Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (2022)

Sophia Armen spent Friday night refreshing Twitter and Google, waiting to see when the alert would pop up announcing that President Biden had officially recognized the Armenian genocide. There was little sleep.

But Saturday morning, after three generations’ worth of waiting, that moment finally arrived.

“It’s washing over me right now. I cried for a minute,” said Armen, 29, of Los Angeles. “I can’t even believe it right now.”

Sitting in her car, the jolt of excitement palpable in her voice, the community organizer said formal recognition of the genocide is “a triumph by our people.”

When she first read the news, she said, the words that came to mind were “We did it.”

Biden’s declaration coincided with the day of remembrance for Armenian genocide victims, which U.S. presidents have acknowledged for decades. Still, they have until now avoided using the term “genocide” so as not to anger Turkey, an important ally.

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Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (1)

Saren Devejian, 6, joins hundreds from the Armenian community in front of the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills on Saturday to celebrate President Biden’s decision to formally recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1918 claimed the lives of more than 1 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey. The Turkish government disputes that a genocide took place.

“With this recognition today, the United States has said in no uncertain terms that it will no longer allow human rights to be treated as a commodity that can be bargained over with Turkey,” said Alex Galitsky, communications director for the Armenian National Committee of America’s Western region.

Many in Southern California’s Armenian community, the largest outside Armenia, say the fight for recognition is an integral part of their identity.

(Video) Embassy of Armenia to the United States Holds Virtual Event For Anniversary of 1915 Genocide

Biden’s statement fulfilled a campaign promise and delivered on decades of hard-fought activism by Armenians around the world. Much of that movement has been centered in Southern California, home to America’s largest Armenian diaspora community.

There were celebrations and demonstrations across Los Angeles County. Hundreds of activists gathered in Beverly Hills outside the Turkish Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard, waving Armenian flags, wearing T-shirts that said “Our wounds are still open, 1915” and chanting “Turkey must pay!”

Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (3)

Garegin Antonyan waves the Armenian flag in front of the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“I’m personally very overwhelmed,” Galitsky said. “This has been an effort that has spanned generations of tireless advocacy within our community, to see a just recognition and resolution of this atrocious crime against humanity. And in many ways, this is a long overdue recognition.”

The push for recognition of the genocide began in earnest in the 1980s, when the children of survivors established themselves in the U.S. Armenian Americans grew more politically active, contributing to political campaigns and organizing around the issue.

The diaspora has had a cautious outlook on promises made by presidents, watching for years as officials vowed to recognize the genocide, only to back away at the last minute. There was great disappointment when President Obama, after pledging to recognize the genocide, ended up not taking that step.

Armen felt like she was having an out-of-body experience when she heard Saturday’s news, she said.

“We have been let down so many times before. Our families have sat through so many April 24ths where our hopes are just shattered,” said Armen, the descendant of Armenian genocide survivors. “What I want people to understand is that we did this. We fought for generations, decades, in this country.”

(Video) TURKEY | Why Does It Deny Genocide?

California

Armenians spent their lives demanding U.S. recognition of genocide. Victory is here

Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is expected to send shockwaves, of relief and continued resolve, through California’s large diaspora community.

She paused for a moment, catching on tears as she remembered the family members who did not live to see this day.

“I grew up with my aunt who went through it and who told us about it,” she said. “She passed away, and I just wish she was here to hear about it.”

Nora Hovsepian felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

“This is something that has been passed down for generations,” she said. “My grandmother told me, ‘You need to go fight for this. Fight for our family. Fight for our people.’”

Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (5)

Mher Ghazaryan and his daughter Lili join hundreds from the Armenian community in front of the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills to celebrate President Biden’s declaration.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Hovsepian was 10 when she learned that her grandmother had survived the genocide. She remembers attending protests as a child and reading newspapers that referred to the massacre as an “alleged genocide” — a slap in the face to survivors and their families.

Now, she said, “it’s unequivocal.”

“There’s no mincing words anymore,” said Hovsepian, chair of the Armenian National Committee of America’s Western region.

(Video) Educate: Teaching about Genocide in the U.S.

