The scene from the arson attack on Ararat Armenian Cemetery in Fresno

Arsonist Strikes Armenian Cemetery ahead of Genocide Commemoration

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By Bruce Clayton

FRESNO (San Joaquin Valley Sun) — An arsonist struck Fresno’s Ararat Armenian cemetery, at 3 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, singeing nearly a dozen historic cypress trees that flank its main drive, a little more than a week before the cemetery and the city’s sizable Armenian-American community commemorate the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The blaze has prompted community members and the cemetery’s managing board of directors to openly question whether the blaze was a deliberate attack ahead of the commemoration of a dark chapter for the local community.

According to cemetery management, eight trees were torched by an arsonist in Saturday’s wee hours.

The incident marks the sixth of its kind since the start of 2024, bringing down more than 19 trees total in the cemetery, whose service to the community dates back to 1885.

The arson comes 11 days before the cemetery’s newer section, dubbed Masis Ararat, is set to host an Armenian Genocide commemoration and flag raising at its Soghomon Tehlirian Monument, dedicated to the revolutionary who assassinated the architect of the Ottoman Empire’s World War I-era genocide against Armenians.

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“As you can imagine, this is horribly upsetting to my Board of Directors, the Armenian community, and my staff and me,” Ararat Cemetery manager Sheri Manning-Cartwright said in a statement to The Sun. “We are the only Armenian cemetery outside Armenia and the Middle East; our mission is to serve Armenian families with compassion in their time of need, while also keeping alive the memory of all who are buried here. The Board, my staff, and I take this mission very seriously. It would be impossible to overstate how upsetting this is to us.”

“These heinous attacks on the Masis Armenian Cemetery are a clear indication that anti-Armenian sentiment is an unaddressed threat to public safety, and especially the Fresno Armenian-American community,” said Oshin Harootoonian, Chair of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors. “The local authorities must investigate the six incidents that have taken place since the beginning of 2024, and ensure that these patterns of crimes are effectively addressed, offender(s) be brought to justice, and that the Armenian-American community is compensated for all damages.”

 

 

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