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Glendale News Press – Armenian Genocide April 2008

Remembering the dead: Armenian Genocide commemoration at the Alex urges people to look forward, with an eye to the past.

By Jason Wells

Glendale News Press

Published: Last Updated Thursday, April 24, 2008 10:32 PM PDT
Armenia’s past collided with its future Thursday night on a stage, in a theater, in Glendale.

The more than 1,300 people who attended the city’s event at the Alex Theatre commemorating the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide were confronted with a classic herald to the Eurasian country’s tragic past through operatic overtures, while at the same time challenged to maintain the momentum for international recognition of the genocide.

More than 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives between 1915 and 1918 in the former Ottoman Empire through either outright killings or forced migration. Turkey’s government has refused to acknowledge the genocide, contending the deaths occurred during a civil conflict.

Keynote speaker Carla Garapedian — who directed “Screamers,” a documentary on the band System of a Down as it toured to raise awareness of modern genocide — said the stateside diaspora had a duty to hold politicians accountable and keep pressure on Congress to pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

“We need to raise the bar for politicians who are making foreign policy in our names,” she told the audience.

“We must ask the hard questions, because if we don’t, who will?”

The genocide resolution, despite gaining a key endorsement from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and obtaining signatures from 212 co-sponsors, hasn’t been brought for a full vote by the House amid fears there isn’t quite enough congressional support to ensure its passage. Many congressional representatives are wary of damaging relations with Turkey, which is considered to be a strategic military partner.

Even with the resolution’s pause, Armenian leaders say the amount of international attention it has generated has helped keep the spotlight on their efforts, which in of itself is considered progress.

Mayor John Drayman in his address to the audience said it was an “understated disgrace” that Congress has so far refused to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as historic fact.

Inside the Alex Theatre, Garapedian’s calls for unity in support of the genocide’s recognition, which dozens of governments have already done, were a part of a larger picture of activism mixed with commemoration. Pro-Armenian demonstrators protested Thursday outside the Turkish embassy in Los Angeles, while thousands of Armenians marched in Hollywood to commemorate the genocide’s anniversary.

But while Armenians will always look on the first genocidal event of the 20th Century with horror, organizers of Thursday’s program at the Alex wanted to show that “it’s not about crying anymore.”

“We’re beyond that,” said Jacob Parseghian, a member of the organizing committee who through Artists For Kids produced the artistic program, which saw world-renowned tenor Gegham Grigorian perform two classic operatic solos against a 25-member orchestra.

Before the display of Armenia’s classic cultural heritage on stage, Councilman Ara Najarian, chairman of the organizing committee, assured the world that even in looking to the future for progress, the Armenian community had not forgotten the mass killings, and never would.

“We have not forgotten what we went through,” he said. “We have not forgotten the genocide.”

JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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