The Forgotten Genocide

  

Los Angeles Metropolitan Area from the San Gabriel Valley in the East to San Fernando Valley in the NorthWest, including Pasadena, Glendale, Hollywood, North Hollywood and Van Nuys, among others, is home to the largest Armenian community outside the Republic of Armenia. 

Armenia which is located in the mountainous area of the Caucuses between Turkey on its West, Republic of Georgia on its North, Iran on its South and the Republic of Azerbaijan on its East, is one of the oldest nations in the World. The Armenian Kingdom, formed around 533 BC, at one time spanned a territory from the Mediterranean Sea in the West to the Black Sea in the Northwest to the Caspian Sea in the East snd the Parthian or Persian Empire (currently Iran) in the South, with an estimated population of 20 million and was ruled by different dynasties from the Nairi (1400–1000 BC) to the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC). Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, formerly Erebuni, was founded in 782 BC by King Argishti I. In 428, Western Armenia fell under Byzantine rule, and Eastern Armenia was conquered by the Sassanids of the Persian Empire. It fell to the Saljuks in 1045 and was later conquered by the Ottoman Empire before joining the Soviet Union in 1920 as one of the 15 republics of the Union. 

In 1915, an estimated 1.5 million defenseless Armenians living under the rule of Ottoman Turks were brutally and savagely massacred by the Turkish government of the time. The victims included women and children of all ages. This was the first genocide of the 20th Century for which the word “genocide” was coined and used for the first time and is known as the “Armenian Genocide”. 

The genocide also drove many Armenians to seek refuge in neighboring countries which created the Armenian diaspora in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, France and the United States, mostly in Fresno, California and Boston, Massachusetts. The Armenian community of Los Angeles, however, arrived mostly from Iran after the revolution of 1979, from Armenia after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989-1990 as well as from Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

The Turkish government refuses to this day to admit that there ever was a genocide against Armenians and its continued denial drives many Armenians around the World to protest at Turkish embassies to get them to admit and acknowledge and to make sure it’s not forgotten. This effort by Armenians, both in Armenia and diaspora, has become an Armenian tradition. Due to pressure by their Armenian citizens, many governments around the World, including most European governments, have officially recognized the the 1915 Genocide. All efforts to get the US government to also do the same, however, has fallen on deaf ears, due to the military and political relations between the two countries, not to mention the existence of a large US military base in Turkey used as leverage against Russia. Israel, which claims to be sympathetic to the survivors of the Jewish Holocaust also refuses to recognize the Genocide. It’s ironic because Hitler was reassuring his subordinates that the extermination of the Jews too would soon be forgotten when he asked rhetorically: “who remembers the Armenian Grnocide?” 

When campaigning, most US presidents promise to their Armenian constituents to recognize the Genocide if elected and walk back from it when in office due to pressure from the Turkish government, which continues to actively pressure governments against its recognition and threatens with cutting of relations. President Obama was the latest to renege on that promise. 

Armenians feel that the acknowledgement of the Genocide is important insofar as making it known to the world and breaking the silence and denial which is tantamount  to condoning it. The recognition will allow the Genocide to be more widely known not only to the population of Turkey who are being kept in the dark by the denial, but people everywhere who might rely on Turkish sources and historians to learn about the history of that region. The recognition would also serve for Armenians as a kind of closure to that terrible tragedy.

So, every year, on April 24, on the anniversary of the start of the 1915 Genocide, Armenians in Los Angeles, as they do elsewhere, march in the commemoration of the Genocide and hold a protest rally at the Turkish Consulate for continuing its denial. This year, being the first centennial of the Genocide, Armenians of Los Angeles are preparing to have their largest march and rally ever. Laemmle Theaters of LA began to show a movie for the occasion called: 1915. Its description reads:

On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide comes 1915, a mind-bending psychological thriller about one man’s mission to bring the ghost of a forgotten tragedy back to life. More than a cutting-edge mystery, 1915 is also an explosive call to action against the silence and denial that have fueled a century of genocide.

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