Southern California events marking the 83rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide began with a 10:30 a.m. holy liturgy and memorial service–at Glendale’s St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church–delivered by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian–Western Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; and Father Rafael Minassian.
The commemorative ceremony sponsored by the Genocide Commemoration Committee was held at the Armenian Martyrs’ Monument–at Bicknell Park–in Montebello–Friday afternoon and attracted more than 8,000 community members.
Also a first in Armenian-American history–was a commemoration event at the Cross on Mount Davidson in San Francisco–which saw hundreds gather for the first time since the Armenian community purchased the cross last year.
An Armenian Relief Society sponsored blood drive for the City of Hope was held throughout the event–attracting more than 80 donors.
The event’s keynote speaker–the manager of the Alik newspaper in Iran–Albert Adjemian stated that for Armenia’s the century began with the unprecedented first genocide of the century–the Armenian Genocide–and ended in 1991 with the independence of the Armenian Republic–the liberation struggle in Karabakh and the victories of that war.
Adjemian stressed that while 1915 is being commemorated as the year of the Genocide–its should be noted that according to Prof. Yuri Barseghov–the genocide of Armenia’s began in the previous century and continued to Sumgait and Baku in the late 1980’s.
The Armenian-Iranian leader stressed that the Genocide cannot be considered part of history for the Armenia’s–since the crime of genocide has not yet been recognized.
"Today we all become one and evaluate the world with the same criteria. On this day we want to associate with one another–and stand side by side from Los Angeles–to Beirut; from Sydney to Tehran; from Aleppo to Yerevan; and from Paris to Stepanakert…" stated Adjemian.
He expressed his disappointment that the Armenian nation had lost the past seven years in its pursuit of the Armenian Cause–since the former leadership of Armenia failed–in its efforts–to bear the torch and through its policies did not fully comprehend the impetus of the century.
Adjemian stressed that with the new government of Armenia–a "new era had begun for domestic and foreign policy."
The keynote speaker pointed to the lessons the Armenia nation has learned from its experience in the 20th century and went on itemize them in five categories:
*The reason for the Armenian Genocide was pan-Turkism;
*The recognition of the Genocide by Turkey–reparations and retribution for the Genocide and territorial deman’s stemming from the Genocide are not aspirations or dreams–but rather tangible goals;
*In pursuing its Pan-Turkist "doctrine," Turkey is a threat to Iran’s territorial integrity and Russia’s strategic interests–as well as a danger to the stability of the region–people’s right to self-determination and international rights;
*Moral and historic rights do not automatically turn into political rights–without the presence of force. Thus–the Armenian Genocide is also a testament to our inability–since in areas where Armenia’s used force to defend themselves–the death toll was significantly lower; and
*The main and the safest guarantee for the longevity and perseverance of the Armenian people–is the concentration–or anchoring–of pan-national resources and abilities on a free and independent homeland.
Adjemian concluded his address by stressing that "Armenia must become a force to reckon with in the region through its national-governmental organization–and its international–economic and professional role–and why not its military prowess."
Among those who delivered speeches were California Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis; Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles Armen Melkonian; Consul General of Greece in Los Angeles Christos Panagapulos; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich; California Assemblyman Charles Poochigian; and Armenian Youth Federation Western US Central Executive Chairman Chris Guldjian.
Among official guests in attendance were Congressmen Matthew Martinez–Esteban Torres with his Chief os Staff Jamie Casso; State Senators Adam Schiff with Mannik Khachadourian–Charles Calderon–Richard Polanco; Assemblymen Jack Scott–Scott Wildman with Sunday Sarkissian; Los Angeles City Councilmember Jackie Goldberg; Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky; Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti; Los Angeles County Assessor Kenneth Hahn; Glendale City Councilmembers Sheldon Baker–Larry Zarian; Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block–Chief Lee Baca; Congressman James Rogan’s representatives Greg Krikorian and Jeff Lennon.
Also present were representatives of the Hunchakian Party–Armenian Compatriotic Unions–the Armenian Relief Society–the Homenetmen Athletic Organization–and the Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Society.
Opening remarks were made by Mistress of Ceremonies Anoush Chalian–who offered respect to the memory of all Armenian martyrs and welcomed the rebirth of the Armenian nation.
AYF CE Chairman Chris Guldjian recounted the unprecedented impromptu meeting AYF representatives had last week with the Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles; the successful protest demonstration held that morning with around 1500 participants at the Turkish Consulate of Los Angeles; and the three day hunger strike held by eight AYF members. Guldjian concluded his speech with reaffirming the Armenian Youth Federation’s commitment and dedication to all efforts leading to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Assemblyman Chuck Poochigian spoke about the harsh conditions of the Armenian Genocide–the perpetual denial and revisionist tactics of the Turkish government and academia–and asked "How can we forget the Genocide?"
Greek Consul General Christos Panagapulos acknowledged the parallels between the Armenian and Greek experiences–citing Turkey as their common enemy. He advised the Armenian people to not expect diplomatic courtesy from Turkey.
California Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis condemned Turkey for perpetrating the Armenian Genocide and for continuing to deny responsibility. He also condemned the international community–especially all US Presidents from Roosevelt on to Clinton who have failed to the recognize the Armenian Genocide. Davis presented a proclamation from the State of California marking April 24–1998 as Armenian Genocide Day.
A letter from President Bill Clinton was then read. Notable in the letter was the absence of the word "genocide."
In his speech Armenian Consul General in Los Angeles Armen Melkonian pointed out that the entire Armenian nation in Armenia–Nagorno-Karabakh and the Diaspora was that day commemorating the Armenian Genocide at memorial monumen’s and in churches. Even though the years have decreased the number of Genocide survivors–Melkonian said–they have not taken away the memory of Genocide. "April 24 will forever remain as Armenian Martyrs’ Day," he said.
Melkonian said besides honoring their memory every April 24–our nation’s greatest honor to all Armenian martyrs will be "our survival–national rebirth–restoration of historical justice–and resolution of the Armenian Cause–Hai Tahd."
The Consul General stated that Armenia’s are now living the dream of their ancestors with a free and democratic Armenia and a liberated Nagorno-Karabakh. He said that the Armenian government will not allow history to repeat itself and will protect the Armenian nation throughout the world.
Melkonian acknowledged Armenia’s place in international politics and diplomacy and reaffirmed the new Armenian government’s commitment to the Armenian Cause–listing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a top priority in foreign policy. The Consul General deemed international recognition of the Armenian Genocide necessary for regional peace and stability pertinent to natural development of international relations and cooperation.
In his speech–Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said that the Armenian nation should remain assured that the 21st century will see the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government.
Homenetmen Western US Regional Executive Chairperson Mher Tavidian presented a $1500 donation to a City of Hope cancer research center representative. The money had been collected at the Homenetmen’sponsored walkathon held in Montebello that day.
Also on Friday–more than 1,500 community members–mostly youth–joined eight hunger striking Armenian Youth Federation members at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles to protest Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.
Waving colorful banners denouncing the Genocide and chanting "1915 Never Again," and "Turkey Out of Armenia," the demonstrators circled the front of the consulate building at 4801 Wilshire Blvd. at June Street.
The enthusiastic crowd gathered midway through the demonstration to hear California State Assemblyman Scott Wildman of the 43rd Assembly district who–earlier–had joined protesters in demanding Turkish recognition of the Genocide.
Coverage of the demonstration–as well as numerous other commemoration events in and around California–including the candlelight vigil at the monument Thursday evening will be feature in upcoming issues of Asbarez.