Developments

Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day


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The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District is set to vote Tuesday on whether to give special recognition to the memory of the Armenian Genocide, potentially instituting April 24th as a school holiday and introducing district-wide professional development to deepen staff knowledge of the subject.

Put forward for an April 23 meeting by board member Kelly Gonez – who represents schools in the northeast San Fernando Valley – the resolution commemorates anew the month of April and day of April 24th as ‘Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day’ while also making new commitments that come as a boon to the district’s significant Armenian student population.

April 24 is marked around the world as a memorial day of the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Government starting in 1915. Thousands of members of L.A.’s Armenian community march each year in Hollywood each year on the day, calling on U.S. leaders to join other countries in recognizing it.

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The Armenian genocide is already part of LAUSD’s curriculum, but the resolution cited a need for greater cultural sensitivity and knowledge within it — recommending that Superintendent Austin Beutner “expand professional development opportunities” for district staff to ensure the Armenian Genocide is “appropriately and meaningfully” taught. The details of such a program are left for him to configure.

Locally, tensions recently ran high in January when Turkish flags were found hanging at Armenian schools in Encino and Canoga Park. Police opened an investigation into the incident as a hate crime, and school administrators tightened security around the campuses.

Gonez said that families at a particular school – Mountain View Elementary in Sunland-Tujunga – played a significant role in developing this resolution, adding that the news of Gonez’s introduction of it to the board agenda brought some parents to tears.

“What we’re hearing from our families is that students are not coming to school anyway [on April 24], and I think there’s a question of whether we have other cultural holidays that are recognized,” Gonez said. “The question we’ve heard from families in the east Valley is ‘Why isn’t that treatment extended to April 24th?’”

Los Angeles is a major population center for people of Armenian descent. While estimations vary, the 2000 census reported 152,910 Armenians in LA County with 38,504 in the San Fernando Valley. Community hubs in the Valley (west of Glendale and Burbank) include North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Encino – all of which are home to Armenian churches, shops and schools.

Mountain View Elementary hosts the district’s first English-Armenian dual language program. Principal Sosie Kralian estimates her student population is up to 85% of Armenian descent.

It was on 24 April, 1915 that the Armenian Genocide began with the deportation of a group of Armenian intellectuals from Istanbul. Millions of Armenians were systematically slaughtered in a pre-planned effort by the Turkish government.

The killings continued until 1923, but the first commemoration by survivors was already held on 24 April, 1919. The date quickly became established as the day to commemorate the Armenian Genocide so that it would never be forgotten.

In Armenia, 24 April was declared Armenian Remembrance Day even while under Soviet control, and it is still a public holiday in modern Armenia. Every year, throngs of people come to Yerevan to visit the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial and to lay down flowers at the site of the “eternal flame”.

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The Armenian Genocide (Armenian: Hayots tseghaspanutyun), also known as the Armenian Holocaust, was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly citizens within the Ottoman Empire. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Ankara, 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Other ethnic groups were similarly targeted for extermination in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Genocide Remembrance Day or Genocide Memorial day, is a national holiday in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and is observed by Armenians in dispersed communities around the world on April 24. It is held annually to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide from 1915 to 1923. In Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, hundreds of thousands of people walk to the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial to lay flowers at the eternal flame.
On April 24, 1915 hundreds Armenian Intellectuals: poets, musicians, publicists, editors, lawyers, doctors, deputies, were arrested in Constantinople under warrants issued by the Turkish authorities. They were all sent into exile and were horrifically slaughtered. The annihilation of the Armenian Intellectuals was the part of a systematic, fiendish plan to exterminate the Armenian people in their homeland. It was the first state-planned Genocide of the 20th century.

The date was chosen by Lebanese Armenians to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Genocide in 1965. The same day witnessed illegal demonstrations staged by Armenians in Yerevan the capital of Soviet Armenia. The Armenian protests got out of control and calm was restored with difficulty.
On 9 April 1975, the US House of Representatives passed Joint Resolution 148 designating 24 April as a National Day of Remembrance of Man’s Inhumanity to Man. The Resolution commemorated the victims of genocide, especially those of Armenian ancestry who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915, The resolution however failed to pass in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee due to President Gerald R. Ford’s strong opposition to what he saw as a threat to the country’s strategic alliance with Turkey.

Armenians had lived in the area for 3,000 years. During some of this time they were an independent state, but often they were under the rule of an empire. Beginning in the fifteenth century, the Armenians were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Decades before the genocide, Armenians already were being killed. Under the rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid, hundred of thousands of Armenians were killed as Turks attacked Armenian villages in the mid-1890s.

After the “Young Turks” came to power in 1908 and instituted a more modern constitutional government, Armenians were at first hopeful that they would gain equal rights with others in the Ottoman Empire. But they soon realized their hopes would not be realized, when it became apparent the Young Turks wanted to save and expand the Ottoman Empire, and the Armenians were in the way. The Turks planned the genocide in 1911 and 1912, and World War I gave them the opportunity to implement it. In 1914, as the Turks sided with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they believed the Armenians would want to fight for the enemy. This was because they thought the Armenians believed they would be free if the Allies won. The Turks used this to justify their removal of Armenians from war zones.