California city 1st to mark Armenian Genocide with school holiday

Demonstrators march to commemorate the 100th anniversary of mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, in Los Angeles, California. © Kevork Djansezian
The California city of Glendale will become the first US school district to officially observe Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day after a unanimous vote by its board members this week.

Students and teachers have been getting the day off on April 24 for the past two years, if only because most took part in remembrance events held by Glendale’s dominant Armenian population.

Tuesday’s historic vote by Glendale Unified School District officially recognized the date as Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day on all school calendars.

April 24 marks the deportation of 250 Armenian intellectuals from what is now Istanbul in 1915.

The genocide, committed by the Ottoman Empire's Committee of Union and Progress, resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians.

The first commemoration was organized by survivors in 1919.

"I think for us to be able to really embrace our cultural history and our collective cultural history is extremely important and really educating students about how things can get out of control," school board president Christine Walters said.

The Armenian genocide has been denied by Turkey, who claim the deaths were a result of the civil war and not a systematic effort to eliminate a race of people.

Turkey estimates 300,000 died during World War I, while Armenia says 1.5 million died and that it was genocide.

The European Parliament (EP), which recognized the genocide in 1987, has repeatedly urged Turkey to do the same.

The EP passed a resolution last year urging Turkey to open “archives and come to terms with its past”.