Sitting here at the computer in the deep hours of night, with the work day done and my children tucked warmly into bed, I hear the echoes of the prophetic words of the great Armenian poet and patriot Yeghishe Charents:
“Oh, Armenian people, your only salvation lies in the power of your unity.”
He wrote that hidden, visionary message while enduring the consequences of his idealism as a victim of Stalin’s repressive purges in Soviet Armenia in the 1930’s. And how telling were those words when they rang true in 1975, in and around the Bourj Hamoud district of Beirut, Lebanon! The harmonious mosaic of people, cultures and religions that made up this city endearingly dubbed, “The Paris of the Middle East,” was fracturing at all its seams, plunging this tiny nation-state, head-first, into a 15 year anarchic crisis, which saw disputes among neighbors no longer resolved by the rule of law, but rather at the unforgiving end of a Kalashnikov.
Having found a welcoming haven in idyllic Lebanon from the cataclysm of the Armenian Genocide 60 years earlier, by 1975, the Armenian community of Lebanon became the largest center of diasporan Armenian life, where our cultural and political institutions thrived, our people prospered, and our future looked promising.
Then, as if plagued by a Sisyphean destiny, in 1975, the Armenians of the Bourj Hamoud district of Beirut, Lebanon faced yet another defining moment. Surrounded and pressured by a multitude of factions which were supported by outside powers who had the destruction of Lebanon in mind, the leadership of the Armenian community of Lebanon had an existential choice in front of it. Does the Armenian community take sides in this destructive campaign that surely has no victory in store for the Lebanese? Or, do we lay down our historic differences, band together in solidarity, remain neutral, and pledge to each other that our collective well-being as Armenians, as Lebanese-Armenians, will be paramount against all else?
Possibly guided by the teaching of some of our heroic leaders from the First Republic of Armenia who made Lebanon their home, such as Simon Vratsian and Levon Shant, and possibly heeding the glorious words of Yeghishe Charents, the leadership of the Tashnagtstyoun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-ARF), the Ramgavars (Armenian Liberal Democratic Party) and the Hnchakians (Armenian Social Democratic Hnchakian Party) came together and chose the path of unity, a collective self-defense of their lives, rights and property. In so doing, the words of Charents rang prophetic, as this unified Armenian effort was the salvation for our community.
As if a prelude to the acts of self-determination that were to come in about 15 years in Armenia and Artsakh, the Armenian community of Lebanon in 1975 and the years that followed was a beacon of self-governance in a sea of lawlessness: where a commonality of purpose, of self-preservation, took its rightful precedence over political and religious differences.
We, at the Armenian Bar Association, take example from this era in recent Armenian history. Some of our leaders and members participated in the self-defense of the Armenian community of Lebanon. We, as an organization, take pride in being a truly independent, all-encompassing, all-inclusive organization. Every segment and dimension of the Armenian community is represented among the ranks of our membership. We believe that this unity of Armenian community is the very essence of our strength.
As we begin 2018, we look forward to a new year that will continue to emphasize the unified pursuit of the Armenian Cause, the defense of the rights of all Armenians, anywhere and everywhere, regardless of their religious, political or social background. Through our Armenian Rights Watch Committee, we have already spoken out against the abhorrent use of anti-Armenian racial epithets as the butt of a crude joke on national television. Our Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee is engaged in efforts designed to restore the rights of all Armenians in their historic homeland. In addition, we have a robust agenda of events and activities to promote Artsakh’s statehood and provide legal assistance to its citizens, to help the elderly here in the United States, to assist Armenian law students through scholarships, mentoring and judicial clerkships, to honor our legal educators and to foster the professional development of our membership. Here is a list of just a few of our upcoming activities that we have planned:
February 3, 2018, the Armenian Bar Association and the National Armenian Law Students Association are hosting a pro-bono clinic aimed at helping non-violent, non-serious offenders clear their criminal records. The clinic will be held at the Glendale Adult Recreation Center, 201 E. Colorado St., Glendale, CA 91205
February 8, 2018, 10:30 a.m., the Armenian Bar Association and the City of Glendale have partnered to present this second installment of a two-part public forum on the Early Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and Financial Scams. The forum will be presented in English by LA Deputy District Attorney and ArmenBar member, Amy Ashvanian. It will take place at the Sparr Heights Community Center, 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale, CA 91208.
February 12, 2018, Armenian Bar Association’s Internship Program with the Artsakh Ombudsman’s. Applications must be filed by this date.
February 24, 2018, 9:00 a.m., Southwestern University School of Law, 7th Annual Networking and Information Event where many of our members will give insights into their practice areas and offer advice to aspiring students. This event is co-sponsored by the Armenian Bar Association.
March 3, 2018, 11:00 a.m., Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena, CA–Vicken Ishkhan Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Golf Event. All proceeds to go to the Armenian Bar’s general scholarship fund which is named after our dearly-departed former chairman and best friend, Vicken Simonian.
March 5, 2018, Southwestern University School of Law, Southwestern University’s Armenian Law Students Association and Southwestern University are holding a career development day. Active Armenian Bar Members Raffi Zerounian and Chris Saffarian will be speaking.
March 29, 2018, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA—The Armenian Bar Association joins with the Arab-American Bar Association, the Eastern European Bar Association and the Iranian American Lawyers Association for Continuing Legal Education presentations and a grand soiree for networking and professional development.
April 7, 2018, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Chicago, Illinois, Vicken Ishkhan Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Reception and Fundraising Event. Event will be held at the Oscar Isberian Rug Gallery in the historic core of downtown Chicago.
April 15, 2018, Armenian Bar Association Scholarship Programs applicants must file their applications by this date.
April 21, 2018, 2:00 p.m., United Armenian Council of Los Angeles, 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration + 50th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Armenian Martyrs Monument, Armenian Martyrs Monument, Bicknell Park Montebello.
April 22, 2018, Times Square, New York, 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration.
April 24, 2018, Pan Pacific Park and Turkish Consulate, Los Angeles, Armenian Genocide Committee (AGC), 103rd Armenian Genocide Commemoration. March and Rally for Justice.
May 21-30, 2018, Annual Meeting, Artsakh and Armenia.
For more information and to register for these events, you may visit our website at www.armenianbar.org or our Facebook page.
On behalf of the Board of Governors of the Armenian Bar Association, I wish you a Happy New Year and welcome your participation in the activities of our organization as we strive, in solidarity of purpose and determination, to fulfill the mission of the Armenian Bar Association.