Over 60,000 rally for justice for the Armenian Genocide at LA Turkish Consulate

Los Angeles Daily News – Thousands of Armenian-Americans and their supporters rallied in front of the Turkish Consulate on Sunday, the 101st anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide, demanding formal recognition and reparations following a march in Little Armenia.

Some carried large Armenian flags. Others carried signs of a closed fist that read “Justice” or simply “Shame on Turkey.”

“Everybody thought that with the centennial that would be the end of it, but our struggle has only begun,” said Nora Hovsepian, chairwoman of the National Armenian Committee of America’s Western Region, before the Rally for Justice on Wilshire Boulevard.

Many speakers featured at the rally expressed anger not only at Turkey for refusing to acknowledge the genocide by Ottoman Turks that killed up to 1.5 million Armenians more than a century ago but also at President Barack Obama who failed to use the word genocide again this year despite campaign promises to the contrary.

The U.S. Congress has also failed to pass a proposed resolution in recent years that would formally recognize the events from 1915-1923 as a genocide.

“The United States of America has openly condemned the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide,” Tamar Poladian told attendees on behalf of the Armenian Genocide Committee. “The time has come for the United States of America to recognize the atrocities committed by the Turks against the Armenians as genocide.”

Poladian said they demand from the government of Turkey full compensation for all they have lost. That includes 1.5 million lives, billions of dollars in properties and priceless cultural and religious monuments as well as the return of historical Armenian lands located in eastern Turkey, she said.

Turkey has long denied that there was a systematic killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

Organizers estimated that as many as 60,000 people rallied in front of the Turkish Consulate on Sunday. A small plane continuously flew over the protest with a banner of the Turkish flag, which prompted the crowd to chant “Shame on Turkey” several times.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, whose district includes a large contingent of Armenian-Americans, called Obama’s decision not to use the term genocide last week in his final year in office “a grave disappointment.”

“How many administrations must be intimidated into silence before we realize it never changes Turkish behavior for the better and only emboldens their increasingly authoritarian regime?” Schiff asked to loud applause.

Christians in Syria, including Armenians who are descendants of those killed in the genocide a century ago, also are facing genocide today at the hands of “a terrorist scourge in Syria,” Schiff said. Turkey has “aided and abetted” the destruction of these Christians by failing to close its border to weapons, foreign fighters, oil and money, he said.

Meanwhile, the Eurasian country of Azerbaijan — which is aided by Turkey — has instigated “the worst violence in years” with tanks and heavy artillery and aircraft against Armenians struggling for self-determination in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, he said.

In addition to Armenians, a contingent of some 200 Assyrians waved their white national flags in a sea of Armenian flags at the rally.

The ancient Christian community that originally hailed from Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq, lost some 750,000 of its people at the hands of Ottoman Turks a century ago — which was about three-quarters of its pre-war population, according to historians.

Earlier in the day, many thousands — most of whom were wearing black — also marched in Little Armenia in Hollywood in commemoration of the somber anniversary. Among them was Armenian-American Hermine Chobanyan of Sherman Oaks, who has marched every year here for at least the last four years.

“My mom’s grandmother is a survivor of the genocide,” she said. “We want justice. We want America to recognize (the genocide), Turkey to recognize it and to give our lands back.”

Her aunt Mareta Melkonyan said her grandmother was a child when she witnessed her parents killed with swords before her eyes by Ottoman Turks a century ago. Her family had a lot of wealth that they had buried and had to leave behind, something her grandmother never got to see returned to her before she passed away.

“We want everything back,” Melkonyan said. “We’re going to fight until the end.”

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