11:41, 24 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

More than an estimated 4,000 people crowded Fresno State's Maple
Mall on Thursday night for a somber ceremony to unveil the Armenian
Genocide Centennial Monument, the Fresno Bee reports.

"I'm very sad, very sad," said Asadour Boghossiu, one of hundreds of
Fresno Armenians who attended the ceremony on the eve of the 100th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Boghossiu's father was the sole
survivor of seven brothers and four sisters who were killed in the
genocide. As many as 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have been
killed from 1915 to 1923 by Ottoman Turks.

The stone-and-concrete monument dedicated Thursday consists of nine
pillars -- six representing historic provinces of the Armenian people,
Cilicia (a region of Ottoman Turkey that was home to many Armenians),
one representing an estimated 10 million Armenians around the
world, and the final representing the modern Republic of Armenia. An
incomplete halo rests on top of the pillars, meant to symbolize the
damage of the genocide and the unity of the Armenian people. It is
the first monument on a U.S. college campus marking the genocide.

"This beautiful monument is one visible action which demonstrates our
strong commitment to human rights and justice here in the Valley,
in the United States, and throughout the world," said Fresno State
President Joseph Castro.

Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, Excellency
Sergey Sarkisov, said a number of governments, including the United
States, still don't officially recognize the Armenian genocide. By
refusing to do so, he said, "it's an assault not only on Armenians,
but on history. It's an assault on truth. It's an assault on justice.

And it's an assault on humanity itself."

A number of elected officials and religious leaders from Fresno and
the Valley attended the ceremony.

"We appreciate the incredible contributions of the Armenian people
in Fresno and we all stand together in solidarity and in support of
the Armenian people," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin after the
ceremony. "Tonight was a very special time to do that."

Fresno residents Charity and Joel Rockey attended the ceremony to
support their many Armenian friends.

After hearing about the hundreds of thousands of Armenians killed in
the genocide, Charity said, "It made you think, how did all this get
swept under the rug or missed? It's sobering."

Joel added, "I'm thankful that our city and local governments are
starting to recognize it as the genocide and giving it the remembrance
that it was due."

A few videos were shown during the ceremony that highlighted how
many Armenians were killed in each province during the genocide,
and there were reflections from local leaders.

During the film spotlighting the genocide's toll on each Armenian
province, a narrator described Bitlis, home of the family of famed
dramatist and author William Saroyan, whose family immigrated to
Fresno. "On the eve of the genocide, Bitlis had 198,000 Armenians.

After the genocide, it had none."

Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno said the Jewish and
Armenian communities share the "scar" of genocide.

"One of the lessons we learned from having lived through such difficult
tragedies is that we can survive and we can lift up," Winer said. "We
can take the scar we bear and have it serve as an emblem that we are
survivors in a difficult world, but a world that still blooms. ... Out
of the ashes we create beautiful communities, beautiful culture, and
what we have here in this community is a beautiful example of that."

Earlier on Thursday, a large crowd watched as Santa Clara Street
between O Street and Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno was officially
renamed Armenia Street to commemorate the Armenian heritage of the
area and its influence on Fresno.

Later in the afternoon, about 100 Fresno-area Armenians gathered
at Ararat Cemetery for a special service to remember those who died
during the genocide.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress