Thousands of community members visited the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument in Montebello on April 24 to commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
At 1:30 p.m. the official commemoration program organized by the United Armenian Council of Los Angeles, a grouping of all political parties, all denominations of Armenian churches, cultural and political organizations, as well as other associations.
This year, the UACLA had invited Dr. Israel Charny, the foremost Genocide scholar in the world, to discuss the impact of Turkey’s continued denial of the Genocide, as well as Israel’s refusal to officially recognize the crime.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Tom Alexanian, following which scouts from the Homenetmen and AGBU led the flag ceremony.
After the singing of the Armenian and US national anthems by Raffi Kerbabian, the program’s master of ceremonies, Harut Sassounian announced that President Obama, once again, failed to honor his pledge to recognize the Genocide.
Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles, Grigor Hovannisyan spoke of Turkey’s attempts to create schism within the Armenian community. He expressed that he was confident that those efforts will fail.
Speaking on behalf of the Armenian Bar Association, Garo Ghazarian spoke of the legal components of the Armenian Cause, while LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian stressed the need to emphasize that the attempt to annihilate the Armenian race has failed.
On behalf of the UACLA, Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region chairwoman delivered remarks in English (see below), while UACLA member Kevork Hallebian delivered remarks in Armenian.
Rep. Adam Schiff, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, LA City Council member Paul Krekorian and Dennis P. Zine, LA City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich, LA City Controller Wendy Greuel, Glendale School Board Member Greg Krikorian, Candidate for CA Assembly Adrin Nazarian, Montebello City Councilmembers Jack Hadjinian and William Molinari were among the political officials who attended the commemoration event.
Before the conclusion of the official portion of the event, Arous Ghazarian read the names of the UACLA organizations, whose representatives, one-by-one placed wreaths at the monument.
This ceremony was followed by a requiem Mass led by religious leaders. Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Rev. Joe Matossian of the Armenian Evangelical Church, Father Krikor Shahinian of the Armenian Catholic church and Arch. Vache Hovsepian led the clergy representing all churches in the community in the requiem service.
Droves of community members visited the Montebello monument on April 24, with hundreds of Armenians continuing to arrive after the close of the event.
Our Time Has Come
Speech by ANCA-WR Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian at Genocide Commemoration in Montebello
Our time has come.
Ninety-Seven years after my grandmother Vergine, then an innocent 9-year-old little girl who instinctively clung to the branch of a weeping willow tree overhanging the raging river where her mother and siblings had drowned themselves to escape being raped by Turkish gendarmes who had just axed her father to death before their eyes;
Ninety-Seven years after little Vergine and so many others, so many lone survivors of each of our families, rose from the ashes of destruction to create a new Diaspora far away from their homeland;
Ninety-Seven years after nearly all of our precious survivors, having raised their children and grandchildren as torchbearers of their legacy, left this world without ever witnessing justice;
Our time has come for ACTION.
It is true that through four generations in the Diaspora, we have succeeded in keeping the issue alive. We have evolved from survival to activism, from despair to defiance, from grief to outrage. We have achieved an independent Armenia which, in partnership with the organized Diaspora produced from the Genocide, can now act as the legitimate and legal representative of the Armenian Nation in seeking justice for our People. But we have not yet succeeded in formulating a framework for a just conclusion. And we are not the only ones struggling with a dilemma.
Ironically, just as we deal with the challenge of keeping our issue alive in the face of inevitable time and assimilation, so too must Turkey deal with its own dilemma of how to reconcile with its past in the face of mounting international pressure.
Turkey deals with this dilemma by desecrating any remaining proof of a historical Armenian presence and by distracting the world with an artificial debate about whether the Genocide is a historical truth, but we must go beyond that by focusing attention on the real debate:
The question after all is NOT whether a Genocide actually occurred. Everyone knows it did.
And the question is NOT whether the Genocide should be recognized by foreign governments. They have their own political calculations which unfortunately drive their cowardice.
