The Role and Responsibility of ARF Youth: Interview With ARF Bureau Chairperson Hagop Der Khatchadourian
Below is a comprehensive and extensive interview in which ARF Bureau Chairperson Hagop Der Khatchadourian highlights the role, responsibility and working methodology of the ARF Youth worldwide through its numerous branches and regional organizations. The interview is conducted by Vahakn Karakachian editor-in-chief of the Horizon weekly in Canada.
Vahakn Karakachian: The backbone of the ARF is its youth. The ARF youth has always been on the front line- from the Lebanese civil war to the latest war in Syria and the four-day war in Artsakh. In Armenia, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth visited different regions of the country and distributed relief packages to those in need, particularly in remote and border village areas. Recently, the ARF Bureau reorganized its Youth Council and central organizational structure. Can you clarify and comment on this reorganization?
Hagop Der Khatchadourian: First of all, I would like to confirm that you are right when you emphasize that the ARF youth has always been and still is on front line: in terms of the security of our community in Lebanon, with the effort to protect the homeland and help those in need both in Armenia and Artsakh, by supplying the essential medical care, food and daily needs of our people in the midst of this epidemic period, in the homeland and in various parts of the Diaspora. The examples of this work that you have listed are exemplary.
Let us not forget that in many cases, our volunteers consciously endanger their health and safety while performing their duties. This is the manifestation of the principles of complete devotion and awareness of duty. In this sense, we can only be proud that our youth are aware of their mission and have a strong spirit to serve the nation.
As for the ARF Youth Council, I would like to mention that the Bureau has reformulated the central youth structure, which now consists of two main departments: the Council and the Office.
The Council is represented by 6 committees with more than 50 AYF members worldwide. The committees are headed by ARF members with the expertise in youth related issues. The head office is located in Yerevan, which administers the daily tasks of the council and the committees. The Youth Office has 2 staff members, one from Armenia and other from Diaspora.
In the process of the reformation of the Youth Office, committee members are doing a profound work. As an example, I would like to emphasize the activities of the Education Committee, that prepares material on a monthly basis – to deliver national, ideological and universal values to the youth, with which they can be educated and informed with current issues in the homeland and in general. I am really glad that the Council, with its Education committee, stays commitment and prepares important initiatives such as a monthly educational newsletter, an education program for the AYF, creating an education platform and organizing youth leadership training seminars.
The above-mentioned examples are only a few of the results from the restructuring and creation of the ARF Youth Office and Council, respsectively. It is commendable that under the leadership of the Council, the committees are working with a special drive and dedication for the betterment of our organization. The Council has already prepared a special protocol for ARF Youth on all levels of the organization, which is now a guideline in the development of programs and projects.
Our youth is committed worldwide with activities and projects. For example, the AYF of Armenia’s “Help Your Compatriot” program, the on-line campaigns for Armenian Genocide on April 24, the Pan-Armenian camps, the junior organizations counselor training programs, the youth federation’s regional and Pan-Armenian conferences (to be held in Artsakh, Armenia, Europe, and various Diaspora communities), but, unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all initiatives have been postponed, but the programs are ready and will be implemented at first possible opportunity.
The important fact is, that there is a new spirit invested into these fundamental projects. The youth is actively developing programs on national, ideological, organizational, educational, socio-economic and environmental perspectives, while including the Armenian cause, the preservation of the Armenian identity and PR with modern methods and methodologies.
Our youth are trained with national, ideological principles to become role models to their peers and exemplary citizens with strong principles for human rights and social justice.
The fact is eloquent- they participate in the initiatives of various international youth organizations, where they represent and defend our tasks of the Armenian Cause and present our views and understandings on universal themes. A vivid example is the ARF youth organization, which is a member of the International Union of the Socialist Youth IUSY and its members have held top positions such as Vice President. This important platform often serves for fulfilling and pursuing our tasks in terms of the Armenian Cause.
VK: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Sevres and the W. Wilson’s Arbitral Award. So what do you want to add about the Armenian youth and especially ARF youth?
H.D.K.: Treaty of Sevres has a vital importance to our Armenian Cause. The Treaty of Sevres and the W. Wilson’s Arbitral Award are the documents of the world’s debt to Armenians. This document is the base of our entire demand for Armenia. Although it has not been ratified, however it enshrines the impenetrability of our rights and has become the duty of the international community to the Armenian people. Certainly, there is an opinion that the fact that the Treaty of Sevres has not been ratified somehow diminishes its value, but we believe in the inviolability of this document and the fact that the international community accepts its responsibility to give the homeland of Armenian people back to them. This is an undeniable reality and we must always emphasize it, in the whole world.
