Annual demonstrations decrying the mass killing of Armenians by Turkish forces during World War I were planned in the Southland Saturday, as President Joe Biden formally recognized the atrocities as a genocide.
Biden became the first U.S. president to officially call the killings a genocide on Saturday, fulfilling a long lobbying effort by the Armenian-American community.
“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in an official White House statement. “Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.
“Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated,” the statement continued.
“Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future — toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.”
Turkey has refused to recognize the killings of 1.5 million Armenians beginning in 1915 as a genocide. Americans presidents have also declined to do so, calling the deaths at the hands of the Ottoman Empire an atrocity, but not a genocide.
While the genocide has been chronicled by historians, who often view it as having been ethnic cleansing, Turkey has denied it occurred, saying the deaths of Armenians was a function of the chaos of World War I, which also claimed Turkish lives.
More than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, making the Southland home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.
In Beverly Hills, a march and rally were planned for noon at the Turkish Consulate on 8500 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills police said road closures were possible from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the 8500 to 8600 block of Wilshire Boulevard.
Later Saturday, Glendale planned to host its 20th annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration Event in a virtual format. The ceremony will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. on the city’s Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as its YouTube channel.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, applauded Biden’s move.
“For Armenian-Americans and everyone who believes in human rights and the truth, today marks an historic milestone: President Biden has defied Turkish threats and recognized the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians for what it was — the first genocide of the 20th Century. In so doing, he has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors, and spoken truth to power,” Schiff said.
“This is a momentous day for thousands upon thousands of my Armenian-American constituents who have been working, advocating, and praying for recognition for their entire lives — and I am heartened that this announcement comes at a time when there are still some genocide survivors alive to witness it, though their numbers are very small. … As we commemorate the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we can now do so now, secure in the knowledge that our nation, both the President and the Congress, speak with one voice.”
Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, also praised the announcement.
“This morning, President Joe Biden ended the decades long gag-rule by Turkey against the United States. By officially and properly recognizing and the Armenian Genocide, the United States has demonstrated that human rights, justice, and truth have prevailed,” Portantino said. “It is also consistent with the fact that the first major humanitarian rescue effort in the world was organized here in the United States, saving thousands of orphans and refugees whose parents perished during the Armenian Genocide.
“We have a moral obligation to condemn all genocides and hold perpetrators accountable. Today is an important step towards achieving justice for the Armenian Genocide and condemning the continued aggression by Turkey against the Armenian people. I am proud of and grateful to President Biden for his leadership and appropriate remarks. And extremely thankful for the tireless activists and advocates in the 25th Senate District and across the diaspora who have diligently pushed for genocide recognition to make this moment possible.”