Millions of Iranians have taken to the streets nationwide to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in a show of force, just weeks after scattered riots hit several cities and towns.
This year’s rallies came after US President Donald Trump cheered the rioters in a volley of tweets which angered many Iranians who view the American leader’s entreaties as “hypocritical” after he called Iran a “terrorist nation.”
The vehemence of slogans cried out by huge masses of protesters on Sunday sought to reflect that anger toward the US and its president who has banned Iranians from traveling to the United States and refused to properly refer to the Persian Gulf.
In the capital Tehran, hundreds of thousands of people and officials descended on the iconic Azadi Square, where Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called for “a year of unity” in a speech broadcast across the country.
“I request that the 40th year of the revolution, the coming year, be the year of unity. I ask principlists, reformists, moderates and all parties and all people to come and be together,” he said.
In their millions, Muslims have staged passionate mourning ceremonies in commemoration of the day in history that witnessed the martyrdom of the icon of sacrifice to the faithful.
The occasion, known as Ashura, marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and 72 of his companions in 680 AD in a land that is known today as Iraq, after they refused to pledge allegiance to the tyrant Yazid.
Ashura is the culmination of a 10-day annual mourning period in the lunar month of Muharram for the third Imam of Shia Muslims, who was a grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).
The rituals are observed in ultimate magnificence in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, the latter of which hosts Imam Hussein’s holy shrine.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, traveling from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and many other countries, descended on Karbala, with officials putting their numbers at 3 million.
An Iraqi TV channel said authorities had created a security belt around the holy city to protect it from possible terrorist attacks. In the past, Daesh and other Takfiri groups have targeted the pilgrims on their way to Karbala or carried out bombings inside the city.
Across Iran, millions of mourners started the processions shortly after the sunrise, lining up in coordinated and orderly bands of passion plays and recitations of elegies which continued until the afternoon.
Sunni Muslims in the Iranian provinces of Kurdistan and Sistan and Baluchestan as well as devotees of other faiths such as Armenians joined Shia mourners, distributing free food in a show of solidarity.
Ashura is also an occasion for unity when Iranians of all ethnic backgrounds, including Azerbaijanis, Arabs, Kurds, Lors, Baluchis and Turkmen, commemorate it in their local languages and dialects.
On Saturday, huge masses in Iran and other countries such as Pakistan and Yemen held mourning rituals on the ninth day of Muharram to mark Tasu’a, the ninth day of lunar month.
In Iran, devotees in cities, towns and villages across the country listened to elegies recounting the indescribably tragic events in the Battle of Karbala during which Imam Hussein and some members of his family and his companions were brutally massacred.
More than 5,000 people marched through the center of Sydney, slapping their chests in a sign of grief. A procession of mourners marched down Wilmslow road in Rusholme, south Manchester, joining other devotees across the world to mark the occasion.
The Battle of Karbala between a small group of supporters and relatives of Imam Hussein and a larger military detachment from the forces of the Umayyad caliph represents the war as one between good and evil.
The passage of the Islamic-conservative President Erdogan in Belgium has left ugly marks, while Philippe, King of the Belgians, the decorated Knight of the Order of Leopold.
Not only this distinction arose improperly, but increasingly it is almost a diplomatic incident eventually established between the two countries.
Thus, RTBF, which monitors the movements of neo-Sultan, reveals that the physical and violent clashes took place between the Belgian and Turkish security services during the visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Belgium.
It was at the meeting of Sunday, October 4 took place a first muscular confrontation between Belgian and Turkish security services.
The next day was no different during the visit of the Egmont Institute in Val Duchesse. This time it’s a much more violent altercation between services he was given to attend. All because the gentlemen of the bodyguards of Turkish President, availing themselves of their mission, felt that it was up to them to check the rooms in which Turkish President had to go, while Belgian side it was not issue since their responsibility to make this work under the protection of a high-ranking visitor in their territory.
In the end, the two parties came to blows, several exchanging blows.
According to RTBF incidents were caused by “lack of respect” Turkish services, in the words used Belgian side.
The State Security confirmed to the radio-television organization that the situation was “difficult or tense.”
Tuesday, October 6, 2015,
Jean Eckian © armenews.com
Thanks to some vigilant action by students of Armenian descent at Andover High School, Massachusetts, U.S., an Armenian flag is now flying from the rafters and new books portraying their history and culture are found inside the library, the Armenian Weekly reports.
Their actions coincided with a recent genocide presentation at the school in commemoration of the 1.5 million martyrs lost in 1915 at the hands of Ottoman Turkey, and another million uprooted from their homes.
