Coalition of Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews celebrate resilience, demand recognition of genocide
May 2018 | Photos contributed | By Rebecca Pirayou and Atorina Samuel
Los Angeles, CA – Mary Isaac, President of the Assyrian Student Association of Los Angeles (ASALA), marched in front of the Los Angeles Turkish Consulate with an Assyrian flag in her hand chanting in unison with those around her “Payqar, payqar, Minchev verj.” The phrase is an Armenian saying that translates to “persist, persist, until the end.”
On April 24, Isaac joined a crowd of over 40,000 Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Jews that had gathered at the March for Justice in Los Angeles. The event was held to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Genocide, which began in 1915 and resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks among other minorities.
“It is now more evident than ever that our voices are most loudly and effectively heard when they are unified,” said Deeana Betsamo, the Vice President of the ASALA. Betsamo was one of two individuals who represented the Assyrian community of Southern California to address the entire crowd.
The March for Justice began at the Armenian Genocide Martyr’s Square at Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. A second march began at Pan Pacific Park in West Hollywood and joined the first group outside the Turkish Consulate.
Betsamo marched with members of the Assyrian community, including the ASALA and the Assyrian American Association of Southern California (AAASC), alongside a coalition of Armenian, Greek, and Jewish communities in a display of cultural solidarity.
According to Annie Bostanian, a member of the Armenian Genocide Committee and an event organizer, the march is a great opportunity for different communities to become involved.
“We stand hand in hand with all of the nations of the world who went through terrible things that affected their language, their territories, and their heritage,” Bostanian said.
Bostanian hopes that bringing awareness to the genocide will stop this from happening again.
“We are here to demand from the Turks to recognize us for the genocide that happened 103 years ago and we will continue asking for our territories and to be recognized that they have done that crime,” Bostanian said. “On a bigger scale, my personal hope is that this does not happen anywhere in the world. To whoever, whatever nation, any kind of misfortune like this will never happen again. That’s our hope, also, my demand.”
Following the march was a celebration of life and resilience in front of the Turkish Consulate as speakers from various sponsor groups, government officials and singers shared a message of hope and optimism.
“You don’t have to be Armenian to know what a human tragedy looks like,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti was among the attending politicians including Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian.
“The tens of thousands of people coming together, marching for one purpose, makes you believe that change is possible and will be accomplished,” Isaac said. “Seeing Assyrians from five-years-old to the senior citizens of our community marching and waving the Assyrian flag tirelessly makes you never want to give up. This march just revived my passion to fight for our people at home and for our nation’s future.”