United Armenian Genocide Commemoration in LA

"WE WILL NOT EQUIVOCATE… WE WILL GO ON UNTIL WE ARE VICTORIOUS" –Congressman Adam Schiff

HOLLYWOOD–Three events–organized by the United Genocide Commemoration Committee to mark the 88th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide took place in the Los Angeles area.

At 9:30 AM–about 200 representatives of Armenian political parties and organizations joined the region’s Prelate and Primate and spiritual leaders of the community at the Armenian Genocide Monument in Montebello for a requiem service and wreath laying ceremony in memory of the victims of the 1915 genocide.

A march began at the Rose and Alex Pilibos School in Hollywood at 12:30 PM–and continued to the intersection of Hollywood and Argyle where 2,000 attended a commemoration program. The region’s Prelate and Primate–along with the leadership of political parties and representatives of organizations joined numerous elected officials including US Congressman Adam Schiff–Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn–California State Senators Chuck Poochigian and Majority Whip Richard Alarcn who represents San Fernando Valley–California State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi–Board of Equalization member John Cheng–among others.

On behalf of the United Genocide Commemoration Committee–Souzi Zerounian-Khanzatian presented opening remarks in English and Armenian–stressing the importance of serving the Armenian cause.

The Armenian and US national anthems were sung by Souren Ghazarian–followed by a flag ceremony by Homenetmen’scouts.

Representing the United Genocide Commemoration Committee–Ara Aharonian served as the master of ceremonies. In greeting guests–he explained that the united body consists of a thirty member executive committee composed of representatives of political parties as well as major organizations in the Los Angeles area.

Keynote speakers all stressed the importance of not only remembering the victims of the Armenian Genocide–but also striving for its recognition.

Board of Equalization member John Cheng said–"In our humanity I am your brother–and as your brother I join you in remembering the 1.5 million people who left this good earth at the hands of cowards whose only contribution was violence and hatred."

Congressman Schiff continued with a heartfelt speech:

"It’s an honor to join you today; an honor to join you on this solemn commemoration–though it is difficult–from the vantage point of 88 years to imagine what 1915 was like–to understand how it began with the roundup of the intellectuals–the doctors–the scientist–musicians. . . Entire families were wiped out. Some were shot–others stabbed–others hacked to pieces. Still hundreds of thousands of others were marched into the dessert to die in the sun–in the heat–in the sand. These people who died–these 1.5 million that we talk about is such a large number; it’s so difficult to get our mind around what that means–a million and a half people; it’s so easy to forget that these million and a half people were fathers and sons and mothers and daughters and cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles–whole families wiped out–others almost completely annihilated–and some of the few survivors living here with us may be gathered here under the canopy today. These people–these million and a half men women and children were killed for one reason and one reason alone–because they were Armenian. And that is the most clear–the most unequivocal definition of genocide. And so let us not temporize; let us not equivocate. Let us call genocide–genocide. Surely as the sun will rise tomorrow and surely as the world is not flat–1.5 million men–women and children lost their lives in the first genocide of the 20th Century. In Congress–George Radanovich and I have introduced a resolution on the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the convention on genocide–calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.* And we are off to a great start. Along with the co-chairs of the Armenian issues caucus–we now have almost 70 co-sponsors of the resolution. And we will work until we get the job done; we will work until the House of Representatives and Senate–and the President call genocide for what it is–the premeditated–calculated murder of a million and half people because of who they are. We will not give up. We will not equivocate. We will not marginalize the deaths of so many. And we will go on until we are victorious.

Consul General of the Republic of Armenia Valery Mkrtoumian–served as the keynote speaker stressing the horrific nature of the Armenian Genocide and the Republic of Armenia’s foreign policy agenda to gain international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

"The 20th century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality–mass murders and genocides. It was a century of bloody crimes against humanity. History records that the Armenia’s were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. They were subjected to a state-level genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and comman’s all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of this awful crime. . .

Among us are survivors or descendants of those who witnessed that nightmare. Many of the survivors of this genocide eventually immigrated to the United States–other friendly countries and established large Armenian communities. Generously received in many countries they achieved respect for their indomitable spirit–strong belief in the supreme justice and their hard work. The Armenian community here has been and will continue to be a model of dedication to values of faith and loyalty. With the passage of time the ran’s of the survivors have significantly diminished and the presence of each one is a real tribute to the vitality of the human’spirit.

In our ran’s today we also enjoy people–prominent officials who strongly support the annual National Day of Remembrance of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. We all feel an urgent sense of obligation to participate in special services offered on this day. By joining us they also pay tribute to the courage and triumph of the Armenian people who not only survived–but embarked upon an ambitious policy of nation-building. After its rebirth the independent Armenia has been called to advocate the interests of its people by including the issue of international affirmation of the Armenian genocide on the political agenda of the Republic of Armenia. By doing so we do not seek with this action to point any finger of blame–nor do we seek to legislate history. Neither we look forward to avenge ourselves. We simply do this with the intention to restore justice and to have this issue of great importance to mankind be officially recognized and internationally affirmed.

The Armenian genocide of 1915 is not only a national tragedy of the Armenian people. It is a tragedy for the whole mankind. We have to declare that even 88 years after the genocide took place–the international community has failed to give an appropriate estimation of that dark episode in human history. Pope John Paul II states that "The Armenian genocide that began the century–was a prologue to horrors that would follow. Two world wars–countless regional conflicts and deliberately organized campaigns of extermination took the lives of millions of faithful". Here lies the importance of the recognition of the Armenian genocide – in the context of other genocides and human rights issues. Indeed–the atmosphere of indifference towards the tragedy of Armenia’s in those days and the reluctance of major powers today have allowed repetition of merciless furies unleashed upon peoples and barbaric acts of violence that took place ever since. The memory of the first genocide of the 20th century continues to haunt Armenia’s around the world. The enduring legacy of the tragedy has also come to define the modern identity of Armenia’s. We have always been and are ready to side ourselves with the progressive humanity to combat any act of intolerance or violence committed against one another.

With Turkey’s persistent policy of denial–distortion and falsification of the Armenian genocide–comes also the failure of international community to adequately recognize the Turkish slaughter of Armenia’s as genocide and–subsequently to properly assess its impact on humanity. A policy determined by expediency should yield to the principles of ethics and human values. The Armenian people commend Governmen’s and Legislative bodies of those countries that champion principle over politics–for their dedication to common human values. By commemorating the genocide we all recommit ourselves to combating intolerance in all its forms–to make sure that there will never again be a genocide to stain the pages of world history.

I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express on behalf of my people and the Government of the Republic of Armenia our deep appreciation for the joint resolution of the Senate and Assembly of the of California to commemorate April 24 as the "California Day of Remembrance of the Armenian genocide". I would also like to express our deep gratitude to Honorable Gray Davis for the Proclamation made on behalf of the State of California. This will undoubtedly add to the process of international affirmation of the 1915 Armenian genocide that would eventually lead to the restoration of justice and would greatly contribute to eradication of the threat of more genocides in the third millennium.

The third event of the day was the AYF’s "Protest Against Inhumanity" held in front of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles. Four thousand mostly youth showed up to demonstrate against Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide. For full coverage–see the April 29th issue of Asbarez.. * Representatives Radanovich–Schiff–Pallone and Knollenberg introduced legislation–H.Res.193 – that marks the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide. That legislation which mentions the horrors of the Armenian Genocide as well as the Holocaust and the Cambodian and Rwanda tragedies–has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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