By Mary O’KEEFE
On Monday a moving and personal commemorative ceremony took place at the Armenian Sisters Academy in Montrose. The students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade sang songs of remembrance and placed flowers at a memorial to honor victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Many of those in attendance including speakers, teachers and students could trace their heritage to the atrocities of history that left millions of Armenians dead or near dead, and started a struggle for recognition that has spanned 97 years.
“Your success, your beautiful existence, is the supreme evidence of the failure of the [Ottoman] Empire to try to destroy your nation,” said Congressman Adam Schiff, an invited guest to the event.
Calling it the first genocide of the 20th Century, Schiff has been a tireless advocate for the United States recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The United States has yet to recognize the murder and torture of millions of Armenians by the Turkey Ottomon Empire, an act of genocide. Several other countries, including France, Russia, Italy and Canada, have recognized the genocide.
Beginning in 1915, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey were killed. At the time there were about two million Armenians in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The definition of genocide was described in the Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948:
“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
According to many historians, soldiers from the Ottoman Empire tortured and killed men, women and children. On April 24, 1915 soldiers began rounding up Armenian leaders of the community. They were jailed, tortured and hanged or shot. From that followed more murders, including death marches involving women, children and the elderly.
The Turkish government does not acknowledge the enormity of the events. Schiff, in a previous interview, spoke of the strong lobbying by Turkey in the United States as a constant force against recognition.
“Why should we be concerned with something that happened 97 years ago and 8,000 miles away?” Arick Gevorkian, chairman of the CV Armenian Community and Youth Center and Armenian National Committee of America, rhetorically asked the audience.
Gevorkian’s grandfather was part of the genocide.
“Genocide is a crime against humanity, and there is no statute of limitations on genocide – not even 97 years,” he told the assembled. “Lest we forget history will repeat.”
Gevorkian read off a long list countries where genocide is spreading.
“The list of genocides after the Armenian Genocide in different countries and regions are counted more than 51 where millions have perished because of race, color, ethnicity and religion,” he said.
CV Town Council President Cheryl Davis presented and read a proclamation commemorating the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and proclaimed April 24, 2012 as a Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
The ceremony was not only a way to remember the past but, through the children’s songs and poems, a way to honor their heritage.
Correction: In the story that was printed in the CVW on April 26, we mistakenly wrote; “April 14, 1915 soldiers began rounding up Armenian leaders of the community.” The correction “April 24” has been made to this online article.