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Biden Is 1st U.S. President To Declare Mass Killings Of Armenians Genocide

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Montebello, Calif., which is just east of Los Angeles, people gathered around the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Memorial Monument over the weekend. It's a tower, it's 75 feet tall, and it was built as a reminder of a massacre that took place more than a century ago. Carmen Libaridian comes here every year to mark the anniversary.

CARMEN LIBARIDIAN: We've been waiting a long time, and everyone's trying to get their justice, you know? And Armenians have never gotten it.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In 1915, Ottoman Turkish forces killed or deported 1 1/2 million Armenians. Now, many historians of the period call this genocide, but for decades, U.S. presidents have avoided that term.

INSKEEP: Over the weekend, President Biden did otherwise, directly declaring the massacre to be a genocide. Libaridian said she felt relief.

LIBARIDIAN: This is a great step, OK? A little late for what happened to us, but thank you. Thank you, Biden.

KING: Outside of the Turkish consulate in LA, Araz Artinian stood with her two young sons. One of them was holding a sign that read, thank you, President Biden.

ARAZ ARTINIAN: Growing up and for the years to come, this actually might shape their lives to get some kind of justice going.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Turkey must pay. Turkey will pay.

INSKEEP: The Turkish government still rejects the label of genocide, saying the deaths were all part of the widespread regional conflict of World War I. Peter Haig, a board member of the United Armenian Council of LA, says Turkey has to stop denying the reality.

PETER HAIG: This is not just for Biden to prove that he's on the right side of history, but to prove to the world that no matter when it is, even if it's a century later, what is right always comes out right in the end.

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UNIDENTIFIED ARMENIAN CLERGY: (Speaking Armenian).

INSKEEP: Armenian clergy, praying at a vigil for departed souls of their ancestors. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.