Wednesday, Armenians across the Valley remembered the one and half million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire 98 years ago.
Many say the federal government is failing Armenians for not officially recognizing the genocide. But they're praising Governor Brown for his acknowledgement.
Hundreds gathered to pray at the Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church in Central Fresno. They were praying for their relatives and others killed in 1915.
"My great-grandparents were there and they were beheaded and massacred," said Fresno resident Nancy Berberian-Thompson. "For me it has a true meaning because it did affect my family directly."
The killing of a million and half Armenians nearly 100 years ago still weighs heavily on many. "It's important to remember where we came from, to know why we're who we are," said the church's pastor Ara Guekguezian.
In a statement from the White House, President Obama avoided the term genocide. He said, in part, "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests."
"We are not hearing from the President or others that this actually happened," Berberian-Thompson complained. "It was an atrocity and they need to hold Turkey accountable."
But the former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, who lost his job fighting for recognition of the Armenian genocide, defended the President's statement. "The foreign policy establishment has its very complicated considerations, so I think it would be wrong to pin this all on Mr. Obama," John Evans said. "It's a much bigger problem."
Armenians across California are happy with Governor Jerry Brown, who released this statement: "The Armenian Genocide, also known as the "First Genocide of the Twentieth Century," represented a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman Empire to eliminate all traces of a thriving, noble civilization."
"It's really important to use the word genocide," Berberian-Thompson said.
The remembrance of those killed in 1915 will continue in Fresno this weekend with a Commemoration at the Soghomon Tehlirian Memorial Statue on Sunday, April 28 from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
The Governor's and President's full statements are below.
Between 1915 and 1923, Armenians were subjected to torture, starvation, mass murder and exile from their historic homeland. 1.5 million lost their lives. The Armenian Genocide, also known as the "First Genocide of the Twentieth Century," represented a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman Empire to eliminate all traces of a thriving, noble civilization.
Armenian communities all over the world commemorate this tragedy on April 24. On this day, we honor the victims and survivors of the genocide, and reaffirm our commitment to preventing future atrocities from being committed against any people.
NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim April 24, 2013, as "Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide."
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 18th day of April 2013.
Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Governor of California
Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Ninety-eight years ago, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. We pause to reflect on the lives extinguished and remember the unspeakable suffering that occurred. In so doing, we are joined by millions across the world and in the United States, where it is solemnly commemorated by our states, institutions, communities, and families. We also remind ourselves of our commitment to ensure that such dark chapters of history are not repeated.
I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests. Nations grow stronger by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past, thereby building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future. We appreciate this lesson in the United States, as we strive to reconcile some of the darkest moments in our own history. We recognize those courageous Armenians and Turks who have already taken this path, and encourage more to do so, with the backing of their governments, and mine.
The history and legacy of the Armenian people is marked by an indomitable spirit, and a great resiliency in the face of tremendous adversity and suffering. The United States is stronger for the contributions Armenian-Americans have made to our society, our culture, and our communities. In small measure we return that contribution by supporting the Armenian people as they work toward building a nation that would make their ancestors proud: one that cherishes democracy and respect for human liberty and dignity.
Today we stand with Armenians everywhere in recalling the horror of the Meds Yeghern, honoring the memory of those lost, and affirming our enduring commitment to the people of Armenia.