and Artsakh, Hai Tahd protests and lobbying, the AYF has provided me and its members every opportunity to BE a member of the Armenian nation. To fight, in my own way, for the Armenian nation. To serve the Armenian nation as an Armenian-American. 

My fellow AYF members have, in their ceaseless struggle, their ceaseless love, their ceaseless existence, shown me what it means to be Armenianwhat it means to be a part of this tiny tribe of people who, horror after horror, injustice after injustice, refuse to surrender. 

Where we are going and what we must do…

It is our duty as members of the AYF-YOARF to be the second army of the Armenian peopleto serve our communities, to lead our youth, to make sure the world knows what our nation faces so that the sacrifices of our forefathers, so that the sacrifices of the sons and daughters of Armenia and Artsakh, are not in vain. 

We cannot let that happen, because their legacy is not one of capitulation, but defiance. It is not one of fear, but strength. It is not one of subjugation, but freedom. 

Our forefathers and our fellow AYF members sacrificed so that we could see the First Republic in 1918, so that we could see the liberation of Artsakh in 1994 and so that we can, and we will, see a free Shushi, a free Hadrut, a free Nakhichevan, Javakh and Artsakh once again. 

So, let us honor them with our actions, our choices, our discussions, our ideology and our struggle. Let’s continue to fight as they did, for our homeland, for our people, for our nation.

the AYF will always live in me.

As former and current AYF members, you cannot and will never surrender, because you are not only the future of our Armenian nation, you are its present. You, as AYF-YOARF members, represent the best of us as Armenians. Never forget that.

My time in the AYF may have come to an end, but the AYF will always live in me

Our struggle is endless, and our cause is eternal.

For an ազատ, անկախ, և միացյալ Հայաստան.

Aram Balian

Aram Balian

Aram Balian is vice president of business development at Haverford Homes. He previously worked in investment banking and financial technology. Aram was formerly the executive director of the ANCA Eastern Region; he currently serves on the ANCA-ER board. Aram graduated cum laude with a BA in political science and psychology from Columbia University. He is an AYF alumnus and served as treasurer and vice-chair of the AYF Eastern Region Central Executive.
Aram Balian

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