Glendale Armenians in shadows of the past

Anthony Zurcher / North America reporter
The desolate landscape is a study in shades of red. Fine dust covers the ground. In the distance, dark mountains rise on the horizon. Except for the pale sky, it could be a scene from the surface of Mars. Arthur Charchian stands in the middle of this barren wasteland and explains that, but for fate's mercy, his ancestors could have died here. Except "here" isn't the desert of Deir ez-Zor, in what is now eastern Syria, the place where hundreds thousands of Armenians perished while fleeing their ancestral homeland a century ago. Mr Charchian is in a room at the centre of a temporary exhibit on Armenian history at the Brand Museum in Glendale, California - a memorial to a bitter chapter in the history of a people.

The exhibit, which first opened in Mexico City, is called Armenia: An Open Wound. It traces the history of Armenian culture from what they consider their golden age in the 1st Century BC through the great diaspora - when the Armenian people scattered across the globe after being forced from their homes by the Ottoman Empire Turks during World War One.
They settled in nearby parts of the Middle East, in Europe, in New York and as far away as Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb nestled in the Verdugo Mountains, home to the largest Armenian population in the Western world.
There are currently more than 200,000 Armenians living in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the city of Glendale - with a population that is roughly 30% Armenian - is its beating heart.

A trickle to a wave

Media captionArthur Charchian describes what Deir ez-Zor means to him

Armenians first started arriving in California early in the 20th Century, as a direct result of the unrest in their homeland. They largely worked in the fertile agricultural valley in central California.
A few settled in Glendale. Friends and relatives followed. They founded a church. They opened shops and restaurants that offered the tastes and products of their homeland - including the ubiquitous small cups of thick, dark coffee and sweet, nut-filled pastries.
It's a pattern that has played out time and again in immigrant communities across the US.
What began as a trickle turned into a series of waves - a result of the war and economic disruption in areas the Armenians had subsequently settled. They fled the Iranian revolution in the 1970s, the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s, the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Iraq War in the 2000s and, in the past few years, the Syrian civil war.

Circa 1915: Children of Armenian refugees in a refugee camp.Image copyrightHULTON ARCHIVE
Image captionChildren of Armenian refugees in a refugee camp in 1915

The Armenian community in Los Angeles is a patchwork of immigrants with different reasons for their arrival, different national experiences, all in different stages of assimilation into the American culture.
It includes the Kardashian clan of reality television fame and Tigrana Zakaryan, who is helping to build support for a proposed Armenian American Museum in Glendale; former California Governor George Deukmejian and Ardy Kassakhian, a Glendale city clerk running for a seat in the California legislature.
The experience of Deir ez-Zor unites them, however. It casts a shadow over the Armenian people to this day, and it influences and educates their politics, even in Glendale.

History in a word

Mr Charchian, Mr Zakaryan and other members of Glendale's Armenian community sit in the Brand Museum on a sweltering day in June and explain there is a word that describes what happened to their ancestors in the Deir ez-Zor desert.
Genocide. The wilful attempted eradication of their people at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. They pledge they will not forget - or forgive - until the modern-day Turkish nation acknowledges their suffering, accepts responsibility and makes amends.

US reality TV star Kim Kardashian (L) and her sister Khloe (3rdL) visit the genocide memorial, which commemorates the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, in YerevanImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionKim Kardashian and her sister Khloe visit a genocide memorial in Yerevan during a trip to Armenia

"For me, it's very important because my father's family was all killed in the genocide, so I never knew my grandparents; never knew my aunt and uncle," says Zaven Kazazian, who runs a consulting company. "When we are in the United States, we are all Americans. We will do everything for this country. But that does not mean we will ever forget the genocide."
Armenians - in Glendale and around the world - have laboured for decades to convince other nations to use the "genocide" label and apply international pressure on the Turkish government. In June, the German parliament offered such recognition. So far, the United States - wary of upsetting relations with a key Middle East ally - has not. Turkish officials, while acknowledging that many Armenians died, assert that the casualties were the result of armed conflict during a time of political instability and not a systematic attempt at ethnic cleansing.
A wall near the end of the exhibit displays a quote from Barack Obama while he was running for president in 2008.
"I am firmly convinced that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, personal opinion or simply a point of view," it reads. "On the contrary, it is a widely documented fact supported by overwhelming historical evidence. The facts are undoubtedly true ... As president I will acknowledge the Armenian Genocide."
As Mr Charchian and the others are quick to point out, that's a promise Mr Obama hasn't kept. Neither has his 2008 Democratic primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, who made similar pledges and served as Mr Obama's secretary of state.

Zaven Kazazian, Berdj Karapetian and Tigrana Zakaryan stand at the entrance to the Armenian exhibit at the Brand Museum in GlendaleImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionZaven Kazazian, Berdj Karapetian and Tigrana Zakaryan say the Armenian people's experience at the hands of the Ottoman Turks was genocide

It has left Armenians in the US wary of political promises and was part of the reason why the western branch of the Armenian National Committee of America endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders over Mrs Clinton in California's Democratic 7 June presidential primary.
"We were angry because we believed that Obama was a message of hope, of change," says Berdj Karapetian, head of a Glendale-based healthcare company and chair of the Armenian American Museum that is to be built in Glendale sometime in the coming years.
"It's very difficult when I try to explain to my son, who is 13, that the president is not willing to articulate the word genocide."

