CARSON – Voting unanimously, the Carson City Council opposed a monument on March 4, 2015 commemorating Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the city’s International Sculpture Garden, which aims to honor world leaders who have promoted peace during their lifetimes, reported the Armenian Council of America. (ACA)
“In an unprecedented show of opposition to the proposed monument, the Armenian American community including the ACA, Armenian National Committee (ANC) and the Armenian Caucus of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 (SEIU 721) filled the Council Chamber to express, in solidarity, their vehement opposition to the project,” said ACA Chairman Sevak Khatchadorian. “The proposed monument glorifies Ataturk, a man deemed by historians as a dictator and promoter of ethnic cleansing of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other minorities; a movement that provided the basis for the persecution of minorities in Turkey.”
Barry Heads II, representing the office of Assemblymember Mike Gipson, read a letter written by Assemblymember Gipson and co-authored by Assemblymembers Achajian, Gatto, Wilk and Nazarian. “The proposed moment…. is incredibly insensitive and insulting to the memories of those who died, and their surviving families,” the letter read. “To erect a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ignores the sensitive political context behind this controversial individual, and goes against the stance taken by our representative bodies at the state and federal level. Out of respect for those who perished and the loved ones they left behind, we voice our opposition.”
Speaking on behalf of the Turkish community was Consul General of Turkey, Raife Gulru Gezer, who listed the names of political and religious leaders who have praised Ataturk. She continued by citing names of Armenians who were honored by Ataturk and insisted that the monument would be commemorating a remarkable leader and founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. Aris Aganos, founder of the American Hellenic Council, shared with the Council his memories of the haunting stories told by family members about the burning of Smyrna by the Turks.
Other elected officials who voiced their concerns in opposition to the monument included City of Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian, a direct descendant of the atrocities committed by Ataturk, who told the City Council that they would be honoring a man who murdered his family if they voted in favor of the monument. Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan also revealed historical information about Ataturk as Glendale City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian shared an emotional story about his Greek and Armenian ancestors who both suffered inhumanity under Ataturk’s reign of power.
Both sides of the aisle provided testimony, however only 6 speakers from each side were allowed to speak due to time constraints and an overwhelming number of speakers – there were 298 speakers in opposition to the monument and only 101 in support of the monument.
The Mayor had proposed a motion to move the item to the next Council Meeting, however Councilmembers Robles and Holmes insisted on voting for the motion. After speaking to the audience about the importance of reconciliation and moving forward in unity, Mayor Dear, a history instructor, expressed that he is a proponent of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and that there are revisionists who try to deny that such an event occurred in history.
“The monument would bring bad notoriety to the City of Carson,” said Councilmember Holmes and continued by stating that city should not accept the gift.
The Armenian Council of America is a grassroots organization dedicated to working with all political leaders, offering Armenian related news, analysis and resources for policymakers, media, students and activists, advocating issues important to Armenian Americans. The Armenian Council of America aims to strengthen U.S. – Armenia and U.S. – Nagorno Karabakh ties, the development of programs promoting sustainable economic growth and good governance in Armenia, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship.