The Armenian Youth Federation is marking its 80th anniversary, yet the theses and pillars it established are still undoubtedly relevant and paramount to the Armenian youth of today. On January 14 1933, the ARF Central Committee of America in Boston, MA agreed to unify and mobilise existing youth groups scattered across the whole of America; providing the basis of a national Armenian youth organisation. The legendary Karekin Njdeh toured the country with the aim of unifying the scattered youth groups under the name of an Armenian Youth Federation. As the AYF Western Region correctly describe, the Armenian hero “with his magnetic oratory and inspirational presence, hundreds of youth flocked to hear his appeals and apply to become part of the first generation of the AYF.” In June 1934, the AYF held its first Convention, chaired by General Njdeh whereby 40 chapters voted and set out the organisations aims and pillars: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural, all in the name of Armenian cooperation and fraternity. Soon the AYF chapters were organised and mobilised well enough to write educational books about Armenian history as well as songbooks, and to establish higher education scholarships to young Armenians – the first of its kind in the USA. Clearly, the historical role of AYF remains an amazing feat in the mobilisation of thousands of young Armenians in the USA. However the organisation was soon to branch out to both coasts of America, as well as to Canada. In 2013 there are now an incredible number of AYF chapters across North and South America, the Middle East, Australia and Europe.

The most important role that the Armenian Youth Federation has played is that of unifying like-minded young Armenians to fulfilling the political pillar of Hai Tahd. The need for a politically motivated youth cannot be stressed enough, as we will be the ones fighting for retribution from the many injustices the Armenian people have faced. This motivation is crucial for the youth of today; in a time of political apathy and disassociation with political systems, AYF has been successful in being the medium to which young Armenians have been able to work in the Armenian National Committee – one of the main driving forces in the international Armenian efforts to restoring dignity to the Armenian political system, as well as fighting for recognition for the Armenian Genocide. On a smaller level, though still as important, AYF has prompted the founding and direction of many Armenian Societies in universities, providing an intellectual edge to debate and discussion about the past horrors faced by the Armenian people. This unifying role AYF possesses has provided the means to set up AYF chapters on all corners of the globe, as well as providing an essential stage for pan-Armenian discussion and activity; such as the Pan-European Congress held in Alkmaar to which three AYF London Khanasor members attended in May.

Nevertheless, one cannot undermine the importance of the Armenian Youth Federation’s other pillars; Social, Athletic, Educational and Cultural. Not only do chapters worldwide often hold sporting events, but the physical strength of the Armenian youth is embodied in the strength of the AYF Olympics, an annual event stretching back all the way to 1934 – flocked by thousands of Armenians. Another aspect that AYF chapters are concerned with is educating and raising awareness among the general public; such as AYF London Khanasor going to Trafalgar Square in February to canvass about the Sumgait Massacre of 1988. The Armenian Youth Federation may be eighty years old, but it lives on through talented and young individuals with fresh ideas regarding the Armenian cause. Its aims are all-too-relevant in today’s world, and has successfully mobilised Armenian youths across the world for decades; bring on a successful eightieth year for the Armenian Youth Federation!

— Emin Moskofian

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