By Arin Vartanian
This past April 25, AYF activists gathered in New York’s Union Square to protest against Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and the subsequent failure of the United States government to formally recognize it. In a slight departure from traditional genocide commemoration activities, the AYF’s Central Hai Tahd Committee (CHTC) organized a 7-hour demonstration of young activists chained to one another in a show of resistance to the ongoing cycle of genocide.
“I believe that with every action we take as activists, we make a difference. And that is exactly what happened when we chained ourselves together and took a stand for what is right,” said Justin Kaladjian, co-chair of the AYF’s CHTC. “It is an uphill battle but the truth always prevails and justice will be served.”
This was a pivotal year for the Armenian people as now President Barack Obama pledged to recognize the genocide throughout his campaign. However, like many presidents before, Obama failed to do just that. Though he has a strong background in human rights, the young president wavered in the face of Turkish-American relations given the political landscape in the Middle East. It is because of these unfortunate circumstances that recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century will have to wait at least another year.
The CHTC sought a different approach to their annual demonstration this year. Change, as a word and as an idea, had been referred to rather loosely throughout the past eight months by politicians in order to characterize the new direction of our country. Thus, the young Hai Tahd activists looked to capitalize on this supposed new direction by calling upon our representatives and politicians to start making the changes they had spoken of—one of them being a change in the attitude toward Armenian Genocide recognition.
“Chained for Change” as it was coined, brought youth from Boston, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and Providence together in New York City as a means to show that the Armenian people demand justice. The afternoon began with a prayer from the local priest, Der Mesrob of St. Illuminators Church in Manhattan. Following the priest’s blessing, youth activists, as well as bystanders interested in our struggle, handcuffed themselves to each other and demonstrated there commitment to the Armenian cause.
The demonstration also featured a series of speakers including Anthony Deese of the current 2009 AYF Central Executive, ARF member Levon Attarian of the Providence community, ANC representative Raffi Mahserdjian, AYFers Justin Kaladjian and Mikael Garadebian, and special guest Yahya Osman, a genocide survivor from Darfur. The afternoon also saw an emotional performance from the local New York-based Armenian dance group “Yeraz,” which attracted the largest audience of the afternoon.
Our struggle for recognition is a human rights struggle, which is relevant to the current genocide taking place in Darfur. In order to defeat genocide throughout the globe, we must first recognize genocides of the past. Unless we learn from history, we are doomed to repeat the same devastating mistakes.