ENCINO–More than 250 community members took part in an 11-mile bike-a-thon Saturday to commemorate the Armenian Genocide in a unique event organized by the Armenian Youth Federation San Fernando Valley Sardarabad chapter.
Dubbed “Cycle Against Denial,” the bike-a-thon attracted participants from as far south as Orange County and as far north as Fresno and began and ended at the Holy Martyrs’ Armenian Church. Cyclists ranged in age from 8-year old Eric Ikoyan to 73-year old Antranik Baghdasarian.
The organizers said the bike-a-thon was a symbolic representation of the cycle of genocide, which continues today as a direct result of Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide. It was described by participants as a welcome change to the regular commemoration events held annually by the community.
“This is truly a new and unique way to remember our 1.5 million martyrs,” said one cyclist on the ride. “People on the street have been asking me why we are riding. I told them we are riding to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide.”
After finishing the route, participants returned to Ferrahian High School for a commemoration program, featuring the singing of the Armenian and American national anthems, as well as remarks by Sardarabad chapter member Aline Karakozian and community activist Mourad Topalian. The event also included an original poem by Levon Shant Demirjian along with a prayer and candlelight vigil.
The bike-a-thon came the day after President Obama broke his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide by avoiding the word ‘genocide’ during his April 24 statement.
Speaking to the crowd after the bike-a-thon, Karakozian condemned the Turkish government’s efforts to blackmail Obama into silence. “They are trying to discourage us but we are not afraid and will never give up,” she said.
“They can deny the genocide, they can deny the truth, but they cannot deny what I see here in front of me: the passionate souls, the inflamed hearts, and the enraged minds,” Karakozian exclaimed. “We are still standing at our churches, our schools, our children, we are all here, we are able and we will continue to struggle for recognition.”
Obama’s statement also came two days after the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries issued a joint statement announcing that they had agreed on a “roadmap” for normalizing their relation. The statement, which was issued on the eve of the Genocide’s anniversary, is seen as having been a tacit signal to Obama by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to not recognize the Genocide.
Topalian criticized President Sarkisian for announcing the “roadmap” two days before April 24, when he knew “here in the United States that we truly have a chance to make history.”
“We don’t know any of the details; your government doesn’t know the details; your people do not know the details; and the Armenia Diaspora surely does not know the details and you’re going to tell us wait until all the details are known and then judge it?” Topalian asked, stressing the disastrous consequences that would follow if Sarkisian’s administration agrees to establishing a commission to examine the Genocide.