New York AYF Chapter Honors Memory of Lisbon 5

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New York AYF Chapter Honors Memory of Lisbon 5
By Nazareth Markarian

Ara, Sarkis, Setrag, Simon and Vatche, who have come to be known and remembered as the Lisbon 5, were ardent believers in fairness, justice and human rights.

On July 27, 1983 these five young men, none over the age of 25, attempted to storm the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, with the intention of capturing the Turkish ambassador and holding him hostage. Their efforts to seize the embassy were thwarted, and instead they occupied the residence of the Turkish Deputy Chief Mission. During the fighting one of the boys, Simon Yahneian, was killed. The other four, finding themselves surrounded, decided to detonate a bomb, taking only their own lives (they had released the wife and child of the Turkish Ambassador) in order to awaken the world to the plight of the Armenians at the hands of Turkish genocide deniers.

To commemorate and honor our five fallen brothers who sacrificed their lives for genocide recognition in Lisbon 24 years ago, a short program was held at the Armenian Center in Woodside, Queens, N.Y. Taking place on Saturday, July 28, the event was organized by the New York Armen Garo Chapter of the ARF, and featured Unger Jirayr Beugekian of Boston who spoke about the Lisbon 5. He began by presenting a short video that included both a narrative of what transpired 24 years ago in Lisbon, and footage of the five boys as they spoke about themselves, and relayed their message to their families and the Armenian community as a whole. As a follow-up to the video, U. Jirayr spoke briefly about the time period that surrounded their struggle. He explained that the atmosphere in the world was different than it is today; it was common in those days for people to resort to violence in order to get themselves heard. However, for the Armenians (the Lisbon 5 were no exception), violence was only used as a last resort. Sadly, and as it continues to do so today, the Turkish government ardently denyies the validity of the Armenian genocide as a historical fact. What was different is that the entire world seemed apathetic to the Armenian Cause, and the genocide question was consistently brushed aside in diplomatic forums. It was a time of great frustration for the Armenian people especially because Turkey had no desire to engage in dialogue concerning the Armenian genocide. The selfless act of the Lisbon 5 helped to open the eyes of the world to the demands of the Armenian people and because of their sacrifice, diplomacy and discourse are viable options today.

The following day, on Sunday July 29, the names of the Lisbon 5 were remembered during the requiem service conducted in St. Illuminator's Cathedral in Manhattan. Immediately after the conclusion of church services a short program was held in the church hall. The Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, spoke briefly about the Lisbon 5 and what their struggle meant to the Armenian people. He also recalled how he had met one of the boys in Abu Dhabi on the eve of the Lisbon operation. The young man had come to bid his family farewell but never once mentioned his plan to his family or any of the guests gathered there that day. After the Archbishop shared his words, a poem dedicated to the Lisbon 5 was read by a member of the New York Hyortik AYF Chapter. Another chapter member then delivered the youth message, and finally a song dedicated to the Lisbon 5 was played to conclude the program.

Every February we remember St. Vartan Mamigonian and his struggle against the Persians in the name of Armenian Christianity. It is equally important that we remember the sacrifices of our modern Armenian martyrs such as the Lisbon 5.

Nazareth Markarian is a member of AYF New York Hyortik Chapter.