Armenian-Americans gather at Mount Davidson to commemorate 99th anniversary of genocide 

click to enlarge Members of the Armenian-American community gather at Mount Davidson on Sunday to remember the 1.5 million killed by the former Ottoman Empire from 1914-18. - JUAN  PARDO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Juan Pardo/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Members of the Armenian-American community gather at Mount Davidson on Sunday to remember the 1.5 million killed by the former Ottoman Empire from 1914-18.

At least 100 Armenian-Americans, from youths to the elderly, ascended to the top of Mount Davidson in San Francisco on Sunday, where they gathered at the base of a 100-foot-tall cross to pay homage to and demand recognition for the 1.5 million Armenians killed between 1914 and 1918 by the former Ottoman Empire.

The action is considered by many to be the first modern genocide, although the United States government and the modern state of Turkey do not recognize it as such.

Thursday was the 99th anniversary of what many say was the beginning of mass killings, when in 1915, Ottoman officials gathered up about 200 Armenian leaders and intellectuals never to be seen or heard from again. The local Armenian community has typically chosen the Sunday after the anniversary for its commemoration ceremony, which happened to be on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, recognizing another genocidal act that happened within only 25 to 30 years of the Armenian deaths.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu was on hand to commemorate the anniversary, as were Supervisor Scott Wiener and Supervisor Norman Yee, whose district encompasses Mount Davidson and an Armenian school and community center.

Chiu lamented that despite the board consistently passing legislation asking the federal government to recognize the genocide, it has not done so.

He lauded San Francisco for its diversity and its unity in embracing the issue, saying that, "If you come for any one of us, you're coming for us all."

Wiener compared the denial of the mass killings of Armenians to modern-day Holocaust doubters, saying, "It is all our responsibility to never forget."

Yee mentioned that not only is the Armenian community important to The City, it's important to him because many of the institutions and resources used by the Armenian community reside in his district.

Nanor Balabanian, the mistress of ceremonies for the event, said not only were visitors paying homage to the anniversary of the genocide, but protesting against the invasion of an Armenian enclave in Syria in March that has again forced Armenians from their homes.

She said that 99 years after the Ottoman Empire "failed to finish what they started," the Armenian community of Kassab in Syria has been forced into exile.

Earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences to the Armenian community, but maintained the deaths were not genocide.

The majority of U.S. states and several U.S. politicians and agencies recognize that genocide occurred.

Many of the event speakers and members of the local community said they hope that when they gather for the 100th anniversary, they will be celebrating the full recognition they feel the issue deserves.

"To make a change globally, you have to start locally," said Alex Bastian of the District Attorney's Office, who is also of Armenian descent.

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