Glendale residents and community leaders came out Monday night to a commemorative event in honor of the roughly 1.5 million Armenians killed more than a century ago by Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide, the Glendale News-Press informs.
Although a somber night, the event held at the Alex Theatre aimed to unite those in attendance as a community through awareness of Armenian culture and history. Event speakers included Glendale Mayor Paula Devine, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and keynote speaker Robert Avetisyan.
Schiff started by expressing his disappointment that President Donald Trump and past U.S. presidents have failed to recognize the massacre as a genocide, but added that their inaction shouldn’t deter the community from seeking recognition and justice.
“The souls of 1.5 million demand it,” Schiff said.
He also took the time to lambast Trump for sending a congratulatory message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week despite protests from Trump’s own state department — along with international monitoring groups — after a series of voting irregularities during the country’s referendum that expanded presidential powers.
“The changes have effectively empowered one man, President Erdogan, who has systematically seized political power in the country and marginalized or imprisoned his critics,” Schiff said. “And what did America have to say about this? Sadly our answer was only ‘congratulations’ … We cannot defend democracy when we celebrate its defeat.”
Between speeches, performances by the Zvartnots dance ensemble and music by guests Harout Pampoukjian and Narek Makaryan rounded out the event.
The audience was also treated to portions of “I Am Alive,” the first-ever musical about the Armenian Genocide by Emmy-nominated composer Denise Gentili.
City Councilman Ara Najarian, also a co-chair on the annual commemoration event committee, shared a story contained in a 250-page memoir written by his grandfather that was discovered recently. It details a firsthand account of the Armenian Genocide.
Through tears, Najarian read from his grandfather’s story about an emaciated boy he found near death in the fields after returning home from the market.
Najarian’s grandfather, a boy himself at the time, hid and nursed the sick boy back to health until one day a Turkish man shot the boy dead.
Avetisyan, a representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic to the United States, spoke about ongoing Armenian strength and resilience despite the human-rights atrocity committed against them.
“Armenians survived to fight for justice, to make the world a safer place by sharing lessons of our history and doing whatever we can to prevent more genocides,” Avetisyan said.