Noticing there was no Armenian tricolor represented in the library’s “League of Nations,” the students moved forward, secured a flag, and were part of a presentation ceremony before their peers.
The books were donated by Lucine Kasbarian, author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People. “Flags from every other country were displayed in our library and we wanted to be included, especially this year with the anniversary,” said junior Ani Minasian. “Turkey was there. Afghanistan was represented. But not Armenia. It could have been an oversight, but not anymore.”
Brendan Gibson, a social studies teacher, regularly engages his students on genocide history and awareness. More than 100 filled the library for a presentation earlier this spring.
“It was an honor having members of the Genocide Education Committee [of Merrimack Valley] here to educate students,” said Gibson. “This tragedy is still relevant today. We hope that greater awareness will result toward a shift in United States policy. It’s critical that Armenia is recognized by the League of Nations. By having the flag and books here, it’s one more vital step toward universal recognition.”
FRESNO, Calif.—Again this April 24th the Armenian National Committee of America Central California with the support of the City of Fresno raised both the United States and Armenian flags in front of City Hall to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. This year, prompted by the Centennial, a march was organized that lead hundreds of demonstrators from the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic church, a distance of approximately 1.5 miles, to Fresno City Hall.
Long time ANCA CC member Paul Jamushian welcomed the crowd of 650 then noted the theme this year was “Never Forget”. The Master of Ceremonies, Debbie Poochigian, known for her strong view on the subject of “չմոռանալ” (“to not forget”) was then introduced. Immediately thereafter, Poochigian, also the Chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors invited local Armenian church priests to start by paying tribute to our martyrs with the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian.
The Armenian flag was raised by the Fresno Sassoon Chapter of the Homenetmen Scouts. The United States flag was raised by the Design Science High School of Fresno Unified. Both national anthems were sang by Hygo Ohannessian with background music performed by the AUSA Sounds of Freedom Band. A seemingly made to order, perfectly timed wind made the flags waive as soon as they were raised.
Fresno Mayor Ashely Swearengin, a longtime supporter of Armenian-American issues said in her speech “We honor you and join you in remembering the events of 100 years ago.” The Mayor attended multiple ceremonies in commemoration of the centennial of the Genocide. “When I think back over just the last twenty four hours and I consider the emotion and the beauty of the commemoration ceremonies that we have seen this year, I am truly overwhelmed and I am not Armenian,” said the Mayor who was visibly touched by the community’s efforts.
MaryAlice Kaloostian, District Director of Senator Tom Berryhill relayed her grandmother’s and great grandmother’s story of survival. “They would steal what was ours and made it theirs,” said Kaloostian referring to the Ottoman Turks. Her family came from Kharpert and her grandmother had a scar on her head and ear. The scar on the ear was from a Turkish girl trying to pull her earring off because she wanted it for herself. “I shouldn’t be here today, if the Turks had been successful, none of us would be here today,” she said.
Congressman Jim Costa, a staunch supporter, also spoke at the commemoration. For many years he has been an advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the United States. Costa, who has many childhood Armenian-American friends, is a part of the Armenian caucus in Washington D.C. and has heard many personal stories of the genocide from his friends. He closed by saying “silence is genocide’s best ally.”
A soon to be observer of the election in Artsakh, County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas was the next speaker. His presentation included the critical future of Artsakh as well as his wife’s grandmother’s personal experience as a survivor.
The keynote speaker for the morning was Armen K. Hovannisian, Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association. In a stirring speech to an audience who interrupted him with repeated applause, Hovannisian began by asking “Is the destruction of an entire national quantifiable? Is the decimation of nearly all of its people measurable? Is what was lost and what was taken recoverable by any stretch of imagination?” His questions immediately got the audience’s attention.
Toward the end of his speech, Hovannisian looked passionately at the crowd and stated, “We must wake up tomorrow with a consciousness that is both rooted in the Armenian Genocide and which raises up above it as well that insists that we Armenians forever more define our identity not by what was done to us but what we do from this day forward.”
Also part of the program was a selection of songs performaned by the Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School of Fresno.
Southfield — In the small town where Richard Norsigian’s father was born more than a century ago, there were 84 people with the same surname.
But not long afterward, only a handful of those Norsigians remained as the Turkish government began exterminating Armenians or exiling them to other parts of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, he said.
“After the genocide, there were only eight,” Norsigian said. “Fortunately, my father was sent to the United States when he was 16. But his entire family in Armenia was either killed or taken.”
Norsigian is one of the thousands of Metro Detroiters with ties to Armenia who are preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide in Turkey on April 24.
