ANCA-WR, Elected Officials Condemn Hateful Acts at Armenian Schools

Armenian Genocide Committee Hosts Press Conference at Ferrahian Armenian School

The front entrance to Ferrahian School property, which includes Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, Encino, Calif. (Image circulated on social media)

ENCINO, Calif.—Just over 12 hours after an unknown suspect allegedly hung Turkish flags at two Armenian private schools in southern California, the local Armenian community joined the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) and the Armenian Genocide Committee to condemn the vandalism.

Inside the gymnasium of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School in Encino, California on Tuesday evening, community leaders and school officials held a press conference hosted by the Armenian Genocide Committee to update the public and concerned families on the ongoing police investigation.

Gated entrance to AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park, Calif. (Photo credit: thearmenianreport)

Ferrahian principal Sossi Shanlian informed everyone that surveillance cameras captured a masked man allegedly trespassing onto school property at around four in the morning on Tuesday. Shanlian said the suspect, dressed in black clothing with face and head covered, jumped the front gate and started hanging Turkish flags in the parochial school’s courtyard. At Ferrahian, the Turkish flags were hanging feet away from the steps leading to the Armenian church on-site. The suspect also allegedly targeted AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park, which is about five miles away.

After a preliminary investigation that failed to use the term “hate crime,” local law enforcement is now taking this matter seriously and designating it as such, according to the ANCA-WR. “I’m sorry to the Armenian community,” said Los Angeles Police Department captain Ernest Eskridge. “This is a very serious crime. We are doing our best to bring this suspect to justice.” Captain Eskridge also expressed his commitment to ensure the Armenian community is at peace.

But peace is something that’s been difficult to come by for the Armenian people. As the chair of the ANCA-WR Nora Hovsepian explained, one of the targets, Ferrahian, was founded almost 60 years ago by a generation of Armenian Genocide survivors. “This is a direct affront to them and to their descendants,” said Hovsepian. To this day, the government of Turkey continues to deny the events of 1915.

Street view from White Oak Avenue of Ferrahian High School (Photo sent to Armenian Weekly)

That lack of recognition is one reason why several local elected officials felt compelled to attend and stand in solidarity with the Armenian community. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, one of several proponents of Armenian Genocide recognition in the state, equated the hate crime at these two southern California Armenian schools to that of a Nazi swastika plastered on a Jewish school building. Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents Canoga Park, recalled Holocaust Remembrance Day in his comments saying, “This kind of hate is pervasive.”

School administrators say the young school community is shocked yet strong, despite the circumstances. Shanlian said this has become a teachable moment for the students. After a short assembly Tuesday morning, Shanlian said Ferrahian students “broke out in a spontaneous expression of their unity, love and respect for the Armenian culture and heritage.” They also took down all the Turkish flags and replaced them with even more Armenian flags.

Classes on Wednesday are still in session at both schools. Security will also be heightened; parents can expect to see police near and on-campus as they continue their investigation.

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the assistant editor for the Armenian Weekly. She is a formally trained broadcast news writer and a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.
Leeza Arakelian

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13 Comments

    • Your turkish flag has blood on it; your hands are stained with blood. You can never hold your head up and face the light of day because your ancestors have left you nothing but shame and disgrace. You live on stolen land, your illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world; your dictator erdgoan is a dirty ottoman turk and he hates his fellow turks which is proven by the way he treats the people of your poor tainted country. You are to be pitied but I don’t think you warrant it.

    • Funny you don’t even have the courage to hang it during the day. It does not scare us stupid, it makes us hate you more!

  1. There is nothing funny about this.
    It is a disgusting and hateful act that should be investigated as a “hate crime”.
    Vart Adjemian

    • Seriously, i can’t believe you’re all taking the bait, hook line and sinker? I’ll bet their getting the biggest laugh!

  2. I read this article and I do not see any reference to a more serious attack and vandalism that took place in Paris, France. In the night of January 2nd/3rd 2019 a violent attack took place at Sevre Mooradian School building. This historic institution is the oldest in Europe where many prominent Armenian intellectuals were educated since 1830s, including Aznavour’s son Patrick and Garavarentz. We ought to see a correlation between the three, otherwise new ones will follow. It seems our coin always drops at the 11th hour.

  3. Khwaja Ahmet, scare Armenians! you Turks have the blood of 1.5 million Armenians in your hands. YOU are the ones that should be scared of the consequences of denying the Genocide, perpetrated by your ancestors, the Ottoman Turks!

