100 years and 1.5 million lives later

Thousands will gather on the streets of Los Angeles on Friday to march in honor of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and to pressure the Turkish and United States governments into officially recognizing the genocide.

On April 21, the White House confirmed that President Obama will not use the word genocide in his annual Armenian massacre statement to be released on April 24.

Although the U.S. does not officially recognize the Armenian genocide, 43 U.S. states have made official proclamations or passed legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide, including California.


Between the years of 1915 and 1923, approximately 2 million Armenians were deported from their homeland, of whom 1.5 million were killed, by the Ottoman Empire, which was dissolved after World War I.


Every year on April 24, Armenian communities around the world commemorate the date as “Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide”.


The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee Western USA (AGCC-WUSA) is organizing the march and rally, known as the March for Justice, in Los Angeles as part of a national effort.


“This was the first genocide of the 20th century, which was the catalyst for all of the other genocides, particularly first and foremost the Jewish Holocaust. It is commonly and widely known that when Adolf Hitler was giving orders to march against the Jews in Poland, that he said, ‘After all, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians’,” said March for Justice committee chair and AGCC-WUSA co-chair Garo Ghazarian.


Ghazarian, like many Armenian Americans, is a direct descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide. The U.S.-based organization Near East Relief provided humanitarian aid, which included setting up refugee camps, orphanages and delivering basic necessities, to the Armenian people between 1915 through 1930.


“My paternal grandmother was saved from the genocide because of the Near East Relief. So many Armenians trace our lives to the efforts of the American people between 1915 and 1930. That was in the consciousness of the American people and today we are ostensibly stronger,” Ghazarian said.


“It is embarrassing for me as a U.S. citizen for my government not to recognize the Armenian genocide, when [on April 20] Germany recognized it, as well as Austria. To suggest that the U.S. does not want to offend an ally at the expense of offending the human conscience is not right,” Ghazarian said.


The commemoration event will take place on Friday at 10 a.m. beginning at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in the neighborhood of Little Armenia. A march will proceed westbound on Sunset Boulevard, turn southbound on La Brea Avenue and then westbound on Wilshire Boulevard, ending at the Turkish Consulate at 6300 Wilshire Blvd.


The march will be six miles, which is approximately 10 kilometers. The 10 kilometers are symbolic, one for each decade of the 100 years since the beginning of the genocide in 1915, according to Ghazarian.


The Armenian community and its leaders will continue to push the U.S. government to recognize the genocide, Ghazarian said.


“Obama has chosen against recognizing the Armenian genocide, and it’s disheartening. He’s breaking his promise to speak the truth and call it by its name. But what this does, however, to folks like me and others is that it strengthens our resolve until the day comes where people speak the truth about genocide,” Ghazarian said.


U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) represents the state’s 28th Congressional District, which includes one of the highest concentrations of the Armenian Diaspora in Glendale and Little Armenia.


Schiff is the lead sponsor of the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, which seeks to federally recognize the Armenian genocide, as well as improve relations between Armenia and Turkey.


“I’m deeply discouraged and disheartened by what the administration announced [on April 21]. The president knows about the facts. He spoke about it eloquently when he was a senator. It’s deeply heartbreaking for Armenian families around the country,” Schiff said.


Today, for a full hour on the House floor, Schiff read some of the names of the 1.5 million people who were killed during the Armenian genocide. Additionally, he will be participating in the March for Justice.


Schiff said although some of his constituents are heartbroken, Obama has one last opportunity in his term to recognize the Armenian genocide before leaving office in 2016.


Following the White House announcement, Councilman Paul Krekorian, 2nd District, released a public statement condemning both the Turkish and American government for their refusal to recognized the Armenian genocide.


“It is especially shameful that our government yields its own freedom to a foreign power, especially one that bears responsibility for one of the most grotesque examples of tyranny and oppression in world history,” Krekorian said in a statement.

Source: Park LaBrea News and Beverly Press