Rather, the question is this:
HOW CAN TURKEY ATONE FOR ITS CRIMES?
Certainly, there is no atonement when the Turkish Government criminalizes the mention of Genocide or when it blockades Armenia and uses its surrogate, Azerbaijan, to try to destroy the people of Artsakh.
There is no atonement when Turkish operatives are now bold enough to try a new tactic of infiltrating our communities, attempting to convince unsuspecting Armenians, that reconciliation can come through individual efforts to sit down and talk about our differences, to talk about how the Turks were traumatized by the fall of the Ottoman Empire, to talk about how Armenians were just casualties of war, and how we should forget the past, move on, and all just get along.
There is no atonement when the Turkish Government manipulates well-meaning international mediators and a terribly vulnerable Armenian Government into believing that this issue can be resolved by protocols which start with the question of whether the Genocide occurred rather than the question of how Turkey will begin the process of accountability.
And there is certainly no atonement when Turkish and Azeri agents and lobbyists lay siege to the truth by spending millions of dollars each year to engage in massive disinformation campaigns decrying their false innocence and blatantly bullying foreign governments, including our own United States Government, into surrendering their moral authority.
And does anyone ask why?
Why does modern Turkey, which seeks to separate itself from its Ottoman predecessor, go to such great lengths to silence us even now, 97 years after the crime?
The answer lies in a glance at any world map. The same pan-Turkic plan that drove the Young Turks to try to exterminate the Christian Armenian nation which stood in its way still exists today. The same pan-Turkic plan is behind the current blockades of Armenia and Artsakh, still trying to choke our nation out of existence with impunity.
And the answer also lies in the inevitable consequences. After all, Turkey’s acknowledgement of its crime is only the beginning of the discussion, not the end. With recognition come reparations and restitution.
Even President Obama, who continues to fail to recognize the Armenian Genocide, said in his speech yesterday at the Holocaust Museum: “Remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, ‘never again’ is a challenge to us all.” What a fitting sentiment for our own issue of Genocide recognition and reparations.
So this is why we, as a Nation, must continue our move to the next level. We don’t need anyone to affirm to us that the Genocide occurred. Any presidential or congressional proclamation stating the fact is really just symbolic at best, and at worst, is meaningless lip service. What we do need is accountability for the crime, as required by any criminal justice system here and internationally.
The United Armenian Council with its member organizations, including the Armenian National Committee of America, is at the forefront of waging this war. We have developed multiple fronts in this battle, from introducing and passing Return of Churches resolutions through our political friends and supporters, to working with legal scholars to seek redress through the Court system for Genocide-era claims, to initiating Hye Votes, a massive voter registration drive to ensure that our community’s collective voice is heard, to supporting Armenian-American candidates who seek elected office, and to advocating for Hye Tad in every possible arena.
But we cannot do it alone. We are the conduit for you, for our Grassroots, for our People.
Every single one of us owes a heavy debt to little Vergine and all the other heroic survivors of the Genocide to prove that their efforts to keep our national identity alive after unspeakable attempts at destruction were not in vain.
If you continue to believe in the probability of our success, especially after witnessing the improbable rise of an independent Armenia in our lifetime, then think of how we can each account to ourselves as to what we can do to advance our Cause.
So continue to attend community events such as this one where we mourn our martyrs, pray for their souls, and pay our respects with monuments and gatherings and speeches. But also recognize that our obligations to them do not stop there. Our obligations do not stop because we now have an independent Republic or because 97 long years have passed since the crime against our Nation.
No, our obligations began the day the Genocide to exterminate us failed, and they will continue until justice is achieved.
So pay your debt to our Nation with your time, your commitment, your money, your dedication, your sacrifice, anything you can. Spread the word to anyone who will listen. Guide the youth to carry the banner of our struggle. Lobby your elected representatives to lift Turkey’s gag rule over our government. Register to vote, then actually go out and vote. Support our supporters. Fight for justice, fight for recognition and reparations, and above all, do whatever you can, whenever you can, to fight for our Noble Cause.