UCLA — Thursday, March 31, 2011, will remain in the annals of the Los Angeles Armenian community as a historic day, full of tension, apprehension, excitement, some optimism, generally a tense situation, nevertheless also a nigh tot ponder about positive issues.
Several secret service men were on hand at Broad Art Center at UCLA, where the event took place. Needless to say, the 450 capacity hall was filled up an hour ahead, and hundreds could not get in the hall and had to return home — the security was doing its job. In fact, the fire department had to vacate the aisles, full of young students, who had come to listen what the speaker was going to say.
Although it was a lecture evening, the main speaker was Hasan Cemal. An author and journalist writing for the Turkish Milliyet daily newspaper published in Istanbul. He is also the grandson of one of the three Ottoman leaders who masterminded the genocide of the Armenians in 1915.
And that’s where the confusion began.
Three years earlier in 2008, Hasan Cemal visited Armenia where he placed carnations at Dzidzenagabert Martyrs Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, in memory of the Armenians who perished in 1915, and particularly in memory and honor of journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in Istanbul in front of his newspaper Agos in 2007. they were very good friends, both liberal in their thoughts and actions.
Generally speaking, the community was very much interested as many people were shocked that a Turk would come to talk to the Armenians. And he did.
Cemal was invited to the podium and started his speech by saying in Armenian, Parev tsez, harkeli paregamner and continued in English saying that he came to express his grief and apologize for the 1915 genocide. A loud applause burst and then used the word Genocide, not only once, but several times. He not only said, but he repeated a few times that the Turkish government should apologize to the Armenians for the crimes committed against them by the Ottoman government
“History cannot be covered [up]. You cannot forget your roots,” he said and more.
One of the most interesting and curious events he described was hist meeting with Armen Gevorkyan, who is the grandson of the Gevorkyan who assassinated his grandfather Cemal Pasha in Tblisi, Georgia in 1922. The had lunch together.
The event was organized by the AGBU Asbeds group, who wanted to create a forum where dialogue can take place. They have done so with government officials, journalists, and diplomats.