Experts estimate 1.5 million people died in the genocide, which began April 24, 1915, and continued for eight years.
Armenian community leaders and groups in Metro Detroit have organized events — including discussions with Armenian filmmakers, Armenian classical music concerts and a special church service — to honor those who lost their lives in the holocaust.
“Armenians have been holding memorials for many, many years,” said Ara Sanjian, an associate professor of history and director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “But because it’s the 100th anniversary, they are on a much grander scale all over the world, including Metro Detroit.”
The only Armenian research center attached to an American university, the center was established to document the Armenian genocide and current Armenian issues.
It’s estimated more than 447,000 people in the United States are of Armenian descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 17,000 make their home in Michigan and nearly 11,000 live in Metro Detroit, according to the census bureau.
Metro Detroit’s Armenian community is the fourth-largest Armenian population in the U.S., behind those in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Most of Metro Detroit’s Armenian community is concentrated in Oakland County.
Armenia is a mountainous Eurasian country that shares borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran.
From the 1500s to 1800s, the Ottoman and Persian empires took turns conquering and ruling Armenia. By the middle of the 19th century, Russia took Armenia’s eastern half and left the other under Ottoman, or Turkish, rule.
The Turkish campaign against the Armenians started with the arrest and execution of 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in what is now Istanbul.
Able-bodied men were massacred or died in labor camps. Women, children, the elderly and the infirm were sent on death marches through the Syrian desert.
However, the Turkish government has not publicly admitted the genocide occurred.
And despite the passing of a century, the mass killing still resonates with descendants of the victims.
“The fact that 100 years later you still have to explain and prove that what happened to your ancestors was a premeditated crime on a massive scale really incurs a lot of pain for all Armenians,” Sanjian said. “It’s also painful for Armenians that those who used violence have gotten away with it.”
Armenians are optimistic Turkey will take responsibility for the genocide someday, Sanjian said. The attitudes of many individual Turks about it have changed over the past 20 years, he said.
However, a bigger concern is whether or not Armenians will be able to hold on to their identity.
“Our group identity, our unique culture is under threat because of assimilation under the conditions of exile,” he said. “Ultimately, Armenians — outside the Republic of Armenia — consist of small groups that are scattered all around the world.”
In Metro Detroit, a number of Armenian community groups and churches have planned special events to honor the genocide’s victims.
The culmination is a special church service on April 24 at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Basilica in Livonia.
Clergy from various faiths will participate, including Archbishop Allen Vigneron, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit.
“It’s a commemoration to the memory of the victims,” said Norsigian, who is co-chair of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Greater Detroit. “It’s also to raise awareness about the genocide.”
Robert Kachadourian, a member of the committee, agreed.
“It’s an awareness that should be promulgated so the Armenian genocide is never forgotten,” he said.
Like Norsigian, Kachadourian’s father survived the genocide, but most of his family was killed. His father wrote about his experience, Kachadourian said.
“He was 12 years old when it happened and he lost 55 members of his family,” said Kachadourian, a media consultant and local TV show host. “After that, he was in servitude — I call it slavery — for nine years before finally escaping and making his way to Dearborn.”
The Armenian genocide also had a profound impact on Hayg Oshagan and his family.
“My grandfather was one of Armenia’s leading writers and he was supposed to be rounded up,” said Oshagan, a Wayne State University professor and a leader in Metro Detroit’s Armenian community. “He escaped because someone, we don’t know who, warned him the day before.”
“All of us have these stories about how our families made their way out of death,” he said. “The events for the anniversary are an affirmation of our survival. Even though we’re spread across the world, we are here and we’ll continue to be here.”
Memorial events in Metro Detroit
■10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. April 13 — “Beautiful Ravage: Aurora Mardiganian’s Odyssey from the Armenian Genocide to Hollywood” at Wayne State University’s Alumni House, 441 Gilmour Hall. The event features a discussion with Armenian-American film director, screenwriter and photojournalist Eric Nazarian, and an Armenian classical music concert by violinist Nuné Melikian. For information, call (248) 761-9215 or email email@example.com.
■7 p.m. April 18 — “We Remember — We Demand” at Edsel Ford High School, 20601 Rotunda Drive, Dearborn. Speakers at the event are award-winning journalist and writer Robert Fisk and Armenia-American actor, playwright, monologuist and novelist Eric Bogosian.
■7:30 p.m. April 24 — An ecumenical service at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Basilica, 18100 Merriman, Livonia. Clergy from various faiths will attend and Archbishop Allen Vigneron will be the principal homilist. The event will also feature Armenian church choirs.