In the presence of an Armenian Genocide survivor, Glendale students on Wednesday night kicked off commemoration events in a continued effort to honor those lost in the genocide and have the tragedy officially recognized by the Turkish government.
From 1915 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, and its occurrence is still denied by modern-day Turkey.
On Tuesday night in the Glendale Unified board room, several students belonging to the Armenian clubs at Glendale’s four high schools vowed to fight for recognition.
“When our ancestors were so brutally massacred, they couldn’t lean on anyone else… they persevered and they survived, and they made sure that their culture and their stories lived on to future generations,” said Mary Agajanian, a senior at Clark Magnet High School.
“The same perseverance that allowed those Armenians to survive the genocide 100 years ago now flows in our veins. We are their blood, and we will not stop until we have achieved the recognition they deserve,” she added.
Fellow student Ara Mandjikian, a junior at Crescenta Valley High School, said today’s young people must forge ahead.
“We have to be motivated by our obligation to honor and promote our culture publicly and privately,” he said. “The end of these 100 years is the beginning of the next, so let us make a name for ourselves in this world. Not for any other reason than our personal duty to uphold our nation above ourselves.”
In their presence was 100-year-old Armenian Genocide survivor Madeleine Salibian, a Glendale resident and mother of Clark Magnet High School counselor Susan Howe.
Salibian, born in Aintab, now known as Gaziantep, Turkey, was only a few months old when her father’s Turkish friend ushered her family to safety by giving them his donkeys to escape.
“A friend of my father who was Turkish — he loved him so much that when he heard that we were there, he came by midnight and took us out to his home,” Salibian said. “He kept us there, and the next day, he gave us three donkeys.”
The family traveled on the donkeys until they reached Syria, settling in a rural village, and eventually, Aleppo.
Also on Tuesday, Greg Krikorian, president of the Glendale Unified school board, shared his grandmother’s story of survival, and her harrowing experience losing her family and watching her father die.
“The last day I know my grandmother saw her father on was on the horse they hung him on. Picture your kids going through that and knowing that she was only one of 13 children left, that she lost all 12 brothers and sisters,” Krikorian said. “She came to Cleveland, Ohio, all by herself, at 8 years of age.”
Commemorating the Armenian Genocide each year has been an important focus for school officials and students, who produce an assembly each April that draws hundreds of people to Glendale High School.
Over the next few months, students will also be writing essays and creating art projects to commemorate the genocide, leading up to a student-produced assembly at Glendale High School on April 21. The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be on April 24.