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Armenian refugee camp in Beirut

For many decades after the Armenian Genocide, Beirut had the largest number of Western Armenians in the world, and became the center of the Western Armenian world. As conflict hit one middle eastern country after another, many Armenians moved to the west, and eventually Los Angeles became the biggest Diaspora community, with the probably exception of Moscow after Armenia gained independence and mass emigration took place from there as well.

The Armenian community in Beirut is still large, and the suburb of Bourj Hammoud is still the biggest Armenian neighborhood.



The Daily Star, Lebanon April 25, 2006

Turkey still denies targeting minority community

BEIRUT: Thousands of Armenians from all over Lebanon gathered at Bourj Hammoud Stadium on Monday to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, demanding that Turkey "recognize and apologize for" the massacre committed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915.

"It was the first massacre of the 20th century to which the whole world turned a blind eye," former Minister Alain Tabourian told the crowd.

The gathering was attended by 35,000 Armenians who came wearing the Armenian flag but singing the national Lebanese anthem as they marched into the stadium in the Armenian suburb of Beirut.

"Turkey tried to wipe us out of existence, but we survived and were reborn with new citizenships," said Tabourian, who also thanked Lebanon for having welcomed Armenian refugees who fled Turkey. "We never forgot our roots."

He also thanked representatives from the government and President Emile Lahoud, along with Lebanese Forces MP Strida Geagea, who attended the commemoration ceremony.

Beginning on April 24, 1915, Armenians say about 1.5 million Armenians "were massacred" by the Ottoman Turks as part of a government-led "genocide," a term Turkey has fiercely and consistently rejected for decades. Ankara also says the dead numbered 300,000-500,000.

Survivors fled to Syria and Lebanon, with the latter now home to the largest Armenian community in the Arab world, made up of about 75,000 descendants of those who fled the 1915-1917 violence.

"In order for the Armenians to open a new page with Turkey, it has to acknowledge and admit its crime against us, and apologize for committing the highest kind of atrocities possible against human beings," Tabourian said.

"Their admission of this crime would benefit them and help them accomplish their dream of entering the European Union, and would give us our peace and compensation which are rightfully ours," he added, referring to EU demands that Turkey face its past and expand freedom of speech before it can qualify to enter the union.

Apart from the speeches, which were mainly delivered in Armenian, white balloons were released in honor of those killed in the bloodletting and in hope that peace can finally be realized between Turkey and the Armenians.

"It is rather unlikely they Turkey will admit it, but we have to prove that as Armenians, we still exist, and just as Palestinians are fighting for their land, so are we," said one participant at the event, Anto Narguizian, 17.

"Turkey's alliance with the United States is very strategic, both economically and geographically, so the United States will not agree that such a mass genocide occurred, even if most European states have agreed to this," he added. "But if America does not agree, Turkey will not return the land it has taken from the Armenians, and will not repay all the damages it has caused."

Narguizian's mother, Maral, who did not attend the commemoration, told The Daily Star: "Everyone has their way of expressing their beliefs and what they stand for; I would rather express myself through monetary aid to local charities and churches."

But she added that these "protests need to be done, to ask for our rights, which have long been ignored."

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Armenians from Beirut

These are Armenians who were born or who have lived in Beirut:

Alek Yenikomshian, Aleksan Markaryan, Antranig Baghdassarian, Armen Hovsepian, Avo Uvezian, Catholicos Aram I, Joseph A. Kéchichian, Lucy Der Tavitian, Luther Simjian, Manoug Manougian, Michael Ashjian, Mikael Mouradian, Monte Melkonian, Steve Kerr, Varoujan Koundakjian, Vartan Gregorian, Zabel Joshi

See also