SACRAMENTO (Fresno Bee)–Lawmakers in the state Senate gave unanimous approval to legislation Monday that will set April 24 as California’s date to commemorate the Armenian genocide.
For years–the state Legislature has agreed to officially recognize the massacre of millions of Armenia’s 88 years ago by backing resolutions written by Sen. Chuck Poochigian–R-Fresno.
Other states have done the same–but Congress has yet to follow suit amid concerns that taking a position on the events would damage diplomatic and economic relations with Turkey.
California is home to more than 500,000 Armenia’s–many who lost family members in the mass killings ordered by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. Armenian officials say that 1.5 million people were killed by the Ottoman government in those eight years.
"Few Armenia’s today don’t have a direct connection to the genocide," said Poochigian–whose maternal great-grandparents were tortured and killed. "The tragedy and the pain has been worsened by the long period of denial."
That denial has come from Turks who argue that there was no organized destruction of Armenia’s and that the post-World War I conflict was a multisided one that also killed Greeks–Arabs–Turks and Kurds.
One Turkish man urged state lawmakers Monday to reject Poochigian’s resolution.
"We are proud of our heritage," said Karachan Mete with the Turkish Cultural Organization of Yolo County. "Unfortunately–you know us only through the Armenian hate propaganda. This bill has no constructive purpose–and it misleads the public."
Mete asked lawmakers to draft a new resolution that doesn’t use the word "genocide" and one that would recognize the deaths of other ethnic groups during the final days of the Ottoman Empire.
Poochigian said the Turks’ refusal to acknowledge the genocide is "no less than state-sponsored revisionism."
Many historians and scholars have written that the massacres and starvation in Armenia amounted to a systematic destruction of a population.
The measure moves now to the Assembly for a vote.