'Baffling' connections

The conflict over genocide recognition isn't just a national issue for the Armenians in Glendale, however. It also spills into local politics. Charchian, who works as a lawyer and chairs a business committee with the Southern California Armenian Democrats, says he's considered running for public office but has decided - at least for now - to stay out.
The reason, Mr Charchian says, is that Armenians seeking political office in the Los Angeles area have faced a torrent of negative advertisements funded at a level other candidates haven't faced.

1 yorum:

  1. 20 Eylul tarihinde gazetenizde yayinlanan ' Kim Kardashian yazisi:.....' basligi altindaki yaziniza Kim'in butun Ermeniler icin kutsal olan Zizernagaperti ziyareti esnasinda bilhassa kizkardesinin kiyafetinin 1,5milyon nahadagin anisina saygi ve hurmet maksadi ile biraz daha uygun olmasi gerektigini yazdigim yorumuma 21 Eylul tarihinde cevap yazan MODERN DUSUNCELi sahisa 2 yorum daha yazmistim fakat ya okumadi veya kendisini savunacak cesareti bulamadi .' Kim'in giyimine benden baska sikayet eden olmamais', 'Hangi asirda yasiyormusuz?' ,'Bizim dinimizde ozgurluk varmis ve herkes istedigi gibi giyinirmis!',vs......
    1)Benden baskasinin sikayet etmedigini nereden biliyorsun ve nasil bu kanaate variyorsun?En azindan benim cevrede cogu arkadaslar da ayni fikirde olup ' BAGAS ILLA ASANK HAY'I ' diyenler bile oldu .Kardasyan oglunu Yerusagemdeki kilisede vaptiz etti diye ' HON AL BIGHZESiK' diye yorumlar yazan oldu .( herhalde BIGHZESiK kelimesinin manasini bilirsin).
    2)Madem' Bizim dinimizde OZGURLUK var HERKES istedigi gibi giyinir' diyorsan , eger bir bayansan bu Pazar kiliseye bikini ile de gidebilirsin ( bana da haber vermeyi unutma)veya eger bir erkeksen karini-kizini yolla bikini ile kiliseye.
    3)Bu kiyafetle ( bilhassa kizkardesinin) Zizernagapert ziyaretini uygun bulmadigimi yazdigimda ' Hangi asirda yasiyoruz?' diye asagiliyorsun. Sen oraya gelenlerin giyinis tarzina bir bakarsan herkesin (yerli veya yabanci) nasil hurmet gosterdiklerini anlarsin (resimde kardashianlar'in etrfindakilerin giyimlerine de dikkat et) .Daha yeni yeni Paris sehiri Belediye baskani hanimin ve etrafindakilerinin giyinislerine dikkatle bakmani da tavsiye ederim .Biz degil 21. asir 41. asirda bile olsak bazi orf ve adetlerimize saygi gostermesini bilen bir milletiz. Amerika'li veya Kanada'li olamayiz . Evet 21. asirda yasiyoruz diye herkesin yaptigina ayak uydurmak mecburiyetinde degiliz.
    Ortada aci bir gercek var , Kardashianlar'in Zizernagapert ziyareti 1,5milyon NAHADAG'in anisina huemetten cok kendilerinin reklamin yapmak amacini tasiyordu.(nasil ki bundan 2-3 hafta kadar once Paris'te reklamlarini yaptilar).Cok iyi biliyorlardi ki basin, yayin kisaca medya devamli kendilerinden bahsedecek ve iste boylece bir tasla iki kus vurdular.Bundan daha etkili bir reklam firsati dogabilirmiydi? 2-3 hafta kadar once Paris'te neler oldu diye merak ediyorsan ,eger Ingilizce biliyorsan The Telegraph gazetesinde Allison Peterson tarafindan yazilan'Kim Kardashian and the price of preening narcissism' (narcissism ne demek bilirsin herhalde?) eger Fransizca biliyorsan 6/10/2016 tarihinde Sophie Fontanel tarafindan yazilan 'La Lettre Ouvert a KIm Kardashian' baslikli yazilari okumani tavsiye ederim .
    Benim bundan evvelki yorumlarimi dikkatlice okuyacak olursan(20 Eylulden basliyarak) tasvip etmedigim giyinilen elbise hakkinda idi.Fakat senin bu kustahca cevabina karsilik bugun bu kadar ileri giderek hakikatleri yazmak mecburiyetini hissettim . Bir soz vardir derler ki ' Soyliyende mi kabahat soyletende mi?'diye. Bana gore o giyim tarzini tasvip etmiyebilirim, sana gore de uygun olabilir( haklisin Playboy dergisine anadan dogma poz veren icin bu ziyarette ustune aldigi elbise KAPALI sayilabilir)Eger sen bu giyim tarzini o mukaddes yer icin uygun buluyorsan bence SEN DE AYNI B.K in SOYUSUN.