At Glendale’s Verdugo Park on Saturday afternoon, a group of Armenian Americans gathered to mark the day of remembrance.

Samo Davtyan came to the U.S. with his family in 2017 after struggling to find work. Today he works at a warehouse.

“We are happy that a big nation like America is finally seeing the pain and suffering of Armenians,” said Davtyan, who attended the event with his daughter. The feeling of Biden’s acknowledgement, he said, is “indescribable.”

“The pain is in all of Armenians’ hearts, and we’ll never forget,” Davtyan said.

Tika Kendikyan, 49, said she came to the U.S. 30 years ago with her parents to escape the corruption they saw in Armenia. Her father’s uncles were killed there, and she grew up hearing stories from her grandmother about other family members who perished, she said.

Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (6)

Hundreds from the Armenian community celebrate President Biden’s announcement to formally recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Kendikyan, who works in e-commerce, said Biden’s words give her hope that help is on the way for her beloved country. The whole world listens to the president of the United States, she said, and his acknowledgment could help prevent other atrocities.

“We don’t want this to happen again to anybody else in this world,” she said.

In a broader sense, Armen added, Biden’s move marks the “complete” recognition of the genocide.

“Genocide is about racism, and the lessons of the Armenian genocide are something that are ever relevant today,” she said. “This is one step on the route to justice. It’s not the end; it’s a beginning. What’s next is the struggle for reparations and for reckoning with this history within Turkey.”

Driving to pick up his girlfriend on the way to the protest outside the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills, Razmig Sarkissian said he “finally woke up to some good news.”

“I feel energized, because in some ways there is a relief and happiness,” said Sarkissian, 29. “But I’m also unable to disconnect that recognition of a crime means there’s a greater need and urgency for justice.”

Like many in the diaspora, the Southwestern Law School student found himself thinking of survivors in his family and those who were killed during the genocide.

Choking up, he said the day had an “extra level of resonance.”

“You think of them, and you think every instance of denial is a desecration of those people’s memories and their acts of survival or their murder,” he said.

(Video) The Armenian Genocide: Truth, Recognition and Opportunities

What’s behind Armenians’ long battle to secure a U.S. designation of genocide?

A U.S. designation of Armenian genocide is bitterly opposed by Turkey but supported by many members of Congress.

Bitter memories of the massacre continue to profoundly shape Armenian and Armenian American identity.

As recently as September, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces began fighting what escalated into a bloody six-week war over a border region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, referred to by Armenians as the Republic of Artsakh. Azerbaijan, supported by its close ally Turkey, recovered significant territory it ceded to Armenia in a previous war over the region that ended in 1994.

The cease-fire brokered in November lingers as a wound for many in the local Armenian community.

“It’s a bittersweet time for us, reeling from catastrophic loss last fall,” Hovsepian said. “This declaration by President Biden is really an uplifting thing. It gives us hope that our fight can still continue.”

Armenian American activists welcome U.S. recognition of genocide but say fight isn't over (8)

Daisy Kalaydjian, 10, left, and her sister Izabella, 11, raise defiant fists while joining hundreds from the Armenian community to celebrate President Biden’s announcement.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Armenians around the world hold deeds to homes and other properties in Turkey that they claim were stolen from them during the genocide. U.S. recognition of the genocide, some argue, would help survivors and their families go after what they lost by pursuing legal action in courts and adding pressure to the Turkish government to pay reparations.

“This is a historic moment,” said Gev Iskajyan, a board member of the Armenian National Committee of America’s Western region. “But this isn’t everything. It’s not justice. It’s not reparations, which are the ultimate goals of our cause. But it’s a fundamental step in that ladder to justice.”

Times staff writer Lila Seidman contributed to this report.

(Video) Armenian Massacres Helped Shape U.S. Foreign Policy: Laderman

FAQs

How many Armenians died 1894 and 1896? ›

Though French intervention allowed for a peaceful end to the incident, the Ottomans conducted a series of massacres. In all, at least 80,000 Armenians were killed between 1894 and 1896.

