By Brenda Gazzar
Pasadena Star News
PASADENA – A Turkish deputy consul general visited Pasadena City Hall earlier this month to convey concern about a planned Armenian Genocide Memorial in a city park.
The Pasadena Armenian American Coalition announced in April that the community is raising funds and working with an architect to erect a monument in Memorial Park in time for the 100th anniversary of the genocide in 2015.
Some 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed from 1915 through 1923 in what was then the Ottoman Empire. California is among 43 states that formally recognizes the Armenian Genocide.
A prepared statement by the Consulate General of Turkey in Los Angeles said the proposed monument “deeply offends” the Turkish people and the Turkish American community in Pasadena and the greater Los Angeles area.
“Our Consulate General (in Los Angeles) got in contact with Pasadena City authorities to convey the message that the events of 1915 is a highly debated issue by academics, historians and Turkish and Armenian communities,” the Consulate General of Turkey said in a prepared statement to the Star-News.
“It is clear that adapting (sic) one side’s approach and erecting a `genocide memorial’ without paying attention to the other’s will actually damage the ongoing efforts for a just solution to the issue and the hope for establishing the suitable conditions for current and future generations to live together friendly.”
While most historians assert that the mass killings of Armenians that started in 1915 was the 20th century’s first genocide, Turkey – a strong U.S. ally – has long denied there was a systematic campaign to kill Armenians.
Attorney and former Mayor William Paparian, speaking on behalf of the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee, said he considered the recent visit of Deputy Turkish Consul General Arif Celik to City Hall “a diplomatic intrusion by the Turkish government.”
For more than 30 years, the City Council has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the Armenian Genocide on April 24, amended its Affirmative Action ordinance to make Armenian-Americans a protected class and even has a sister city in Armenia, he said.
“The proposed Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial will have to fulfill the strict requirements of the City of Pasadena in order to win approval,” Paparian said in a statement. “No foreign government should be allowed to intervene in that process.”