LOS ANGELES—The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region issued a statement Tuesday condemning the forthcoming visit to the City of Los Angeles by the Ottoman Military Marching Band on October 3.
“The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region strongly condemns the arrival of the offensively-named Ottoman Military Marching Band and its October 3 visit to Los Angeles. The ANCA-WR likewise questions the irresponsible decision by the City of Los Angeles to grant a permit to a group who claims descent from the notoriously murderous corps of the Ottoman Army known as the janissaries. The nature and planned performance of the band are not only insulting but wholly unacceptable to the Armenian American community,” said the statement from the ANCA-WR Board of Directors.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Ottoman Military Marching Band arose from the corps of janissaries in the Ottoman Army, which marched in time to music. Janissaries were soldiers who, in their day, were among the most egregious murderers of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire. They were an elite corps composed of children forcefully taken from their families as part of the “devshirme” tax – where Armenian families sacrificed their sons to the Ottoman army. These children were raised as extremist Muslims.
In 1911, as the Ottoman Empire was beginning to collapse, cultural and military elements successfully revived the tradition of Ottoman Military Marching Bands. By 1953, the tradition had been fully restored as a band of the Turkish Armed Forces. Today, the corps–comprising the Mehter Band and the troops that accompany it–continues to play at state, military and tourist functions in modern Turkey.
The sound of the Ottoman Military Band is characterized by a largely shrill combination of bass drums, horns, and cymbals. Among the lyrics to their anthem is, “Overwhelm the enemies of your motherland, and thus shall those cursed ones suffer abjection.”
And as such, on October 3, the streets of Hollywood will be the stage for the celebration of mass murder, as the Ottoman Military Marching Band proceeds through with its raucous demonstration of its blood-stained history. The Ottoman Military Marching Band will be performing just several blocks away from Little Armenia, which has the highest population density of Armenian American residents living in Southern California. Among these residents are a significant number of elderly, for whom this reenactment will cause a great deal of psychological trauma as they recall the horrors of the Genocide that took place under the banner of this same marching band and their fellow janissaries.
To place this parade in its true historical context, one would need to envision the band marching alongside the hundreds of thousands of Armenian women and children who perished in the Anatolian deserts at the hands of those Ottoman soldiers.
Indeed, this loud and pernicious display of Ottoman-era tradition is an appalling affront to the Armenian American, Greek, Assyrian, and Pontian communities – and to all people of good conscience who stand on the side of justice. It is no different than allowing the Ku Klux Klan to march in the middle of Watts; or having a Nazi military reenactment in the Fairfax district in the vicinity of dozens of synagogues and temples. It is tantamount to hate speech and harassment.
“Despite this flagrant attempt at incitement, we call upon the Armenian American community of Los Angeles to oppose this painful and egregious provocation peacefully,” said the ANCA-WR in its statement.
The ANCA-WR has a long-standing record of fighting for the rights of Armenian Genocide victims and their descendants, and is prepared to challenge this outrageous demonstration of disregard to the rights and concerns of the Armenian American community. The ANCA-WR stands with all individuals and groups ready to civilly oppose this vulgar reenactment of an unforgotten and torturous past. Further, the ANCA-WR remains committed to pursuing justice for the Armenian Genocide, including recognition by the U.S. and Turkish governments, and to the belief that no entity is allowed to inhumanely terrorize victims of genocide and their descendants.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.