Why did the Armenians flee to America? ›

By the 1770s over 70 Armenians had settled in the colonies. The persecution of Christian minorities under the Ottoman Empire and American missionary activities resulted in a small wave of Armenian migration to the US in the 1830s from Cilicia and Western Armenia.

Who was the first Armenian in America? ›

Armenians have settled in North America since the first decades of the 17th century. The first Armenian to arrive in North America was, John Martin (Hovhannes Martikyan), who arrived in 1618 to grow tobacco.

What is the race of Armenian? ›

The Armenians are the descendants of a branch of the Indo-Europeans. The ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Eudoxus of Rhodes related the Armenians to the Phrygians—who entered Asia Minor from Thrace—and to the peoples of the ancient kingdom upon whom the Phrygians imposed their rule and language.

How old is the Armenian race? ›

Armenians can legitimately claim, through Urartu, an historical continuity of some 4000 years; their history is among those of the most ancient peoples in the world.

Where is the largest Armenian population in the US? ›

California hosts the largest Armenian-American population. The first Armenian to arrive in California was Ruben Minasian, also known as Normart, which means new man in Armenian. He settled in Fresno in 1874. In 1920s, Armenian began to move from rural regions to cities, such as Los Angeles.

Why does LA have so many Armenians? ›

In 1988, up to 3,000 Iranian Armenians were scheduled to arrive in the Los Angeles area. From 1987 to 1989, 90% of Armenians leaving the Soviet Union settled in Los Angeles. By the 1990s political conflict in the former Soviet Union caused more Armenians in that area to move to Los Angeles.

Where is the largest Armenian population? ›

The biggest Diasporas in the world are Chinese and Indian, but they do not by any means exceed the populations in their respective countries as in the two cases mentioned above3. Today the largest Armenian communities are in Russia (2.25 million), USA (1.5 million), France (about 450,000).

What kind of food do Armenians eat? ›

Lamb, eggplant, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians traditionally prefer cracked wheat (bulgur) to maize and rice. The flavor of the food often relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients rather than on excessive use of spices.

What religion are most Armenians? ›

Religious demography

About 97% of citizens belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Eastern Christian denomination in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox churches. The Armenian Apostolic Church has its spiritual center at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

How many Armenians are in the world? ›

Armenia has a large diaspora, with about 8 million Armenians living throughout the world. This is much larger than the current 3 million population of Armenia itself. The largest communities outside of Armenia are in Russia, Iran, France, the U.S., Canada, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Is Armenia in the Bible? ›

The word Bel is named in the bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:20 and 51:44. The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states and it comes from the name Armenak or Aram, a great leader and ancestor of all Armenians, known as the great-grandson of Mesopotamian God Haya (Hayk).

Who are Armenians genetically closest to? ›

More specifically, Armenians are close to (1) Spaniards, Italians, and Romanians from Europe; (2) Lebanese, Jews, Druze, and Cypriots from the Near East; and (3) Georgians and Abkhazians from the Caucasus (Figure 2b).

Is Kim Kardashian an Armenian? ›

Their mother is of Dutch, English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry, while their father was a third-generation Armenian-American. In 1991, their parents divorced and their mother married Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Summer Olympics decathlon winner.

What are Armenian eyes? ›

The majority of Armenians have dark brown or black hair with hazel or brown eyes, but you will also come across Armenian people who have blonde, light brown, or red hair, and green or blue eyes.

Was the Garden of Eden in Armenia? ›

The location of Eden is described in the Book of Genesis as the source of four tributaries. Various suggestions have been made for its location: at the head of the Persian Gulf, in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers run into the sea; and in Armenia.

Why do Armenian names end with Ian? ›

The -ian and similar suffixes come from the patronymic naming system used for many years in Armenian surnames. In this system, the surname of the child is based on the first name of the father. So, for example, a man named Samvel Petrosian would be the son of Petros. And Samvel's son Alex would be named Alex Samvelian.

