Sarkis Zeitlian

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Sarkis Zeitlian, Armenian nationalist leader, member of the Political Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the highest executive body of the party worldwide, and director of its international media network, was abducted on March 28, 1985, in West Beirut, Lebanon.

He was born in 1930 in the village of Khdr Bek on the slopes of Musa Dagh. He was part of a family that had participated in the valiant defense of Musa Dagh against the Turkish genocidal onslaught during WWI. His grandmother, Varter, had fought beside the Armenian freedom fighters; his father, Tovmas was one of the heroic youth who acted as messengers, and later, joining the Armenian company of the French Army's Foreign Legion, had shared in the victory at the battle of Arar in 1918.

Sarkis Zeitlian received his education first in Anjar, then in the Armenian monastic compound of Jerusalem, and finally at the Nshan Palanjian Jemaran or Academy in Beirut, where he was granted his degree from the Armenian Studies Department. At the Jemaran, Zeitlian studied under such noted leaders of the First Armenian Republic (1918-1920) as Levon Shant, Nigol Aghpalian, Simon Vratsian, and Garo Sassouni.

In 1954 Zeitlian was sent to Cairo, Egypt, where he taught Armenian studies at the Kalousdian Armenian School and joined the famous editorial staff of the ARF organ Houssaper. In 1959 He was appointed editor of Houssaper.

In 1957, Sarkis Zeitlian married his colleague at Kalousdian School, author Sona Simonian. In 1963, the Zeitlian family moved to Lebanon, where Sarkis became the Dean of Anjar's Harach School. During his tenure, a high school and boarding facilities were added to the institution, and its Alumni Association was formed. Sarkis Zeitlian also held important positions in the ARF as its Anjar "Red Mountain" Committee chairman and supervised over important local community issues, such as the reallocation of land and housing to the townspeople.

In 1965, Sarkis Zeitlian moved with his family from Anjar to Beirut and became the editor of the ARF organ Aztag. He also taught Armenian studies courses at the Nshan Palanjian Jemaran and held important positions in the ARF. From 1968 until his election to the ARF Bureau (1972), Sarkis Zeitlian was first a member and then chairman of the ARF Central Committee of Lebanon. Sarkis Zeitlian became the editor of the ARF Bureau organ Aztag Shapatoriag-Troshag in 1969.

During the Lebanese civil war, Sarkis Zeitlian played a decisive role. He Helped develop and implement the "positive neutrality" policy of the ARF, and created and maintained a united Armenian front by forging an alliance of Lebanese Armenian Political parties.

In the dire circumstances of Lebanon, despite sustaining material losses and fully aware of the many dangers he faces as an ARF political and community leader and the editor of the ARF Bureau organ, Sarkis Zeitlian remained on the political forefront in Lebanon. In 1978, during one of the most dangerous and anarchic stages of the civil war, when secret service organizations of foreign countries were operating freely, and especially when journalists were being killed or abducted for exercising free speech, Sarkis Zeitlian became Editor-in-Chief of Aztag Shapatoriag-Troshag, the ARF Bureau organ, set the policy and ideological guidelines of the ARF media worldwide, and took on other party responsibilities. His input was decisive during the work to revise the ARF Program (21st and 22nd World Congresses): he stressed the importance of the fundamentally national-Armenian basis of the ARF ideology, despite the presence of a loud socialist internationalist faction within the party.

It appears that Sarkis Zeitlian was killed by his abductors. However, the details remain mired in controversy.

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