Xenophobia and Death Threats Plague Glendale Politics

Ardy Kassakhian campaign volunteers (Photo: Ardy Kassakhian for Assembly 2016 Facebook)
Ardy Kassakhian campaign volunteers (Photo: Ardy Kassakhian for Assembly 2016 Facebook)

Ardy Kassakhian campaign volunteers (Photo: Ardy Kassakhian for Assembly 2016 Facebook)

BY FLORA ADAMIAN

As a Glendale native and Armenian-American, I often think of this city as a refuge of sorts — the safe haven that Armenians flock to as a result of decades of global unrest.

However, this idealism quickly turns to frustration when I think of the deep-rooted anti-Armenian sentiment that exists within Glendale, a sentiment which is specifically highlighted when Armenians strive to gain a political voice. The buildup to the upcoming November 8 election has highlighted this anti-Armenian sentiment in one of the most densely Armenian-populated cities in the world.

Glendale, California, is home to one of the largest Armenian communities outside of the Republic of Armenia. The large migrations of Armenians to Southern California began after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Yet, post-genocide waves continue to come in year after year, whether it be due to the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s, Iranian Revolution of the 1980s, or the most recent civil war in Syria. Over these decades thousands of Armenian refugees have moved to Glendale seeking safety, but their community has continued to face prejudice and discrimination even in 2016.

Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian is up against Glendale Council Member Laura Friedman for the 43rd District Assembly seat. Kassakhian’s campaign has faced numerous threats in recent months and encountered xenophobic individuals who criticize and attack the candidate based on his ethnicity.

“Oh, is he Armenian? I’m not voting for him,” is a common response Kassakhian’s phone bankers hear when reaching out to voters.

Individuals have even gone so far as to make death threats against the campaign based on Kassakhian’s Armenian identity. Just a few weeks ago, Kassakhian’s campaign office had to be evacuated after receiving a phone call that threatened the safety of his employees and volunteers.

“You Armenian f—ing scumbag, you piece of s— send one more mailer, you f—ing Armenian scum. You’re going to get your head flushed, you Armenian scumbag. You are not safe in that office,” a male caller said.

To give some background: In 1999, Rafi Manoukian’s campaign for Glendale City Council revealed the incredible ability of Armenian voters to mobilize and elect a candidate from their own community. Thousands of new Armenian voters were registered and the typically-apathetic youth grew increasingly politically active. For the first time in Glendale’s history, the Armenian vote became a deciding factor in an election’s outcome.

Unfortunately, as the voice of the Armenian community grew, so did the voices of those blatantly racist against the Armenian people. Following Manoukian’s election, there was a woman that would come into city council meetings every Tuesday and tell Armenians to go back where they came from.

Now, in 2016, decades after Manoukian’s election, Armenian candidates in the region continue to face the same discrimination as their predecessors.

A candidate should be judged based on their stances on various community concerns, action plans, and involvement in their district, among other reasonable political aspects.

To disregard a candidate based on their ethnicity is purely xenophobic and incredibly dangerous. Those judging Armenian candidates by their ethnic background are implying that Armenians are not worthy or capable of holding public office — that our identities somehow make us inferior to other candidates.

In the era of Trumpism, nativist populism, and the far right movements taking place in Europe, I challenge voters to consider their stances and the ways in which they decide for whom to vote.

Do not buy into the racist rhetoric. Vote for a candidate based on their platform. Whoever is elected must address issues of xenophobia to ensure that all residents of Glendale can feel enfranchised and a part of their community.

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13 Comments

  1. mgl said:

    And why you didn’t arrest the person you threatened you instead of running away?
    BS or are you in Turkey?

  2. Maggue said:

    Is that woman still alive who Went to city council meetings and tell the Armenian to go back where they came from? I’m wondering where did she come from? Shame on her or others like her that in this day and age judge a candidate based on ethnicity.

