warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Armenian Genocide: Los Angeles Community Protests In The Thousands

Heather Navarro, Syuzanna Petrosyan |
April 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. PDT


(Ani Ucar//Neon Tommy)
(Ani Ucar//Neon Tommy)
Hundreds of people, including children, youth, and elderly, gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles to demand an end to Turkey's denial of the Armenian Genocide. 

In Hollywood, thousands of Armenian families and L.A. residents marched in the streets for the recognition of the 1915 casualties to officially be called "genocide."

In 1915, amid the shadows of World War I, Armenians of the Ottoman Empire were subjected to mass deportations and killings which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people. 

The genocide began this day in 1915, when Turkish Ottoman officials executed hundreds of prominent leaders of the Armenian community. 

The episode is considered by historians as the first genocide of the 20th century. 

SEE ALSO: Open Letter By The International Association of Genocide Scholars to Turkey's Prime Minister

This year, the annual protests includes '24 Hours of Action,' and protesters are planning to remain in front of the consulate until Friday afternoon.

One of the participants of '24 Hours of Action,' Nyrie Dikijian, is a third-year University of California, Irvine student of Armenian descent. She says that Turkey, for 99 years, has failed to acknowledge its own history and U.S. follows on Turkey's path for political reasons. 

"The genocide has completely changed the way we have been brought up as a people and as a country. All of our parents have been born in different countries and as a result, so much of our culture has been lost," Dikijian said.

Nyrie was born in the United States while both of her parents were born in Lebanon. 

Cops were posted at intersections around Little Armenia in Hollywood, ensuring that traffic was diverted to allow the thousands that showed up to march.

Thousands marched down Hollywood Boulevard protesting the lack of recognition for the Armenian Genocide. (Heather Navarro)
Thousands marched down Hollywood Boulevard protesting the lack of recognition for the Armenian Genocide. (Heather Navarro)
Haig Boghossian, an Armenian resident, walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard and Hobart Street Thursday.

“My grandparents walked in the deserts of Deir ez-Zor,” Boghossian said.  “So in their memory I also want to come out and commemorate the 99th anniversary.”

Boghossian referred to what Armenians call "death marches," which the Turkish government has called a poorly planned deportation.

In 1915, Armenians were marched through the desert to Syria, and many starved and died.

“I understand the politics behind not saying the word ‘genocide,’” Boghossian said. “You cannot hide from your history of the past.”

But not all residents of Los Angeles agree on that history.

The Los Angeles Turkish American Association board said the events that Armenians label as genocide should be labeled as conflict, or war.

Ergun Kirlikovali, board member and past president of L.A. Turkish American Association, has studied the events and the Ottoman Empire for much of his life.

He says the number of Armenians has been grossly exaggerated by “propaganda,” and that more Turks have been killed.

“What the Armenians say, they flood the market with this news. They created a propaganda machine that repeats this all the time, so people think genocide happened,” Kirlikovali said.

Kirlikovali said his grandparents were killed in the first Balkan War in 1912 by Armenians and Bulgarian gangs, and his father was the soul survivor of his town called Kirlikovali - his namesake.

Thousands marched in Hollywood wearing shirts such as this Thursday. (Heather Navarro)
Thousands marched in Hollywood wearing shirts such as this Thursday. (Heather Navarro)
“If 70 million Turks stopped caring about this issue… if half a million Turkish Americans stop caring about this tomorrow, I shall never stop,” Kirlikovali said. “I shall see to it that those Armenian murderers are punished.”

Kirlikovali said the appropriate way to label this time in history is the “Turkish-Armenian conflict” – not the “g” word.

USC Professor Richard H. Dekmejian said that statement sounds like a government-fed line.

“What the gentleman told you is what the Turkish government has been saying for a long time,” Dekmejian said. “It’s a lie.”

Dekmejian works with the SHOAH Foundation, an organization founded by Steven Spielberg to create a video library of testimonials of genocide survivors. More than 50,000 interviews with Holocaust survivors have been videotaped.

“The evidence at the SHOAH Foundation, right around the corner here, and in books, evidence in Turkish archives, evidence of pronouncements of Turkish statesman – including the people who did it,” Dekmejian said. "The evidence is out there."

Dekmejian said that though the evidence is overwhelming, it’s obvious why the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge that this was a genocide.

“They keep on lying, but I can understand why. Because if they say yes, then that means Turkey will have accepted to have done the first genocide of the 20th century,” Dekmejian said. “But also would have to pay restitution.”

Back in Hollywood, the hot day winded down with performances by Armenian singers, and police unraveling yellow caution tape that blocked off intersections.

Children in shirts that read "Never Forget," and "Our Wounds Are Still Open," walked down Sunset Boulevard, chattering happily with their community.

Nare Shanazary, a preteen who attended in support of the event organized by Unified Young Armenians, was also leaving with her family.

She said she didn’t personally lose any family members in the genocide, but believes it’s important to march all the same.

“We’re going to stand united and we’re going to fight for what we know is right,” Shanazary said. 

SEE ALSO: Turkey's Involvement In The Attack On Syrian-Armenians In Kassab

Reach Executive Producer Syuzanna Petrosyan here. Follow her on Twitter.

Reach Executive Producer Heather Navarro here and follow her on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.