NORTH HOLLYWOOD—The Assyrian American Association of America, in collaboration with the Assyrian Genocide (Seyfo) Research Center, hosted a memorial event at its community center on August 7, 2017 to commemorate Assyrian Martyrs’ Day. Speakers included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California State Senator Scott Wilk, California Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian,, LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson and ANCA-WR Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian, among others. The ANCA-WR Board of Directors, staff and interns were present to show solidarity with the Assyrian community.
Assyrian Martyrs Day is commemorated annually on August 7, which marks the beginning of the Simele massacre of Assyrians by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1933. However, the day has come to represent the commemoration of all Assyrians who have been persecuted throughout history—from the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks by the Ottoman Turks to the Islamic State’s current persecution of Assyrians in Iraq and Syria.
“On occasions like this, when we gather to remember the victims from 100 years ago, and to remind the world that the lessons of history must be learned so they are not repeated, words like ‘Never Again’ ring hollow … Last year, the United States Congress and the European Parliament declared that atrocities committed by ISIS constitute genocide against Christians and Yezidis. Yet, the same geopolitical considerations that failed to hold Turkey accountable 100 years ago continue to allow Turkey to escape accountability for its brazen support of ISIS as it commits a new genocide,” Hovsepian said.
The event opened with a flag procession by Assyrian Scout Troop 6732. The Assyrian scouts recited the American Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Assyrian one. Assyrian Cor-Bishops George Bet-Rasho, Samuel Dinkha, Athanais Toma and Fr. Ashur Elkhoury recited prayers and hymns in English and Assyrian. Messages from elected officials followed. Councilman Krekorian recounted the rich histories and shared experiences of Armenians and Assyrians.
“I stand before you as the descendant of people who, for millennia, were the neighbors of Assyrians, people who shared the same villages, the same Christian tradition, the same demand for fair and equal treatment in the Ottoman Empire … We’ve shared so many common experiences; these two ancient peoples have contributed to cultures on every continent on the globe,” Krekorian said.
Mayor Garcetti recounted his own family’s experiences with persecution and forced migration.
“Nora’s eloquent words resonate with me so much because I was raised here, in the San Fernando Valley, with the word genocide heavy in my family, too … I’m here because my great-grandmother fled war, but her husband, my great-grandfather, was killed in the Mexican Revolution. My mother’s family is Jewish; they fled the massacres in the Russian Empire in the early part of the 20th century and found a life here in Los Angeles. They were the brave ones. Like you, I have too many family members to name or to even know that were lost under the banner of supremacy,” Garcetti said.
The event closed with a candlelight vigil and the placing of carnations upon the community center’s memorial dedicated to August 7. A reception followed, during which artworks by Assyrian artists Paul Batou and Fadi Khiyo were displayed.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues.