Armenians march toward recognition

Burbank Leader
April 16 2005

Armenians march toward recognition

Students and young adults travel to Fresno to join 215-mile walk that
aims to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide.
By Jackson Bell, The Leader

When Shaghik Aghakhani first asked her parents if she could join a
symbolic march that spotlights the Armenian Genocide’s anniversary,
they didn’t want her walking several miles a day through the Central
Valley.

But for the Burbank 17-year-old, being a part of the event was just
too important to back down. So one day she sat her parents down and
explained just how much it meant for her to be part of the 19-day,
215-mile trek from Fresno to Sacramento.

Though still worried about her safety, her parents reluctantly agreed
to let her go, Shaghik said.

“I had to do this because I didn’t know in what other way I could
help the Armenian community,” she said. “I have to relieve the pains
of not getting recognition by walking.

“I hope our government takes the side of human rights and
acknowledges what happened, because I don’t want something like the
Armenian Genocide to ever happen again.”

Shaghik was among more than 40 area teens and young adults of
Armenian descent who boarded rental vans Friday afternoon in Glendale
and drove north of Fresno to join others already participating in the
“March for Humanity.”

The march’s aim is to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide on the
eve of its 90th anniversary and push the United States and Turkish
governments to recognize the mass slayings, said Vicken Sosikian,
director of the event.

More than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in what many consider the
first genocide of the 20th century.

“The fact is that from 1915 to 1921, our forefathers were sent into
forced marches,” said Sosikian, 25, of Glendale. “And by us marching,
we want to show our solidarity for them.”

A core group of 14 people began marching on April 2 and plan to reach
the state Capitol on Thursday.

Scores of others have come and gone according to their schedules —
many of them joining on weekends.

Sosikian expects more than 100 people from across California to join
this weekend.

Armed with sleeping bags and little else, marchers have walked about
15 miles a day — regardless of the weather — and slept on church
floors at night. The Armenian Relief Society provides meals, and vans
keep pace to scout road conditions and provide water and first aid.

The event will culminate Thursday with “Rally for Humanity,” when the
marchers reach the Capitol to thank state legislators for recognizing
the genocide and to also further promote their cause, Sosikian said.

“We want to express that repercussions exist when such a criminal
action happens, and reparations must be made by those who have done
wrong,” he said. “The fact that the Turkish government does not
recognize this is possibly why the world has seen so many genocidal
crimes, from Cambodia to Rwanda.”

Narbeh Aboolian, who walked in the march last weekend and set out
again Friday, said this was the most meaningful thing he has ever
done.

“It has changed me to know that I’m doing something big and getting
our message across to the whole world, not just California,” the
18-year-old Hoover High School student said.

Narah Saghatelian, 19, of Glendale was also with the group that
headed off Friday. She will come home Sunday but plans to return
Thursday for the rally.

“The fact that I’m part of something that is trying to get the
genocide recognized is gratifying,” said Saghatelian, a Glendale
Community College student.

* JACKSON BELL covers public safety and courts. He may be reached at
(818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at jackson.belllatimes.com.

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