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California recognizes Armenian Genocide
Local man present at State Senate remembrance
The congregation of Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Turlock, along with special guest State Senator Jeff Denham, gathers for a photograph during the 95th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on Sunday. - photo by Photo Contributed
Local businessman Daniel Aydenian grew up hearing stories of his father’s survival of the darkest time in Armenian history.
His father was 5 years old when the Ottoman Turkish government arrested and murdered several hundred Armenian religious, political and intellectual leaders. During the years 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire executed a systematic destruction of Armenian culture through the forced exile, imprisonment and annihilation of men, women and children of Armenian descent.
That time is known as the Armenian Genocide to Armenians around the world. However, many countries — including the United States — have yet to recognize the Ottoman Turkish government’s actions as genocide. As an Armenian Rights Council of America representative, Aydenian continues to fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide internationally, nationally and statewide.
“We must never forget the 1.5 million Armenians who perished and the others who were driven from their historic homeland,” Aydenian said.
“(We must also remember) our brothers and sisters, the Assyrians and Greeks (who were also persecuted) by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. (We must have) continued recognition of this crime against humanity. My father was 5 years old and was a genocide survivor. Over 80 percent of his family perished. For every Armenian, Assyrian and Greek, and myself, it is important (to remember).”
Aydenian was present on April 15 when the California State Senate remembered the Armenian Genocide with a ceremony that began with Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in North America, offering the opening prayer at the start of the session.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also proclaimed April 19-26 as “Days of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”
“It is important to remember the horrors of the past in order to keep history from repeating itself.  The Armenian Genocide was a terrible breach of human rights and an event that has outraged the world.  Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million innocent Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, and 500,000 more were forced from their homeland,” reads the proclamation. “...Today, California is honored to be home to a vibrant Armenian-American population, the largest outside the Republic of Armenia. This thriving community is a proud reminder of survival and determination even in the face of extreme injustice.
“As Americans and Californians, it is our duty to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide and to participate in the remembrance and mourning of the loss of innocent lives.”
Forty states have already passed legislation or issued proclamations acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, including California, but the federal government has thus far been hesitant to refer to the historical event as genocide due to fears of Turkish repercussions.
The Turkish government does not agree that Armenian deaths can be termed “genocide” and questions the numbers and conclusions of those who have termed the event genocide. Many members of the Turkish intellegencia have been imprisoned in recent years for mentioning the Armenian Genocide under a Turkish statute which outlaws “insulting Turkishness.”
During a meeting between President Barack Obama and Armenian President Serzh Sargsian on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit last week, Obama commended Sargsian for his courageous efforts to achieve normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey and encouraged him to fulfill the promise of normalization for the benefit of the Armenian people. President Obama also urged that both Armenia and Turkey make every effort to advance the normalization process and achieve legislative ratification of the protocols of normalization, according to a statement released by the White House.
Obama’s reconciliatory comments come after the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide by a vote of 23 to 22 on March 4.
“At some point, every nation must come to terms with its own history. And that is all we ask of Turkey,” said Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) in his opening remarks at the resolution’s markup. “Germany has accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. South Africa set up a Truth Commission to look at Apartheid. And here at home, we continue to grapple with the legacies of slavery and our horrendous treatment of Native Americans.
“It is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian Genocide.”
The resolution has yet to reach the House floor.
A 95th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide will be held on Saturday at St. Paul Armenian Church, 3767 N. First St., Fresno. The Hokehankisd service will begin at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary, with a civic program beginning at 8 p.m. in the Haig Berberian Hall. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Taner Akcam, chairman of the Department of Genocide Studies at Clark University, Worcester, Mass.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.