CHOWCHILLA–California marchers–walking in solidarity with the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian genocide on its 90th anniversary–passed the 65 mile point and arrived in Chowchilla Tuesday.
The determined group of 14 Armenian youth from Pasadena–Walnut–San Fernando Valley–and Fresno sleep in church halls and eat from a lunch truck accompanying them on their 19 day trek. As a way to focus on why they are marching–every morning a marcher tells the story of a family member who survived the Genocide.
The selfless youth plan on walking to Sacramento–where they will join a large rally at the Capitol Building–organized to thank the California state legislature and those of 35 other states for officially recognizing the Armenian genocide.
An interesting addition to the group of marchers–ranging in age from 18 to 27–is the participation of Sanan Shirinian and Zabel Ekemekjian.
Shirinian is a 16 year old junior at a private Armenian high school in Los Angeles. She worked tirelessly to take 20 days off school not so she can take a vacation–but to do her part for her cause.
"My great grandparents were survivors of an attempt to kill all Armenia’s," said Shirinian. "I decided to walk so I can let the world know about the wrongs the Turks did against my ancestors and to bring justice to an unpunished crime."
Ekmekjian–whose father survived the Genocide–is a 63-year-old grandmother from Moraga–Calif. who felt that she must use her own body to raise awareness about the crimes committed against her father and his family.
"Our family was split apart because of the Genocide," said Ekmekjian. "I have never met my aunts and my cousins–I know they exist and that they live in Iraq–but I don’t know who they are because they lost contact with my father after escaping the massacres."
Defying sore muscles–blistered feet–and aching legs–the marchers will continue to walk an additional 150 miles–rain or shine–until they arrive at their destination on April 21.
The Genocide began in 1915 and lasted for more than six years–claiming the lives of more than 1.5 million men–women and children. While many nations recognize and condemn the crime committed against the Armenian people–the Turkish government has denied it for the past 90 years.
For more information about the March For Humanity–the marchers–their shelter–and pictures–please visit www.marchforhumanity.org.