In the weeks leading up to April 24 — the date widely accepted as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — Armenians around the world took part in events like a six-mile march to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles and candlelight vigils to pay tribute to the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, as well as to add further pressure on the Turkish government to officially recognize the massacres as a genocide.
On Sunday, the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemorative Event at the Alex Theatre in Glendale provided yet another opportunity for the Armenian American community to express those sentiments, while local elected officials offered sharp criticism of President Barack Obama and others who have yet to acknowledge the mass killings as a genocide, the Glendale News-Press reports.
“In no time, the whole world will recognize the genocide and then, standing alone against the weight of the world condemnation, the Turks will have no choice but to accept the verdict of genocide and wear it around their neck,” said Glendale council member Ara Najarian.
Last week, White House officials decided Obama would not use the word “genocide” while commemorating the 100th anniversary of the killings, citing U.S. relations with Turkey, despite his previous use of the word and promise to acknowledge the genocide while campaigning for the presidency as a senator.
“The United States, through its leader, the President of the United States, has chosen to give in to the Turkish lobby and the military industrial complex and put mercantile interests before truth, honesty and justice, and has thereby deprived us Americans of the ability to speak with moral authority,” said Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan.
Many in the Armenian community had hoped Obama would follow suit with Pope Francis, who earlier this month recognized the events of 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
“I wish I could say that in Washington our government helped promote the cause of justice, that our nation’s leaders heard the call of the pious Pope Francis, but that would be a lie,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who sponsored a resolution last month calling for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “Our congress hid behind its parliamentary procedures … and our President issued a statement so internally inconsistent and mendacious — calling for candor and courage in discussing the events of 1915 to 1923 and offering neither — that he would be better off had he said nothing at all.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich echoed Schiff’s statement while also praising the city of Glendale for its annual work in organizing genocide commemorations. Sunday’s event, which was organized by the city and the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee Western USA, featured performances by the Hamazkayin Ani Dance Company and the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian-Cabayan Children’s Choir.
A large contingent of local officials attended the event — Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Community College officials and the City Council, including reelected Councilwoman Paula Devine, and newly-elected Councilman Vartan Gharpetian.
Jermaine McCalpin, associate director of the Center for Caribbean Thought and one of the authors of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group’s “Resolution with Justice” report, served as keynote speaker.
Guests also watched a video produced by documentary filmmaker Bared Maronian for the Armenian National Committee of America called “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief.”
The film documented the work of the humanitarian organization which began in response to the Armenian Genocide and is credited with caring for and saving over 130,000 Armenian orphans, according to the Armenian National Institute.