Who is the most famous Armenian? ›

Famous Armenians
Andre AgassiTennis
Aram KhachaturianComposer
Emile LahoudPresident
Alex ManoogianInventor, Businessman
Rouben MamoulianDirector
35 more rows
8 Oct 2021

What city in California has the most Armenians? ›

While Armenians live throughout Southern California, the greatest concentration exists in Glendale, where Armenians make up a demographic majority (approximately 40 percent of the population) and have done much to reconfigure this homogenous, sleepy, sundown town of the 1950s into an ethnically diverse and economically ...

Why did Armenians settle in California? ›

Armenians first started arriving in California early in the 20th Century, as a direct result of the unrest in their homeland. They largely worked in the fertile agricultural valley in central California. A few settled in Glendale. Friends and relatives followed.

Are there a lot of Armenians in Los Angeles? ›

Los Angeles is now home to the largest Armenian population in the U.S., and the second largest in the world next to Moscow.

Are there Armenians in Ukraine? ›

The Armenian population in Ukraine has nearly doubled since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989, largely due to instability in the Caucasus. Ukraine is currently home to the 5th largest Armenian community in the world.

How many Armenians live in Moscow? ›

There are various estimates on the number of Armenians in Moscow: 400,000, 600,000, 1,000,000. Moscow is often regarded as the largest Armenian community outside Armenia.

What are Armenians known for? ›

Armenia is home to world-famous artists, singers, composers, and sportsmen. For instance, Cher, Kim Kardashian, the band System of a Down, and Garry Kasparov are just a few of the famous people you might not even know are Armenian.

What states have the most Armenians? ›

States with the Largest Populations of Armenian Americans
  • California. California is home to the largest population of Armenian Americans. ...
  • Massachusetts. Massachusetts is home to the second largest population of Armenians in the country. ...
  • New York. There are about 25,000 Armenian Americans in New York State.
23 Sept 2019

Why is Armenia called hayastan? ›

Legends say that the Armenians are the descendants of Hayk, the founding patriarch of the Armenian nation and a descendant of Noah, whose Ark ran aground on Mount Ararat after the Great Flood. In honor of this tradition, the Armenians call their nation Hayastan.

Do the Kardashians eat Armenian food? ›

Every year on Robert Kardashian Sr.'s birthday on February 22, the family also gathers for a traditional Armenian meal. The buffet spread includes traditional dishes such as stuffed vine leaves, hummus and pita bread, bulgur wheat, Armenian string cheese and baklava pastry.

Is Armenian food similar to Greek food? ›

Western Armenian cuisine is very similar to Lebanese, Greek and Turkish cuisine. This is why we often find on the table all kinds of mezzes such as hummus, tabouleh, moutabal or dolmas. In Eastern Armenia, the meal usually starts with what is known as mazdoun soup (yoghurt) or flavored chicken with lots of herbs.

What time do people eat dinner in Armenia? ›

Dinner (jash)

The evening meal occurs after 5 p.m., with restaurants and bistros serving until midnight or the last guest leaves.

What religion are the Kardashians? ›

The Kardashians are Christians and have spoken about their faith several times, often referencing it in their social media posts, although it's not clear which denomination of Christianity they belong to.

What religion was Armenia before Christianity? ›

Zoroastrianism in Armenia dates back to the 5th century B.C. during the Achaemenian and Parthian periods and was divided between Persia and the Roman Empire. Until Armenia's conversion to Christianity, it was predominantly Zoroastrian.

Is Armenia a poor country? ›

In Armenia, 27% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2020. In Armenia, the proportion of employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day in 2021 was 0.4%. For every 1,000 babies born in Armenia in 2020, 11 died before their 5th birthday.

What percent of the world is Armenian? ›

Armenia population is equivalent to 0.04% of the total world population.

Is Armenia Third World country? ›

1. Is Armenia a third-world country? Although Armenia is developing, it's not a third-world country. It has a literacy rate of 99.6 percent, a life expectancy of 74.5 years and high human development, according to the UN.

What is Armenia called now? ›

Armenia (/ɑːrˈmiːniə/ ( listen); Armenian: Հայաստան, romanized: Hayastan, IPA: [hɑjɑsˈtɑn]), officially the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.

