TWIN FALLS A day to remember lives lost was also a day to celebrate renewal.
A baby girl in pink tights, hat and coat wobbled on two chubby legs near a plaque in Twin Falls City Park. The plaque surrounded by red roses, yellow tulips and pink carnations pays homage to the memory of those lost in the mass killing of Armenians and the contribution that Armenian Americans have to made to the community.
About 30 community members gathered around the plaque on the 102nd anniversary of the genocide of Armenians that occurred in present-day Turkey. Around the world, people of Armenian descent also commemorated the 102 years since the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. April 24 marks the day when the mass killings started.
The event in the park included a prayer and remarks from those in attendance. Before the prayer, children were ushered in front of the plaque for a group photo. Above their heads, branches with white blooms swayed in the early evening breeze. After the gathering in the park, a candle vigil for Syria was held at the St. Ignatius Orthodox Church, followed by a traditional Armenian dinner.
During her remarks, organizer Liyah Babayan noted how the tree symbolizes they way she and other Armenians have laid roots in Twin Falls.
Every year we do this, Babayan said. And every year there are new babies. Thats what true survivalism is about.
Violet Nahapet also found joy on the sad day. She loves how the Armenian community in Twin Falls grows with each young child. Nahapet has two grandchildren who are half Armenian and half American.
We have a mixture of cultures, Nahapet said. It enriches the American culture. The culture is becoming more multi-face. We are so happy to be here. It is home.
Winnie Christensen attended with her two small children. Christensen said shed like to see more people in Twin Falls attend the yearly gathering.
We should all be educators to others, she said. Its up to me to educate my kids. Thats why I bring my kids with me everywhere. Let us not be victims, but survivors.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that tens of thousands of people took part in a march and rally outside the Turkish Consulate. Southern California is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia with more than 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles County, according to U.S. census data.
Today, Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide. Nahapet pointed out the harm of denial in her remarks before the group. She brought up Adolf Hitlers speech to commanders before the German invasion of Poland, which is a quote inscribed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The ending of the quote says: Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness for the present only in the East with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
We are not here to spread the hatred toward anyone, Nahapet said. We are here to say no to genocide. We are here to remember history so it doesnt repeat itself.
President Donald Trump issued a statement on Monday to commemorate one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, but declined to call the mass killings genocide.
I was very disappointed I have not heard any remarks from our president acknowledging a genocide took place, Babayan said. I expected him to be more courageous and anti-establishment. Hes shown how deep the suppression and control of the Turkish government is in the United States.
The Turkish government has spent millions lobbying Congress on the issue, the Los Angeles Times reported. It succeeded in persuading President Barack Obama to reverse a campaign promise to label the killings a genocide. Trump was the first Western leader to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by telephone after a referendum last week granted him sweeping new powers, the Los Angeles Times also reported.
Babayan is working to get the movie The Promise to show in Twin Falls. It stars Christian Bale and is set during 1915 at the start of the genocide. Babayan said the movie, which opens Friday, is not scheduled to show in Twin Falls.
For her, the movie is a step in the right direction to further acknowledge the genocide that took place.
Its important for several reasons, Babayan said. It becomes part of dominant culture and it opens up conversations in mainstream culture.
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