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On Tuesday, April 24, Armenian-Americans from throughout the Central Valley will gather at Fresno State to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.
The killing of 1.5 million Armenians took place in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. There were about two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire on April 24, 1915 when the Ottoman government began rounding up and arresting and eventually murdering Armenian scholars and community leaders living in Constantinople, which is present day Istanbul, Turkey.
Following the incident in Constantinople, the removal of Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire began. Men were separated from their families. After being subject to forced labor, most were killed. Many were buried or burned alive.
The military forced women, children, and the elderly to march to the Syrian Desert. The deportees were deprived of food and water. Many died. Those that managed to somehow survive ended up creating Armenian diaspora communities around the world.
Fresno is one of those communities. In the years after the Armenian Genocide, thousands of Armenians made their home in Fresno. Today, it’s estimated that nearly 50,000 Armenians call Central California home.
While the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century, until recently it has not received much attention or recognition outside of Armenian diaspora communities. Last year, the movie The Promise, starring Christian Bale, was released in theaters and helped bring some awareness to the massacres.
Ceremony held at Armenian Genocide Monument
Fresno’s Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee is responsible for organizing commemorative programs and educating the community about the Armenian Genocide with the hope of preventing future genocides.
Tuesday at 6 p.m., a memorial tribute will take place at the Armenian Genocide Monument at Fresno State. The monument was erected in 2015 to mark the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee funded the project through generous donations from members of the local Armenian Community.
Fresno State is the only college campus in the country to have an Armenian Genocide Monument. It is located near the Rose Garden, west of the Peters Business Building. Parking for Tuesday’s event is free in the P1, P5 and P6 lots.
The ceremony will begin with a laying of flowers at 6 p.m., followed by the presentation of flags and a religious service. A civic service will begin at 7:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, PhD. from Columbia University. Fresno State President Joseph Castro will also speak.
To learn more about this year’s commemoration, visit AGCFresno.org.
And if you are interested in learning more about the Armenian Genocide and the impact it has had on the Central Valley and those that live here, I produced a whole documentary about it. Check out Valley of Hope: The Armenian Genocide from Terror to Triumph on ValleyPBS.