Like the ARF big family, our youth are also focusing on the most important event of this year which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Sevres and emphasize its value. I know that the Youth Council has prepared a call (with 5 languages), a global PR campaign, and an explanatory booklet for the youth about our moral requirements, proposals for resolutions with foreign youth committees, demonstrations and so on.
The ARF Bureau also has a political initiative in the coming autumn in the suburbs of Sevres, Paris, of course, if the epidemic conditions allow its implementation. We are also going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of W. Wilson’s Arbitral Award in November in Washington.
VK– If you sum up with three sentences, what would you say to the ARF youth and the Armenian youth in general?
H.D.K.: a) Our youth is not only our future, but also our present.
In this regard, we should involve our youth in our current works as main participants- planners, implementers, and leaders. And this is already in process we just need to put it in motion. Our youth are involved in all our spheres, as well as in the governing bodies, especially in the main activities of the Armenian Cause.
- b) Youth should be prepared, insistent and dedicated.
Youth who stand in the front line should be fully prepared and confident, as a torchbearer of national and ideological values and as a main defender of leading socio-economic approaches, especially for human rights and social justice. In short, a prepared individual who is dedicated and committed.
- c) ARF youth should be affect the Armenian youth with his/her words, thoughts and deeds.
The ARF youth should be the paragon of Armenian Cause, social justice, national upbringing, and commitment in order to inspire the Armenian youth in general. I am convinced that our youth can confront all the challenges facing our people and be the force that leads us today and tomorrow. Finally, our youth should be the torchbearer of our demands, with their national formation, critical thinking, knowledge and awareness of modern methods. They should have a dominant presence and sometimes even being direct to take their right places on the platforms of the homeland and the Diaspora equally.
V.K.: What are the ARF’s priorities for the next two years?
H.D.K.: First of all, Armenia is the main point. ARF is a unique phenomenon in Armenian reality, which has pan-Armenian political, organizational and national liberation struggle and unique structure. It is not only wherever Armenians are, but also at the same time it conducts political activities in the homeland. Today it has a participation in political life in Armenia, acting as an extra-parliamentary opposition. In this sense, we have decided to emphasize the positive sides of the People’s Movement in 2018, but to criticize the negative manifestations, to struggle against them and, in many cases, to offer alternatives.
Unfortunately, in the last two years, a toxic environment has prevailed in Armenia and it is gradually intensifying: by the government, which presents itself in the name of “tolerance”, the discriminatory, dividing lines, and the approach of black and white provoked dominates the atmosphere of revenge and malice. All of these are compounded by the government’s failed policy of cadre, which unfortunately did not inspire any hope for the future. Despite these facts, the ARF remains attached to its mission, especially out of the country, where it is necessary to combine work with the government within Hay Dat and for the sake of maintaining Armenia’s reputation.
The second, of course, is Artsakh, we should get diplomatic consolidation for the victory of its military front. Presidential and parliamentary elections have already taken place in Artsakh and a new government has been formed. Dashnaktsutyun is a part of the new parliament, although in smaller numbers than the previous one. We do not only provide our parliamentary presence. We will continue our active participation in the internal and external life of Artsakh. The priority is that the independence and liberation of Artsakh will not be discussed only on diplomatic tables. International pressure has increased in this regard. The latest example is Lavrov’s statement, which brings serious concerns. It is our duty, as a pan-Armenian structure, to work everywhere so that the negotiations work in favor of Armenians and at the same time contributes improvement of Artsakh’s internal life and economic development.
The third is the revitalization of the Diaspora and the persecution of the endangered rights of Armenians in Armenian lands, both in Western Armenia and Javakhk, and also in our historical communities (Constantinople, Tbilissi, CIS and the Middle East). There are injustices, violations for which we have a clear agenda of persecution. And the promotion and revitalization of the Diaspora are important priorities that require a lot of efforts. In cooperation with other organizations with a pan-Armenian agenda and due to auspices of our religious leaders soon we will organize a conference on Diaspora issues . The main thing is to promote the preservation of the Armenian identity, and the work of the Hay Dat with more united efforts. Like any Diaspora, ours is experiencing some decline, and we must work to boost for renewal. We believe that a committed Diaspora is promising in terms of strengthening and developing the homeland. It is the greatest supporter of the preservation and prosperity of the Armenian identity of the Diaspora.
Finally, it is our task to preserve the continuation and increase national cooperation like it was the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. We must strengthen our pan-Armenian agenda by specifying certain areas of work so that our people in Armenia and in the Diaspora are united on national issues.