Longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and former city Planning Commissioner Maria Mehranian will be sworn in Saturday as a member of the California International Genocide Commission, established by state leaders to increase global recognition of atrocities committed worldwide.
In part, the commission represents ongoing calls in California for federal recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which from 1915 to 1923 claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians and which will be commemorated this weekend.
But Mehranian believes the true strength of the commission is in building a large tent. In the coming weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials are expected to make appointments to the nine-member body from among many ethnicities that have been victims of mass slaughter.
“There are going to be members Jewish, Rwandan, Cambodian, Sudanese and others. It’s much more powerful when members of many groups discuss the subject of genocide, because you can draw on the similarities. No matter how different it can look at first, at the end of the day it’s the same thing happening in the same way,” said Mehranian, who is a managing partner of the L.A.-based civil engineering firm Cordoba Corp. and also serves on the Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board.
Both Mehranian and Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D - Glendale), who earlier this year wrote a law extending time limits for descendants of genocide victims to file civil claims, were appointed to the commission by Assembly Speaker John Perez, said Gatto field representative Christine Aghakhani.
Gatto led the Assembly’s annual commemoration of the genocide last week under a measure that was co-authored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D - La Cañada Flintridge).
Also last week, Congressman Adam Schiff (D- Burbank) wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to use the word “genocide” when referring to atrocities committed against Armenians that started during World War I, which Obama did during his campaign but has not done since.
The Turkish government, a U.S. ally in the Middle East, has for years successfully lobbied Congress to block genocide recognition.
Mehranian and Gatto will be sworn in during the Unified Young Armenians Candlelight Vigil genocide memorial ceremony, starting at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church, 1510 E. Mountain Ave., Glendale.
Under legislation passed in 2006, the California International Genocide Commission’s primary task will be to plan, fundraise for and build a memorial at the state capitol honoring victims of genocide.
Mehranian hopes to do more.
“It’s more about creating a dialogue to put these issues on the map, not only as something to memorialize, but also something we have to have and active fight against,” she said.
Reporter Bill Kisliuk contributed to this story.