Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia Andy Armenian, right, is shown during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Honorary Consulate of Armenia with U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., left, Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles Sergey Sarkisov, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen and Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian in Henderson on Saturday, April 18, 2015. (Martin S. Fuentes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)About 100 Armenian-Americans, politicians and others from the Las Vegas Valley gathered Saturday in Henderson to celebrate a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the United States’ first Honorary Consulate of Armenia.

The honorary consulate, at 1013 Whitney Ranch Drive near Patrick Lane, joins Armenia’s Consulate General in Los Angeles as the only two such offices in the U.S. representing the country.

The office will serve as a cultural center for the nearly 20,000 Armenian-Americans in the valley and eventually offer passport and visa services for both visiting Armenians and American travelers, according to Honorary Consul Andy Armenian. Armenian, who works as a real estate broker, will run the honorary consulate as an unpaid volunteer.

“This is a great accomplishment for us, and it’ll contribute to the development and growth of Southern Nevada,” Armenian said.

The opening came less than a week before the 100th anniversary of a mass genocide of Armenians. Starting April 24, 1915, nearly 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated in the Ottoman Empire — a genocide that cost Armenia 70 percent of its population, he said.

The remaining 30 percent emigrated to neighboring countries, and thousands went as far as the western United States, where their families remain today, he said.

“It brought many people here to start a new beginning,” Armenian said.

The genocide, which ranks among the largest of the 20th century, according to the United Nations, was the result of a political and religious struggle in the Ottoman Empire between the ruling Turkish government and Armenian citizens.

During the height of World War I, the Islamic “Young Turks” government clashed with a majority Christian Armenian population, Armenian said.

Fearing its Armenian population was supporting Russia, also a Christian nation, the Young Turks, who allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary, began exterminating Armenian men of military age. The genocide lasted through 1923 and eventually included Armenian women and children.

To this date, the Turkish government does not acknowledge the genocide. But Armenian has worked with both state and local officials to recognize what happened.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a proclamation declaring April 19-26 “Days of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”

And Friday, the Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas will host a groundbreaking ceremony at Sunset Park for a permanent Las Vegas memorial.

“It’s important for our community as well as the general public to know this story,” Armenian said. “We’re very grateful for the state of Nevada for giving us hope and opportunity.”

Among the politicians attending the ribbon-cutting were Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen. [images type=”carousel” cols=”five” auto_duration=”3000″ auto_slide=”true” lightbox=”true”]
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