    • It is amazing how the Turks feel they can try to harm us even in the 21st century. Emboldened, though, as they are not being punished. We need to insist that these crimes are met, by us all in the Western World, with prompt investigation & severe punishment.

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    Stand a little taller
    Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
    You heard that I was starting over with someone new
    But told you I was moving on over you
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    You try to break me but you see what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
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    Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
    What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter
    Footsteps even lighter
    Doesn’t mean I’m over ’cause you’re gone
    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger
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    Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone
    Thanks to you I got a new thing started
    Thanks to you I’m not the broken-hearted
    Thanks to you I’m finally thinking ’bout me
    You know in the end the day to left was just my beginning
    In the end
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    Songwriters: Alexandra Leah Tamposi / David Gamson / Greg Kurstin / Jorgen Kjell Elofsson
    Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) lyrics
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  5. Your turkish flag has blood on it; your hands are stained with blood. You can never hold your head up and face the light of day because your ancestors have left you nothing but shame and disgrace. You live on stolen land, your illiteracy rate is one of the highest in the world; your dictator erdgoan is a dirty ottoman turk and he hates his fellow turks which is proven by the way he treats the people of your poor tainted country. You are to be pitied but I don’t think you warrant it.

  6. A missed opportunity for Armenians to stage a justifiable public burning of Turkish flags. That would have been so satisfying!

  7. Are we certain that the Turkish flags hung at the Armenian private schools must be called “vandalism” and need to be classified and prosecuted as “hate crimes”?
    If we discover that the masked man who placed the flags during the night is a member of the Armenian community participating in a misguided plan to educate the young generation –
    then is this still a “hate crime” and what punishment is appropriate for the perpetrator(s)?
    Los Angeles City Councilmember Kerkorian has called this a hate crime and he explained the painful symbolism of the Turkish flag for anyone who endured the Genocide.
    Los Angeles City Attorney Feuer condemned this as a hate crime and also complimented the Armenian schools for using it as a teaching opportunity.
    Hate crime or teaching opportunity?
    Or maybe Kerkorian and Feuer and other adults-in-the-room don’t realize how they are using it as a hate teaching opportunity.
    As a non-Armenian raised in Los Angeles i knew wonderful neighbors who suffered the wounds of the Genocide.
    I have always advocated for official recognition of the Genocide up to the highest levels.
    The progress made in the past 30 years will remain a remarkable legacy of dedication and determination by a generation whose parents and grandparents were a living connection to what really happened.
    But this new generation of youth will never hold the hand of a family member who personally endured the Genocide.
    I understand the importance of ensuring the new generation of Armenian-Americans understands the history.
    I understand the Armenian community has a responsibility to forge within the new generation a solid connection which reaches back to the survivor generation.
    But the new generation will not have that gut reaction to the Turkish flag which the survivor generation felt.
    Calling this flag hanging as “vandalism” is reckless.
    Vandalism implies there is some physical destruction or damage.
    A few quick scissor snips and all evidence of the flags is gone in seconds.
    If this flag is a hate crime towards the school children, should they also report a hate crime when they see this Turkish flag on shirts at a sporting competition or at some international conference?
    Would the Armenian community say that progress was made if Turkey selected a new flag tomorrow, yet official denial of the Genocide remained unchanged?

    This flag hanging incident is so very clean to be the act of a hate-filled person.

    It would not be difficult to damage and desecrate the Armenian school sites.
    Except, that members of the neighborhood community have their ears on alert for an act of that nature.
    Hanging the flags was very quiet and safe.
    If the perpetrator had used a spray paint on the school’s property – now that could correctly be classified as vandalism.
    But a neighbor who witnessed spray painting might call the police, whereas they would not if they saw a person quietly attaching a flag or a banner to the fence.

    The Armenian community should ask themselves if they believe in the talent and brilliance of their next generation?
    Can you place your faith and trust that although they will not feel the pain they saw in the eyes of grandparent – like you did: however, they will develop their own organic connection to the experience of the great-grandparent who they only know as photograph in a book?
    Can you believe the new generation is brilliant, gifted and creative enough to have an understanding of history and destiny to take up this cause?

    As far and wide as your generation held and carried it, the new generation will bring a new vision with which they are able to finish the job.

    Do you want them to learn to recognize which flag means “they hate you” and which flag they should hate.
    And how to nod and applaud for virtue-signaling, self-promoting politicians?

    Wouldn’t you rather cultivate their intelligence and confidence to recognize and reject demagoguery – whether used by someone from outside trying to hold them back, or practiced by otherwise respected leaders of their own community as the hollow tactic to pull them forward?

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