Reporting by Ava Homa
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – On Sunday, an estimated 60,000 protestors rallied before the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles to commemorate the 100+1 anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Kurds were present among the protestors, including Ezidis from Phoenix, and non-Kurd members of the Rojava Solidarity Committee Los Angeles, holding signs to declare solidarity with Armenians.
The Kurdish American Education Society, Kurdish Community of Southern California, Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group and Kurdish National Congress of North America joined the Armenian Genocide Committee to support the 2016 Rally for Justice.
Armenians perceive the killing of a million and a half by Ottomans as an act of genocide. Turkey says half a million Armenians died when they rebelled against their rulers after World War I.
Kurdish political groups and NGOs have apologized for the fact that throughout the Kurdish-populated regions, some Kurds participated in the genocide of the Armenians. However, other Kurds opposed the genocide, and in some cases even helped hide or adopted Armenian refugees.
Southern California has the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia. According to US census data, over 200,000 people of Armenian descent live in Los Angeles.
Vazgen Barsegian, an Armenian activist, told Kurdistan24, “It was very emotional for me seeing my fellow Kurdish brothers and sisters sincerely joining our struggle and demanding justice. I grew up in Van with Kurdish people, so seeing my fellow Kurdish brothers and sisters marching by my side meant a lot to me.”
A Kurdish activist, Cklara Moradian, told Kurdistan24, “Building connections between our communities [Armenian & Kurdish] is crucial, not just because we share such intertwined histories of survival, but so that moving forward we can raise our voices in unison against the atrocities being committed by Turkey today.”
Moradian added that Kurds’ presence “was about showing up, visibly, to give our support. In the future, we hope to collaborate on more movement building, social and political. I deeply believe that we can more effectively fight for the recognition of each of our unique individual struggles when we rise in solidarity with each other.”
One of the organizers of the rally, Mikael Matossian, said, “The truth is clear: the Armenian Genocide is not a solely Armenian issue, but a human one. The oppression felt by our ancestors in 1915 mirrors the experiences of other ethnic minorities who also have weathered imperialism, colonialism, and genocide.”
“The repressive tactics of the Ottoman Empire have carried on into the modern Republic of Turkey, targeted toward Kurds and Armenians there. Motivated by this shared struggle against a common enemy, Kurdish and Armenian activists united today to call on the Turkish government to end its currently racist and xenophobic-motivated policies, and deliver justice to the Armenian people in the form of recognition and reparations,” he added.
Soraya Fallah, Kurdish Human rights activist, says atrocities that happened 100 years ago are continuing today. “During the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were killed, years later Kurds were killed and today in the 21st century still Kurds are killed and massacred in Erdogan’s self-declared empire,” she stated.
“If there is no recognition, establishment, and mechanism of prevention, genocide will repeat and continue; the way we still see it today,” Fallah continued.
She added that the rally was very powerful. “It is amazing to see a nation transforming their mourning to the power of a movement for justice and unity and endowing their identity to their children and new generation!” Fallah declared.
Solin Rojihalat, one of the organizers of the contingent told Kurdistan24, “I had the pleasure to simply witness a person with Greek and Armenian flags dancing to the Armenian ‘Hay Qajer;’ the Kurdish ‘Lo Berde’ of the same melody. A few Armenians took pictures with some of our friends in the Kurdish contingent.”
“We want to find each other. Whether we’re planets that orbit the same sun or we’re simply earnest people with a desire to know one another, we catch sight of one another and know that we’re here together,” Rojihalat said.
In a statement to mark Armenian Remembrance Day on April 24, President of the United States Barack Obama called the massacre the first mass atrocity of the 20th century and tragedy that must not be repeated. But he refused to use the word “genocide,” a term he used before becoming president in 2009.
Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany