Thousands gathered in Times Square on Sunday to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide as supporters, many draped in the Armenian flag, called for more official recognition of the genocide.
Many people wore T-shirts commemorating the genocide and several people held signs, like “End Denial.”
The genocide claimed the lives of about 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923, according to the Armenian Assembly of America.
President Obama has not referred to the killings as genocide, instead calling it “the first mass atrocity of the 20th century” in his statement on Friday.
“It’s more important for [my kids] to continue this, just to be part of this,” said Bergen County, N.J., resident Violette Dabaghian, 50. “I tell it to them all the time, you just cant forget it. It happened.”
Dabaghian said her grandmother was a survivor of the genocide, allowed to live because her great-grandfather was a doctor and was forced to treat soldiers.
Davit Khachatryan, 24, moved here three years ago from Armenia to get a master’s degree. Now, he lives in Astoria with his wife, Lusine Hakobyan, who followed about six months ago.
“Here in Times Square, coming here, it’s a small feeling of [being] homesick,” said Khachatryan, who attended the memorials every year at home. “Regardless of the amount of people, I think deep inside everyone feels the power.”
Hakobyan said it is incredible to be able to share her country’s history with so many New Yorkers.
“Everyone is here to hear what the American government has to say and it’s really powerful,” she said. “Lots of people share your feelings and understand, still remember the genocide.”
Sen. Charles Schumer called it “an outrage” that the genocide wasn’t recognized as it should be.
“We owe it to those who cannot speak for themselves,” Schumer said, speaking to the crowd. “Every time genocide occurs we say never again and we must. The Statue of Liberty stands for something, and one of the things it stands for is remembering the genocide done to the Armenian people.”