REMEMBERBING THE ARMENIANS
Amy Lee / The Detroit News
Detroit News, MI
April 24, 2006
Service marks 1915-23 genocide
Photo: The Rev. Daron Stepanian prepares to enter the ceremony,
which was attended by 600 people. The genocide claimed more than 1.5
million lives. See full image
Photo: Allan Foord of Garden City attends the service to learn more
about the genocide. See full image
Photo: Souren Aprahamian, from left, Simon Tashjian, Sarkis Demirjian
and Olive Mooradian are some of the 10 survivors of the Armenian
genocide in Metro Detroit at the Sunday ceremony at St. John’s Armenian
Church Hall in Southfield.
Spiritual reflection mixed with calls for recognition during a
somber ceremony marked the 91st anniversary of Armenian genocide,
an eight-year campaign by Turkey’s Ottoman Empire that killed 1.5
million people of Armenian descent.
On today’s date 91 years ago, members of the Ottoman Turkish
government arrested and executed 200 Armenian community leaders in
Constantinople, marking the beginning of an extermination program
that eventually claimed more than 1.5 million lives between 1915 and
1923. The Turkish government denies that the mass murders were part
of a government-backed campaign.
About 600 people, including 10 survivors who live in Metro Detroit,
reflected with prayers and by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and
“Mer Hayrenik,” the national anthem of Armenia, during a service at
St. John’s Armenian Church Hall in Southfield on Sunday.
U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township, was the keynote
speaker; Knollenberg co-chairs the Armenian Congressional Caucus.
There are about 40,000 people of Armenian descent in Michigan and
1 million nationwide, according to a study issued last year by the
Armenian Research Center/University of Michigan-Dearborn.
The group mourned the victims and underscored the need to educate
the world about the genocide and its aftermath.
“Historically, there hasn’t been enough recognition that it really
happened, so they’re very dependent on the oral history from people
who were actually there,” said Gloria Baykian, whose mother, Rose,
fled Armenia as a child in 1909 when the clampdown on Armenians was
picking up steam.
Baykian and 26 others were honored on a list of survivors at St.
John’s. The 10 survivors at the ceremony received a standing ovation
from the congregation during the commemoration, said Christopher
Korkoian, co-master of the ceremony.
The present-day Republic of Turkey denies that a genocide took place,
and the United States has thus far refused to recognize the actions
as a genocide. France, Argentina, Greece and Russia, however, have
officially recognized the campaign against Armenians.
“This is one of the most important days for our culture and our
history. They were martyrs,” Korkoian said. “Our ancestors fought for
survival, but their numbers are getting smaller as time passes. Now
we’re fighting to make sure no one forgets or denies that anything
even happened. It’s something we are never going to forget.”