LOS ANGELES, CA – Nineteen youth activists began their new year by joining a large scale effort to raise awareness about the denial of the Armenian Genocide and the genocides that have followed since. The “Fast for Remembrance”, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and United Human Rights Council (UHRC), took place from January 2nd through January 6th, 2007. Participants of the Fast camped outside the Turkish Consulate for a 120 hour period, battling hunger, rain, cold weather and high winds.
During the five-day fast, various phases of the Armenian Genocide were portrayed, including events leading up to the Armenian Genocide, the massacres of intellectuals, disarming of Armenians, trails of deportation, and the fight against denial. The 5th day of the Fast focused on the vicious cycle of genocide and the lack of proper recognition of genocides and punishment of the perpetrators. Examples of genocides on display in front of the Turkish Consulate included those of the Jewish Holocaust of 1938-1945, Pol Pot in Cambodia of 1975-1979, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, the Bosnian Genocide of 1992-1995 and the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan. By focusing on the various genocides that took place, the fasters highlighted the importance of proper recognition, punishment, and remembrance.
Letters of solidarity from all over the world reached the fasters each day, including those from Australia, France Brazil, Argentina, Eastern United States, Canada and various other countries. “Family visits and letters kept us going,” said UHRC member Taline Mardirossian. “The letters of encouragement that we have received helped us make it through the week and helped us forget about the hunger and difficult weather conditions.”
A press conference was held on January 6th at 10 a.m. outside the Turkish Consulate. Participants of the press conference included Assemblymember Paul Krekorian, Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR) Executive Director Antranig Kzirian, Armenian Genocide survivor Ghazaros Kademian, and Vache Thomassian, faster and representative of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Central Executive and United Human Rights Council (UHRC). Assemblymember Anthony Portantino’s Field Representative Bill Hacket was also present to express support.
Ghazaros Kademian, a resident of Glendale, California and a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, was unable to speak during the conference and was represented by his granddaughter Felicia Kademian.
Assemblymember Paul Krekorian expressed his support for the participants of the Fast for Remembrance. “I stand in solidarity with these young activists in recognizing the evils of genocide and recognize their great sacrifice in bringing much needed attention and awareness to this issue,” he stated.
“All of these fasters remind us of the part we, as members of the community, can play in educating others about the destructive evil of genocide. Their sacrifice sets an example for us here in the community, and allows us to reflect upon the reality that as genocide victims and survivors, it is our responsibility to bring attention to the perpetrators of genocide,” said Antranig Kzirian in closing the press conference.
Participating media in the press conference included ABC Channel 7 News, NBC Channel 4 News, as well as Horizon Armenian Television and Burbank’s Alik Media.
The Fast for Remembrance came to an end during a rally on January 6, 2007 – Armenian Christmas – with a gathering of friends, family and supporters. The crowd gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate to hear the closing remarks by the organizers of the fast and community leaders.
Berj Parseghian delivered remarks during the closing rally as an AYF Central Executive member and faster. He addressed the difficulties and challenges the participants overcame throughout the week. Parseghian also spoke of the ongoing genocide in Darfur and how the world continues to ignore this genocide, just as they ignored the Armenian Genocide over 90 years ago.
On behalf of the family and supporters of the Fast, Mourad Topalian delivered inspiring remarks. He recognized the fasters as examples for not only the older generation, but for the younger generation. “You have put the cause above yourselves,” he said. “As long as Turkey continues to deny the Armenian Genocide and goes unpunished, there will be genocides around the world, over and over again because they know they can get away with it just as the Turks have gotten away with it all these years.”
Caspar Jivalagian, AYF Central Executive member and faster brought the rally to a close by leading chants that called for justice and an end to the denial of genocide.
“I would like to thank everyone who came out every day and supported the AYF in this fight for justice. I especially want to thank the 19 soldiers who sacrificed their winter break, who dealt with the rain, the wind and the cold in memory of our 1.5 million victims of the Genocide. They are true FEDAYEES,” said AYF Central Executive Chairman Saro Shirinian.
Speech Excerpt by Berj Parseghian, AYF Central Executive Member and Fast for Remembrance Organizer
“Turkey represents the denial of a crime unprecedented and unimaginable to the world before 1915. Turkey is a representation of a government so unjust and so deceitful that it passes laws limiting free speech and prosecutes the innocent. This government can be known by no other name than Turkey, republic of inhumanity.
We are here today and we have been here for the past five days to take a stand, to raise our voices and scream – ENOUGH. The world turned a blind eye to the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians. It did not attempt to punish the perpetrators, paving the way for future genocides to come. And hence – the cycle of genocide. The cycle that continues to this very day.
Today the world stands by and watches the death toll that is continuing to rise in Darfur. The world is watching as the genocide spreads into neighboring Chad. This is a genocide that the world is doing nothing to stop. The world is doing nothing to stop this madness. We are here to say that this is unacceptable, that we will not be passive and we will not stand by and watch genocide with folded arms.
The fight for justice is not a one day battle. It is not a one month battle. We are here today and everyday because we believe in justice. And we believe in human rights. Let us not wait until April 24th to demand justice. Let us start demanding justice right now. Our voices should be heard everyday and everywhere. Our struggle to properly prevent and punish the crime of genocide must continue.”
Statements of Public Officials
“I stand with the Armenian Youth Federation and the United Human Rights Council’s efforts to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide through a fast in front of the Los Angeles Turkish Consulate. Turkey must acknowledge the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire nine decades ago. We as a nation must also acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and I will soon introduce a resolution in the House that will honor the victims and put the Congress on the record. I am hopeful that with new leadership in Congress we can finally get it passed.” – Congressman Adam Schiff
“I am proud to support the Armenian Youth Federation and the United Human Rights Council’s efforts to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide through a fast in front of the Los Angeles Turkish Consulate. Turkey must acknowledge the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire nine decades ago, and it is of the utmost importance that we as a people do all we can to educate others about the Armenian Genocide, and all genocides. That is why, this past session, I was honored to author legislation creating a California International Genocide Memorial in Sacramento. We must remind people of the atrocities that have occurred in our nation’s history so they will never be repeated.” – Assemblymember Lloyd Levine
“It is important that we not only condemn the genocides of the twenty first century, but also to support the recognition of the first genocide on the twentieth century. I applaud the members of the Armenian Youth for focusing attention on these important issues.” – Assemblymember Anthony J. Portantino