Local Organization Commemorates Armenian Genocide

Tamara Hacopian, Staff Writer

In observance of the 99th year of the Armenian Genocide, Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter Cultural Division held a panel titled “Red Poppy,” commemorating the brutal events that took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. The red poppy has been used as a symbol of remembrance since 1920, honoring those who have lost their lives in battle.

Multiple members of the Armenian community participated in a visually interactive forum, which was held on April 12 and 13 at the Glendale Ararat Chapter main building.

The room was adorned with museum-like images and maps of Armenian villages, including a 40 by 60-foot map of the countless deportation centers within the Armenian homeland and surrounding countries. A large screen displayed a slideshow of haunting images of those victimized by the 1915 genocide.

Before the panel officially began, two musicians used the duduk, a traditional Armenian wind instrument, to build a sense of eerie nostalgia, while guests observed the life-sized visual displays from their homeland.

Among the panelists were Barbara Mulvaney, a senior trial counsel leading the prosecution team against the military officials responsible for the Rwandan Genocide; Anthony Portantino, board member for the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee; and Gevork Nazaryan, creator of www.armenianhighland.com, a website dedicated to Armenian history and studies.

Notable attendees included Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan; Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles, Suren Vardanyants; GUSD Board member Dr. Arminah Gharpetian; and Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian.

David George Gevorkyan, the audit commissioner for the city of Glendale, hosted the event.

The panel began with Nazaryan providing context for the series of events that led to the first genocide of the 20th century. After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the Balkan Wars, the Turkish national reform party, known as the Young Turks, wanted to preserve the Ottoman Empire and hang on to as much land mass as they could.

After Turkey joined the Central Powers during the first World War, the three ring leaders, Talaat, Enver, and Djemal Pasha wanted to implement Pan-Turkism to unite all Turkish-speaking peoples to rebound from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. The Armenians were the largest group that stood in the way of this Turkification ideology. Thus, by the command of Talaat Pasha, the death marches and massacres of Armenians began.

According to Nazaryan, the term “genocide” was not coined until 1943, when Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin combined the Greek word “genos,” meaning race or tribe, and the Latin word “cīdere” or “cide,” meaning to kill.

The Pasadena memorial committee created an Armenian Genocide remembrance in Memorial Park. It is surrounded with ornamental pomegranate trees, which stands as the symbolic fruit tree of Armenia. The central feature of the memorial is known as “The Teardrop.”

“At the center, a teardrop will fall every 21 seconds and every 21 seconds in a year is 1.5 million,” said Portantino.

Each teardrop represents one life lost. They plan to have it fully constructed by the 100th anniversary, according to Portantino.

“We have to point out that this is a global issue,” said Nazaryan. “This is not specifically related to Armenians, and that’s the way forward.”

Major genocides of the 20th century include the Rwandan Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Holocaust, and the Cambodian Genocide, among others.

“This project has really become a benchmark on how we advocate, commemorate, remember, and reflect about the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide,” said Gevorkyan.