GYO co-Chair Alison Ghafari delivered Gaidz Youth Organization message at the SDHP Commemoration for the 20 Armenian Martyrs held on June 17, 2021 in Pasadena.
BY ALISON GHAFARI
As Armenian youth, we are taught the history of Armenia and the important individuals who sacrificed everything for the perseverance of our people, our culture, our nation.
From Hayk Nahabed to Gregory the Illuminator, from Mesrop Mashtots to Vartan Mamikonian, these individuals shaped Armenia’s history. Among such notable individuals are the 20 Armenian Martyrs, whose sacrifice, although in vain, was no less heroic than their predecessors. Their story and fate is interwoven within the history of our people.
Had they not been betrayed, the Genocide committed against Armenians would most probably have not transpired. The consequences of their betrayer would not only doom them to the gallows but also wipe out the indeginous population of Armenians from the Armenian highlands, to the Ararat plateau, on to the Taurus mountains of Cilicia.
The story of the 20 Armenian Martyrs can be traced back to the 1886-1887 formation of the Hunchakian party, the 1890s Kum Kapu and Bab Ali demonstrations, the 1894 Sassoon rebellion and 1895 Hammidian massacres and Zietun rebellions, into the 1908 revolution, which provided optimism for the future of Armenians living in the Ottoman empire, only to be crushed by the 1909 Adana massacres. The anger of being duped by the 1912 rigged Ottoman elections, and later betrayed by the 1913 coup led by Young Turk’s Committee of Union and Progress members, which would of course result in a de facto dictatorship by Enver, Talaat, and Cemal.
On September 7, 1913, in Constanta, Romania, the 7th Congress of the Social Democratic Hunchakian party was held. Many pressing issues of the time were discussed, chief of which were the Anti-Armenian policies being enforced by this Young Turk’s dictatorship. In order to combat these policies, a special committee headed by Sapah-Giulian and Varazdat (Gr. Anparchian) adopted a resolution.. The end of the persecution and murder of Armenians by any means necessary, including the assassination of the Young Turk leaders Enver and Talaat Pasha.
Sapah-Giulian along with Paramaz began in ernest to organize and plan out the assassination attempts. With heavy hearts, determination, and a sense of duty, they diligently began to formulate a strategy with the potential to succeed.
Shortly after attending the 7th Congress of Constanta, Arshavir Sahakian, betrayed his party, ideology, and people by reporting these resolutions to the Ottoman regime, damning his friends, family, and people to the first genocide of the 20th century. The Turkish authorities arrested 120 Hunchakian leaders and activists. In addition to the arrests, two Hunchakian periodicals; Kayts and Kohak, were shut down. The leaders of the Hunchakian party were charged for the plans to assassinate Talaat amongst others on April 28, 1915.
Twenty-two Hunchakian leaders were sentenced to death on June 14, 1915, two in absentia. The 20 leaders were hanged in Sultan Beyazit Square on June 15, 1915. The 20 Hunchakian Gallows served as a catalyst for the Armenian Genocide. Before their hangings, Petros Torossian, one of the 20 martyrs, defiantly cried: “You will kill 20 of us, but 20,000 will follow us” taking up the mantle Paramaz followed: “You can kill our bodies but you cannot kill our beliefs.”
As we are gathered here today, we commemorate our 20 martyrs. These were patriots of the highest order, instilled with a belief of justice and freedom, not just for the Armenian people, but all peoples. And though their struggle to attain freedom was cut short, we can only admire the courage and determination they had and have passed down to us. It is our responsibility, as inheritors of their cause, to ensure that their sacrifice was not made in vain. We must still fight for a free and democratic Armenian nation, we must fight against tyranny and prejudice wherever it lurks. Throughout history, the freedoms, rights, and privileges of all people are constantly under threat, and it is our responsibility to stand, ever vigilant in defense of these rights and freedoms. We can all take great comfort in knowing that we do not stand alone, the memory of the 20ner blazes as a beacon, guiding us as we stand watch and continue the struggle for freedom, justice, and peace.