By Katrina Van Duzee/Garden Grove Journal
The word “genocide” is commonly associated with Hitler and the massacre of millions of Jews or African tribes’ brutality towards one another, but what many fail to realize is that the first genocide of the 20th century took place in what is now Turkey, an event commemorated by the Armenian National Committee in Orange County every April.
For the past three years hundreds of Armenian’s and Orange County residents have participated in the walk, put on by various Armenian groups, through Santa Ana and the Garden Grove area in order to remember the death march their ancestors made into the Syrian Desert in the early 1900s, according to the National Armenian Committee of Orange County.
“We started the march in Orange County almost four years ago to commemorate and give respect to the dead,” chairman of the National Armenian Committee of Orange County Dikran Sassounian said. “ To have their souls remembered for the younger generations, so they don’t forget our history.”
The Walk for Remembrance will take place on Saturday and starts at 1 p.m. at the Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church in Santa Ana (McFadden Avenue) and will end around 4 p.m.
“We walk about six miles from Garden Grove to Milestone Park and back to the church in Santa Ana where a requiem service is held,” Sassounian said.
The Armenian genocide began in 1915 when the rules of the now-defunct Ottoman Empire ordered their extermination or exile via telegrams to all governors throughout Turkey.
This order resulted in mass arrests of Armenian men who were eventually killed and the forced deportation of over a million Armenian women and children to the Syrian Desert where they starved or were murdered by bandits.
As a result of the order, two million Armenians were killed.
The current Turkish government does not agree that what occurred was genocide, taking the position that many died as a consequence of World War I, during which the Ottomans fought alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary as part of the Central Powers.
This year’s anti-genocide commemorative event will include members from the Egyptian, Assyrian and Kurdish communities in Orange County, Sassounian said.
The goal is to stress the importance of this historical event to the Armenian descendants and to community members.
“This walk symbolizes the walk our ancestors took, Sassounian said. “Leaving their belongings, land and everything, to go on a death march.”
Those interested in participating can register to walk online or donate money at www.walkoc.org.