One hundred and seven years ago today the systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians began at the hands of the ruling Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in the Ottoman Empire.
In front of City Hall on a bright, clear Saturday afternoon and before more than a hundred people and several guest speakers that numbered Mayor Jess Talamantes, State Senator Anthony Portantino, State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Armenian National Committee of America, Burbank chapter chairman Sarkis Simonian, Board of Education member Steve Ferguson, proclaimed this a Day of Remembrance and concluded with Laying of Flowers to commemorate this horrific atrocity.
Every speaker was eloquent and powerful, and each reminded the crowd to never forget the past and to honor those who lost their lives.
They also noted that days like this are for the younger members in the throng who need to continue to remember what their parents and grandparents have done to keep their ancestors’ memory alive.
As of this year, 31 countries have recognized those tragic events that took place from 1915 through 1917 as genocide, including this country under President Joe Biden.
“Burbank does have a large Armenian community. We live so close to Glendale. So today means that we are in solidarity with the Armenian community, and we show them support,” Talamantes said. “As far as the genocide, we completely agree with the Armenian community and the nation that there were some atrocities done that shouldn’t have happened. Some people have ignored them or just said it never happened, but we acknowledge that it did happen, and we are in full support of the Armenian community.”
Portantino also stands wholeheartedly behind the Armenian community.
“The Armenian community has been under a threat for more than a century,” he said. “Obviously the genocide was 107 years ago, but even in the late 1880s there were attempts to kill and harm the intelligentsia of the Armenian community in Turkey, so there’s been an assault on the community for over a century.”
Portantino went on: “With the recent activity in Artsakh and the aggression on the border by Azerbaijan and the Turks, it just continues,” he said. “It’s important for us as non-Armenians in California to stand in solidarity with our friends and neighbors from the Armenian-American community and to say we condemn the atrocities that are going on in Armenia and Artsakh and we stand in solidarity and most importantly, with respect for this proud, resilient community.”
Friedman, who represents the 43rd District, spoke about an individual in her speech who denied the Armenian Genocide.
“I found out last Thursday when someone from the Turkish counsel came to oppose the Genocide Resolution that we do every year in the Capitol,” she said. “That there are genocide deniers that are still out there. And when you erase history, you leave the door open for it to repeat.”
Friedman added: “We have to acknowledge that these are atrocities so that the next time they happen, and they do continue to happen, the world can say this is exactly what we don’t want to allow,” she noted. “This is what we have to stop and here’s why: We didn’t stop it over a hundred years ago and millions of people were killed. We didn’t stop it in the 1930s in Germany and nine million were killed. So, we can’t erase and forget history. It teaches and it reminds us.”
Simonian gave his thoughts on the ceremony.
“Being an Armenian and my grandparents being survivors of the genocide and everybody here are survivors of the genocide, so it’s really meaningful to us because it reminds us that the thing continues, especially with what happened in Artsakh two years ago,” he pointed out. “How can you forget anything when it’s happening every couple of years?”
Simonian continued: “When Armenians are being killed and ethnically cleansed, so this is a reminder. I would say to people: Imagine what would happen if we were not doing this? If we’re not reminding people about it? How bold they would actually be when nobody is watching them, just calling their shots. It’s not just honoring their memory, but also preventing others in the future,” he said. “We don’t want other people to go through what we went through. The Holocaust happened because nobody said anything about the Armenians. Even [Adolf] Hitler mentioned that. Who remembers the Armenians? Now imagine what’s happening in Ukraine. It’s happening also in Armenia. So, it’s going to happen to every small country when nobody cares about them. So, we don’t want that.”