  3. Eve Mekerdichian said:

    Why are you surprised at the xenophobia in this city or any other in America? It wasn’t long ago that our beautiful city was a sundowner city, where groups of excluded races were expected to be out of the city limits by sundown. Glendale has come a long way. Armenians have a reputation of taking over. We came in and beautified at the expense of the traditional. We have taken over most aspects of life in the city and the old timers aren’t keen on the change. Give it time, have patience, this country is only 240 years old, our culture has been on the planet for more than 3 millennia the US has some catching up to do. In the meantime we will do what we do best, Survive.

  4. Abel Abramyan said:

    It’s purely out of jealousy, period. Glendale has flourished because of Armenians. Glendale has become the third largest city in LA county because of Armenians. Glendale has become a central hub for businesses and that’s also because of Armenians. The racist scumbags that unfortunately still exist in Glendale are nothing more than jealous losers who never amounted to anything in their lives. They were never able to create the life that Armenians have created for themselves, and hence the hate that they have towards us. They sleep at night wishing that they could have the same courage, same drive and determination to better their lives and their community like the Armenians do. They are the scumbags that don’t belong in this city and anywhere near us. Maybe we should be the ones to force them out to places where life might not be as pleasant as the Armenians have created in Glendale.

  5. Al Mal said:

    Thanks for a great article.

    Based on what you wrote, I’ll be choosing not the candidate endorsed by their last name or a PAC, but the one I think has the better platform.

  6. ArmenianAmerican said:

    This is about democracy and American values. Voting for Laura Friedman who is not from California is a vote for the evil CCSA (California Charter School Association) that has pumped close to $10 million in California elections this last 10 months. Their aim is to privatize all public education at any cost and they are quoted as such “We will do what it takes to grow the charter school movement in California” They play dirty campaigning and lodge smear campaigns on pro public education candidates like Ardy. Their strong connections and affiliations to the Gulen Turkish operated Charter Schools in California MAGNOLIA SCIENCE ACADEMY is easy for anyone to fact check. CCSA are not educators they are Silcon Valley business people that started it, their founding CEO is Caprice Young who has no teaching credentials and would be nothing without the expensive CCSA publicist Larson Communications. Caprice is the current CEO of Gulen Terrorist Magnolia Science Academies and has gone to the mattress fighting for Magnolia Schools to the point of using CCSA resources and their Charter School law firm of Young, Minney and Corr (upt) who is siphoning off more educational dollars for legal fees. CCSA and Gulen Movement Magnolia Science Academy are so chummy they are room mates sharing 250 E. First St., Los Angeles, CA. On 10/18 three of the Magnolia terrorist schools were denied renewal by LAUSD.,for very good documented reasons, CCSA was there in full force to support the Gulen Terrorists and their Capricious Caprice Young. If more pro CCSA candidates get into office and they are allowed to successfully purchase more elected officials we will no longer have local controls of our schools or any democracy. Would Laura Friedman protect my democracy or sell out to her sugar daddies if they need favors or more Assembly Bills passed to harm traditional public schools and promote the agenda of privatizers. I have no confidence in a candidate that has accepted this amount of money, then sat back trying to play innocent victims while CCSA partakes in vicious smear campaigns throughout California. Ardy isn’t the only candidate they are attacking some have been very vicious and cruel, especially the unseating of educator LAUSD board member Bennet Kayser for openly gay charter school operator Ref Rodriguez who CCSA pumped $1.5 million into. CCSA even made fun of Bennet’s neuro disorder in a shameless low class way. Is this the type of people we want teaching our children? and in control of our educational tax money? CCSA are worse terrorists than their buddy the Gulen Movement operators of MAGNOLIA SCIENCE ACADEMY. This one Glendale City Council speaker hits all the connections dead on, should Laura Friedman like to correct these facts she can but they are 100% true and factual https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BoguuTpJgU

  7. Ararat said:

    Xenophobia has always been part of the fabric of this society in many places and specially in places with high concentration of new immigrants. The difference with Europe and other places is due to the fact that there are much more stricter laws that protect the freedom of people and their expression here and even though people here may be less vocal in expressing their xenophobic tendencies it is still deep in their psyche. If you don’t look like them, don’t act like them and don’t talk like them then you are automatically a suspect. It takes several generations to get over this and be accepted as the norm. Part of this xenophobia has to do with lack of education and lack of familiarity with a given population. Demographic change, jealousy and a sense of losing control to a “foreign” group is another.

