Burbank representatives and a local Armenian community group are commending President Joe Biden’s recent recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Biden’s announcement was the first made by a United States president recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in present-day Turkey. Last Saturday, April 24, 106 years after the genocide began, his statement was echoed by several local leaders during an event in front of Burbank City Hall.
The chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America in Burbank, which is home to a significant Armenian population, placed a genocide memorial outside the building, at which attendees could leave flowers. City hall was also lit that weekend with the red, blue and orange colors of the Armenian flag.
“This recognition ended Turkey’s grip over U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide by ending the longest and largest foreign gag-rule in American history and elevated the U.S. response to genocide and atrocities prevention,” said ANCA Burbank Chairman Sarkis Simonian in a statement.
“With President Biden’s statement, the U.S. joins the civilized nations of the world in condemning Turkey’s crime against humanity and it made plain that truth and justice cannot be bargained away for political calculation and the appeasement of dictators.”
Many Armenians strongly believe that the modern-day Turkish government continues to target their country. The sentiment is particularly pronounced after war erupted last year between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. During that conflict, Turkey again provided military support to Azerbaijan.
Though Biden’s statement made no mention of Turkey, its implications for the country — which has repeatedly claimed the numbers of deaths are exaggerated and deny a genocide occurred — were clear. Many Turkish leaders quickly condemned the statement, describing it as a threat to U.S.-Turkey relations.
In his statement, about 300 words in length, Biden said its recognition of the genocide was not meant “to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
“Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future — toward the world that we wish to build for our children,” he wrote. “A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security.”
Locally, many of Burbank’s representatives attended the event in front of city hall. Mayor Bob Frutos, Burbank Unified School District board member Armond Aghakhanian, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Rep. Adam Schiff, state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and members of local organization Burbank for Armenia spoke or visited the memorial.
Frutos, who spoke at the event alongside his fellow City Council members, thanked Schiff for his efforts to push for a national recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Schiff, who represents Burbank and other cities in California’s 28th congressional district, has urged the federal government to recognize the ethnic cleansing for decades. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions recognizing the genocide in 2019.
And recently, Schiff joined more than 100 members of Congress in asking Biden to acknowledge the genocide. Three days later, the president did.
“To our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and great grandparents, in the Armenian community, let me just say how grateful I am to all of your efforts, over many decades, to bring this day about,” Schiff told attendees last Saturday.
“I’m grateful to you that you never gave up hope, that you never lost faith, that you never stopped trying … to call out the best in this country, to ask us to live up to our ideals, to be once again a champion of human rights and dignity. You have made us a better country.”