First published in the April 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Leaders from Glendale’s three political entities took time this week to commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian genocide in a unanimous show of support for the city’s residents who are descendants of the massacres’ and pogroms’ survivors.
The proclamations preceded a series of other observant events, two on Sunday — a commemorative performance at the Alex Theatre and the customary gathering outside the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills to protest Ankara’s continued denial of the genocide — and a service at the Adventist Health Glendale Anniversary Garden, which was held this past Friday.
On all three occasions when the proclamations were read this week, they were read by Armenian American politicians — Mayor Ardy Kassakhian, Glendale Unified School District’s Nayiri Nahabedian and Glendale Community College’s Armine Hacopian, the leaders of their respective panels.
Kassakhian, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, reflected on the genocide as “one of the darkest chapters in human history,” but remained encouraged that awareness of the event — which was formally recognized by an American president just last year — was at an all-time high, and growing.
“We have made significant progress in not only raising awareness but having events that commemorate this tragedy,” he said.
Councilmen Vrej Agajanian and Ara Najarian both reflected on the infamous statement by Adolf Hitler, as he sowed the seeds of the Holocaust — “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” the dictator was reported to have once said. However true that may have been at the time, it’s safe to say it isn’t the case today.
Unfortunately, that consciousness has not yet translated to stopping such horrors.
“It’s just a tragedy of human history that this just seems to continue,” said Councilman Dan Brotman, citing three ongoing instances of ethnic cleansing, mass slaughters or concentration camps — the Armenians in Artsakh, the Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar.
“I guess what we can do is call it out as loudly as possible, continue to condemn these acts and hold the perpetrators accountable, even if they’re long gone in the distance of history,” Brotman added.
Hacopian, speaking at the Glendale Community College board of trustees meeting on Tuesday, also highlighted that sad fact, noting that President Joe Biden has now labeled the documented actions by Russian soldiers in Ukraine — mass abductions to Russia, executions of civilians, rapes — as a genocide.
“It is really important to recognize the genocides of the past,” she said. “The Armenian genocide, the wound is still open, but I guess we’re not learning lessons from the history about genocides because look what is happening to Ukraine.
“We need to be very, very aware of this and do everything in our power to prevent genocides,” Hacopian, president of the board of trustees, added.
Councilwoman Paula Devine, who is of Ukrainian heritage, also drew attention to the two-month invasion of Ukraine, which appears to be settling into a war of attrition and siege as Russian forces have retreated eastward and began fortifying defenses in the region claimed by separatists.
International investigators have in recent weeks started documenting the bloodshed and destruction left behind, in an effort to build war crimes and other criminal cases against Moscow.
“Accountability is very important,” Devine said, “and I think that’s what we need to strive for.”
Nahabedian, who took on the role of president of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday, guided the board in reading out two proclamations — one observing the Armenian genocide, the second the Holocaust. The district also held programming this week commemorating the tragedies.
“History chronicles events when humankind created unspeakable horrors and acts of degradation, catastrophic occurrences which include religious, territorial and political world wars,” Nahabedian said, reading from the proclamation. “The Holocaust and the Armenian genocide are among the acts of man’s inhumanity to man which have placed unto human history some of its darkest hours.
“It is important for all of us to be reminded of the consequences of evil,” she added, “and what happens when others fail to prevent it from happening.”