How many Armenians died in ww2? ›

At the orders of Talaat Pasha, an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenians were sent on death marches to the Syrian Desert in 1915 and 1916.
...
Armenian genocide
Deaths600,000–1.5 million
PerpetratorsCommittee of Union and Progress
TrialsOttoman Special Military Tribunal
7 more rows

How many people died in the Hamidian massacres? ›

Estimated casualties ranged from 100,000 to 300,000, resulting in 50,000 orphaned children. The massacres are named after Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who, in his efforts to maintain the imperial domain of the declining Ottoman Empire, reasserted pan-Islamism as a state ideology.

What was the population of Armenia in 1915? ›

The Armenian population of the Ottoman state was reported at about two million in 1915. An estimated one million had perished by 1918, while hundreds of thousands had become homeless and stateless refugees. By 1923 virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolian Turkey had disappeared.

What was the population of Armenia in 1914? ›

The University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has compiled figures by province and district that show there were 2,133,190 Armenians in the empire in 1914 and only about 387,800 by 1922.

What kind of food do Armenians eat? ›

Lamb, eggplant, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians traditionally prefer cracked wheat (bulgur) to maize and rice. The flavor of the food often relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients rather than on excessive use of spices.

What religion are most Armenians? ›

Religious demography

About 97% of citizens belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Eastern Christian denomination in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox churches. The Armenian Apostolic Church has its spiritual center at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

What did Armenians do in ww2? ›

The total number of Armenians serving in the German armed forces during the war reached 33,000: 14,000 were placed in field battalions, while another 7,000 served in logistical and other non-combat units. The legion participated in the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Caucasus.

How many Armenians are in the world? ›

Armenia has a large diaspora, with about 8 million Armenians living throughout the world. This is much larger than the current 3 million population of Armenia itself. The largest communities outside of Armenia are in Russia, Iran, France, the U.S., Canada, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

What religion did the Ottoman rulers follow? ›

Officially the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic Caliphate ruled by a Sultan, Mehmed V, although it also contained Christians, Jews and other religious minorities.

Who did the Turks defeat in 1895? ›

Assyrians

Who destroyed the Ottoman Empire? ›

The Ottoman Empire sided with Germany in World War I (1914–18); postwar treaties dissolved the empire, and in 1922 the sultanate was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who proclaimed the Republic of Turkey the following year.

How many Armenians are in Turkey? ›

The current Armenian community is estimated to be around 70,000, the majority of which are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the Armenian Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Church. Armenians speak an Indo-European language distinct from Turkish.

Where did Armenian refugees go? ›

Most of the survivors became refugees outside Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire. Other survivors are the non-Ottoman Armenians who resided or travelled through the Ottoman Empire, were spared on personal orders of Talaat Pasha after an Armenian with US citizenship was murdered in a prison in Diyarbakır.

How many Armenians live in Moscow? ›

There are various estimates on the number of Armenians in Moscow: 400,000, 600,000, 1,000,000. Moscow is often regarded as the largest Armenian community outside Armenia.

How many Armenians were killed during the war? ›

At least 664,000 and possibly as many as 1.2 million died during the genocide, either in massacres and individual killings, or from systematic ill treatment, exposure, and starvation.

How many Armenians were killed in Azerbaijan? ›

Speaking to his country's parliament, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said 105 Armenian servicemen had been killed since Monday night in attacks he blamed on Azerbaijan.

Videos

1. Stefan Ihrig: The Armenian Genocide and the 20th Century
(NAASR Armenian Studies)
2. NAASR Armenian Studies | Julien Zarifian | The U.S. and Recognition of the Armenian Genocide
(NAASR Armenian Studies)
3. Turkey Tantrum Over US Genocide Vote
(Plaid Avenger)
4. Announcement of the 2022 Aurora Humanitarians
(Aurora Prize)
5. Why does the Turkish Government continue to deny the Armenian Genocide
(MIT Armenian Society)
6. James Robins, "When We Dead Awaken: Australia, New Zealand, and the Armenian Genocide"
(NAASR Armenian Studies)

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