    We collectively, as Armenians, must fight all these by educating and familiarizing the non-Armenian population in our midst with our deeply-rooted family values, our ancient culture and by being exemplary members of the society in which we live in. We must also learn their ways and be able to communicate with them in their own familiar language to put their minds at ease. One thing we must never do is to allow some racist degenerates intimidate us and we must face them head-on and put them in their place where they belong! Long Live Armenian Power 4-Ever!

  8. Mel said:

    No worries
    You easily can point to Current President’s yesterday’s campaign…
    Pointing out “Him as an Immigrant…. ”

    Aren’t We all IMMIGRANTS? After all!!!!

  9. AnonymousArmenian said:

    I will preface my comment by saying I am Armenian and I was born and raised in Glendale. I’m 34 years old. Now, I don’t condone any of the bigoted comments that voters are making against Armenians as stated in this article, nor are they justified in making them. But, I do want to address the general feelings of detest that many Glendale residents have against our people, and for one second, play devil’s advocate to show you where they’re coming from. I have first-hand seen this city grow, flourish, and become the beautiful place that I decided to raise my family. But, what I also see is the younger generation of Armenians in flashy cars driving like complete and out of control maniacs. They show no regard for this city, no regard for the safety of this city’s people, and no regard for themselves. It’s no wonder, then, that when a driver pulls up next to the car being driven like a maniac, and sees that it’s driver is one of our people, that they have a feeling of absolute disgust and hate for us. Obviously, it’s not right to judge the many based on the few. But, the way I see it, each one of us, individually, represents the total Armenian population. If you are Armenian, and you are reading this, please represent us in the community well. Be respectful. Be kind. Be courteous. Be humble. And please don’t shame us. That’s all. Thanks. And God bless.

  10. Dre said:

    Flora,
    Equating nationalism w/ racism proves you’re nothing more than a fake liberal junkie. The right wing movement is a counter-measure to the invasion from large swaths of uncivilized people into the last bastion of hope (Europe and America). How would Armenians feel if Muslim Turks invaded Armenia for a better life. I’m guessing there would be relentless opposition to such a movement. If you had asked my grandmother who was born in Aleppo 50 years ago, that in 2016 the city would be in total ruin, she would have said you’re talking crazy. As a first generation Armenian – I consider myself American first, Armenian second. You should feel the same.

    • Ararat said:

      Dre – Are you for real? I never read so much nonsense from a pretend-Armenian. I had a chuckle at your remark about Europe and USA being the two last bastions of hope where two genocides took place not so long ago. Who are these invading uncivilized people into USA you speak of? Because this article was about the Armenian communities on the west coast.

      That being the case, are you calling your grandparents uncivilized invaders? Your example of Muslim Turks invading Armenia for better life makes no sense at all because the last thing Armenians would want to entertain is the idea of allowing or disallowing an unrepentant Turkish race of genocidal subhumans from Central Asia, who nearly wiped out the Armenian population and confiscated their homeland only a century ago, into their midst.

      I’m not surprised, based on your remarks, that you consider yourself an American first and Armenian second. Have you ever pondered the idea that you can be both American and Armenian at the same time and equally without having to give up one in favor of the other or choose which you should be first? I could be wrong but I’m guessing you neither speak your grandmother’s language nor you practice her culture because if you did you would never have to choose one over the other even though I personally believe we are always Armenians first and everything else second because no matter how hard you try you will never be considered equal to those of your first choice. Artificially maybe but realistically you will have to give up who you are and morph into something you are not.

  11. Taniel said:

    I have no doubt that some of the bias against Armenians is prejudice and that some of it is because of Armenian misbehavior and criminality.
    Plus, would a city in Armenia like to be swamped with a hundred thousand or so Vietnamese who aspired to political power and thought Turks and Azeris were just fine and dandy?
    Armenians have to understand that when outsiders go en masse into a city anywhere, the locals may resent it.
    This is simple to understand. Stop the “PC” liberal nonsense and get along.

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