Assyrian-Americans gather in Turlock to honor ‘fallen heroes’ from a century ago

Assyrian-Americans gathered once again in Turlock to remember victims of genocide in their ancestral homeland.

The Wednesday night event was part of Assyrian Martyrs Day. It honored more than 700,000 people killed by Turks from 1914 to 1918 and about 3,000 more victims of an Iraq campaign in 1933.

“Today, we are here now to ... celebrate a victimized nation, a nation with many fallen heroes, and those who are still alive,” said Pastor Edward Eissabake of St. John’s Assyrian Presbyterian Church.

Turlock has one of the largest Assyrian-American populations in the United States. They have roots in ancient Iraq, Iran and nearby countries.

The gathering took place in the Snider Recital Hall at California State University, Stanislaus. It included representatives of Latino, Sikh, Armenian and other communities. Armenians and Greeks also were victims of the 1914-1918 genocide.

Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, spoke about recently introducing a resolution urging Turkey to acknowledge the genocide. That nation has denied its role for decades.

“When I think about the Assyrian community in the last several millenia of its history, I see the strength and the resilience of a people that despite terrible persecution have continued to build the wonderful culture and community that we share here today,” Harder said.

Sam David, president of the Assyrian-American Civic Club in Turlock, thanked Harder for the effort.

“This has been a long, long battle,” David said “The Assyrian nation has been waiting for over 100 years to be recognized for the massacre that happened in the years 1914 through 1918.”

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John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.