LA's Armenian Community Celebrates Senate Genocide Resolution

File: Demonstrators rally outside the Turkish Consulate commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide on April 24, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Senate voted for the first time ever to formally recognize the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

The symbolic victory was a long time coming for Armenian American activists who've lobbied Congress for years and for many Armenians in Southern California, home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia or Russia.

"We're so excited. It means a lot to us," said Lucik Kashishian, outside of an Armenian grocery store in Glendale. "I don't know why they had to wait until now, but it's better than never."

Kashishian is an Armenian American born in Iran who's lived in Glendale for 30 years. Almost every April, she's joined with thousands more outside of L.A.'s Turkish Consulate to remember the genocide and call for governments, including Turkey and the U.S., to formally acknowledge this history.

Grachya Agababyan (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Grachya Agababyan of Glendale says the recognition isn't just about Armenians.

"We see genocides happening around the world," Agababyan said, also speaking outside a grocery store on Friday. "When the world sees what's going on, it will be harder for some countries to commit genocide against minorities."

Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces. But the Turkish government disputes how many were killed and denies the killings amounted to genocide.

And it's not just Turkey that fails to recognize the genocide. While consensus is clear among historians and scholars, only about 30 nations have formally done so.

President Reagan used the word "genocide" to describe the killings back in 1981, but subsequent presidents have avoided it. The U.S. has been reluctant to harm relations with Turkey, which it considers a crucial NATO ally. Cities and states, including Los Angeles and California, have recognized the genocide, but previous attempts in Congress had failed.

The Senate measure had been blocked three times at President Trump's request.

The resolution passed Thursday is non-binding and does not require President Trump's signature.