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My Sunday Column: Glendale and the Armenian Community — Sinanyan admits racist remarks, expresses regrets


It was a week Zareh Sinanyan will never forget. The man who left the Soviet Republic of Armenia as a 14-year-old a quarter century ago took his seat as a Glendale City Councilman on Monday, faced harsh criticism from residents during public comment on Tuesday over hateful comments he posted on the Internet several years ago, attended several community events in his official capacity and then sat down to clear the air.

“I engaged people in conversation in an unacceptable and emotional way that I deeply regret,” he said, repeating the word “regret” more than 20 times during our 40-minute chat.

“They were conversations — antagonistic conversations — about the Armenian genocide, Armenian-Azeri relations, things my family experienced directly. They would say things like, ‘We should have done more to you. We should have finished the job.’

“It’s impossible for me to look at those conversations and even say that’s me. That does not justify it. I regret having made those statements. I regret having hurt anyone. I regret using that language. I’m not excusing myself in any way.”

Those were hard words for a proud man to utter, a man who like most Armenians will never be able to let go of what happened in 1915 and what has happened so often to Armenians over the years until there is official recognition of their suffering.

The anti-gay, anti-Muslim comments Sinanyan made on YouTube five years or so ago came back to haunt him in the campaign’s last month — “29 days before the election,” he says, and he was called to account on blogs, in the press and before the City Council, which wanted to know if he should be removed from a city commission.

His response was to stonewall the issue, a non-denial denial that left many in the community angry and seemed to jeopardize his chances to win the election. But he went on the warpath and rallied the Armenian community, which used its organizational and economic muscle to help him win the open seat created by Frank Quintero’s retirement.

“To say that I was jarred would be a gross understatement. The campaign ground to a halt. I lost weight. I kept thinking, ‘Who is doing this? Why are they doing this?’

“My reputation has been a positive one. I knew they couldn’t bring someone in who knew me who would say, ‘Yes, he’s a well-known racist, yes, a homophobe.’ But I was accused of those things. I wasn’t thinking straight. I needed to get some sleep to rationally think about this.”

Sinanyan talked about how his grandparents survived a death march from their home in Turkey across the Syrian desert, how his parents, both engineers in Armenia, arrived with their two teenage children in Burbank in 1988 with a few hundred dollars, how they worked hard to learn English and to provide a better life for the family.

He talked about his campaign platform to make city government more open and transparent, to hold council meetings in the community, to meet regularly with school officials, to impose term limits on elected officials — measures he believes will be “conducive to good governance.”

“I have a vision and I’m going to try to do my best for everyone in Glendale,” he said.

On Tuesday, at his first full City Council meeting, Sinanyan said little except to make the point that filling the seat vacated by Rafi Manoukian’s election as city treasurer should be an open process and not some political deal.

But he remained silent as several people stepped up during public comment to sharply criticism him for the hateful words he had used and his failure to respond directly — criticisms a supporter called “cheap shots.”

Mayor Dave Weaver told the critics to “can it” because Sinanyan is going to serve out his term unless he’s recalled.

The telling moment came when Glendale High freshman Zehra Siddiqui, who had read a passage from the Koran at the recent mayor’s breakfast, talked about how Muslim students are often “bullied for our religion.”

“The youth in Glendale should have people with such important titles as role models and it’s important for these so-called role models to take responsibility for their actions, whether good or bad,” she said.

Her words, her presentation, touched Sinanyan deeply and convinced him it was time to take responsibility for what he had said.

“She was the one who got to me. After she spoke all I could think about was, ‘Why would I say something that would insult someone like her?’ I would just hope that she would forgive me, I didn’t mean those things. They were obviously made in anger.

“I will do my best to represent her to the best of my abilities. I see her as the future of America. By my actions, I will show who I really am, that those words are not me.”

Clearly, Sinanyan will be living in a fish bowl for quite a while, at the center of tensions over the ascendance of Armenians in the political, economic and cultural life of a city that was very different a quarter century ago when his family arrived in the area.

For him, and for Glendale, this presents a great challenge to overcome divisions and a great opportunity to move forward and build a greater city together.

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14 Responses to My Sunday Column: Glendale and the Armenian Community — Sinanyan admits racist remarks, expresses regrets

  1. teddy says:

    We must all rermember that this is a free country:

    “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

  2. teddy says:

    I don’t know of anyone in our country who has had a “perfect” history.
    Mankind is like that – a bit greedy and selfish. We try to teaach humility
    and honesty. I just read an item in the paper that reminded me that
    every year, the Armenians remind us of how the Turkish nearly obliterated
    the Armenian people over a hundred years ago and insist we apologize.

    Gosh, why not forgive and forget? Why are Americans
    to apologize for anything over which very few if any had anything to do with?

    Ask the descendents of slavery. There are many reasons why our Americ a
    is theLand of the Free and the Home of the bravc.

  3. Wayne from Encino updates his last post says:

    Look up “Ottoman Empire” and “Armenian Genocide.” The Turks ran the show and wanted racial purity in their Empire, which included present day Palastine, Turkey, Cyprus, etc. WWI would of, had Germany won it, resulted in the Ottomans getting more of this kind of racial purity. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was broken apart into the present day Middle East nations and Armenia was recognized, only to be swallowed up by the Russians after WWII and made a SSR, after finally getting a nation state all their own! Turkey kept Istanbul (Constantinople) and thus always has been a huge and powerful presence in the Mediterranean and Europe.

  4. teddy says:

    Wayne, when was the last time you or any of us got what
    we wanted so badly that we would kill for it? Wishful thinking does
    not mean entitlement. OR do I not know what I am talking

  5. If re-elected, I promise to draw up PERSONALLY a class action lawsuit in favor of all Armenian-Americans living in Los Angeles City and sue the Turkish Government for restitution, damages, and a free Toyota Tudra truck for each class member! This will be as successful as my suit against DeutcheBank to clean up all those forclosed properties in L.A. VOTE FOR ME FOR RE-ELECTION BECAUSE I’M THE VOICE OF CHANGE AND TRANSPARENCY.

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      WAYNE FROM ENCINO—Ya can’t fool me! BUSTED. Big time! Your NEXT comment is the prize-winner, BTW. Hay, Ron Kaye–Hay folks–I guess we’ve all been “GETTIN’CARMENED!” (When WILL it end??)

  6. Rita-of-Sunland says:

    The war between the Armenians and the Turks rages on in a verbal format HERE, on “neutral” U.S. soil. And as much as I sympathize with the Armenians and the devastating memories of their elders, I also believe that when immigrants emigrate (izzat redundant?) to our country, they must put aside the old resentments, the old battles, and many of the Old World ways in order to truly become AMERICAN. To carry on ancient wars on our soil is a SLAP in the face to the benevolent land who allowed them to come here and start anew. I ABHOR the way the Armenians don black T-shirts and march around the Federal Bldg. in Westwood as well as at other gov’t venues every April.

  7. teddy says:

    Rita – you have told the truth. Thank you. By moving here, people
    have moved by choicwe to a new land and bringing all the old history
    with them means to me that they still believe that they are in the
    old country. The majority of Americans are not Armenian – they
    are from the every nation in the world.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Ottoman Empire that committed the atrocities no longer exists. Modern Turkey can’t be held responsible for pre- 1915 actions. I’m tired of the Armenians using the US to carry on their resentments. Enough already!

  9. The Ottoman Empire? Yes…that’s one hell of a great furniture store in Glendale! I’m sorry to hear it doesn’t exist anymore. As for marching in black T-shirts, if re-elected, I’ll have them prosecuted for blocking traffic and charge them all under felony statutes. VOTE TRU! TRU-LY YOURS, CARMEN!

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      Classic, Wayne— Can’t ya just HEAR him? (By the way I hear “Sit N’Sleep”‘s gonna start carrying a line of designer prayer rugs. Lowest price or your fatwah is FREEEE!!” No FBI interest for the first two years.)

    • El Quixotian says:

      Hmmm, over by Quixote Studios (no relation…yet!) down by the old Levitz? Our Little Armenia bureau was ordorned by a beautiful carpet procured while they were closing down…something like 50-60% off!

  10. teddy says:

    For a carefully taught belief?
    No way!!!!
    We have enough problems as it is!
    Please just pray for them. Thank you.

  11. Re: Ms. Rita’s comment—If I wasn’t running for Office, I’d laugh myself sick with that sit n’ sleep comment. Officially up till the third week of May—My My, how offensive! Oh…VOTE ME IN FOR A 2ND TERM!!!

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