Armenian Genocide: Affirmation Through Education

New University, CA
April 19 2004

Armenian Genocide:
Affirmation Through Education
by: Taraneh Arhamsadr
Staff Writer

Graphic Illustration By Michelle Le

`Immemorial Muscians,’ a 1997 oil painting by Jacques Aslanian,
conveys a sense of loss among the older generation of Armenians.
Aslanian is known to create art based on his Armenian culture, often
using the topic of exile as a central theme for his work.

Courtesy Of The Armenian Genocide Organization

During the Armenian Genocide, hundreds of thousands of families were
broken. Children were separated from their families and ended up
spending their childhoods in large orphanages.

As inhabitants of a country that allows the free exchange of
knowledge, it is our responsibility to attempt and understand as much
as we can about the world around us. Because of all the negativity
present in our world, some find it easier to shield their eyes from
the pain and suffering, and just go through their daily lives in a
state of ignorant bliss. But it shouldn’t be like this. Upon looking
beyond the high school history books, we find that the most hateful
atrocities passed through time with hardly a whisper. One such
notably horrific event that many know nothing about is the Armenian
genocide – also known as the first holocaust of the 20th century.

Some students believe that a noteworthy cause for the Armenian
genocide in the Ottoman Empire was a rise of nationalism.

Before the late 1800s, Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks lived in
a state of mutual tolerance. But Armenians wished to gain their
independence from the empire, and the fact that the region where they
lived was in between two large Turkish regions – thereby blocking
Turkish domination – made them a much-hated target. For this and many
other reasons, Turkish nationalists began premeditating the perfect
plan to rid their land of these people.

On April 24, 1915, in the early part of World War I, Turkish
nationalists systematically killed hundreds of Armenian community

This marked the start of what no one could possibly fathom – the mass
killing of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian men were drafted into the army believing that they would
contribute to the war effort, but instead were immediately killed or
worked to death.

After the men were removed from the community, the children, women
and elderly complied with commands to relocate. Led across Anatolia
to reach the Syrian Desert, the trip was not without its hardships.
During the `death march,’ many Armenians were raped, starved and
dehydrated, and many died along the way.

Upon reaching the Syrian Desert, whoever remained was immediately

Those who were able to escape, usually with help from Turkish
missionaries, usually had lost most of their family members. Children
ended up in orphanages without an identity. Women lost their
husbands, families were destroyed. In all, 1.5 million people were

While the people of Turkey do not know much about the actions of
their predecessors, the Turkish government has been going out of
their way for decades to affirm that none of this ever happened.

Mark Levine, a professor in the department of history specializing
Middle Eastern history, feels the people of Turkey have not been
given a chance to learn what really happened because of the

`I think it’s mainly the government and everyone involved with it
that’s mainly preaching the denial ideology,’ Levine said. `Though
[the people of Turkey] are more open to talking about it than they
were in the past, they’re never going to learn anything close to the
truth. It’s not going to be an issue that affects their life on a day
to day basis.’

Many Armenians believe that the Turkish government’s efforts only add
to the insult, because they feel that a solution will never be
reached unless governments own up to their past misdeeds.

This week, the Armenian Student Association at UCI is commemorating
and affirming the event. A small but dedicated group, they have
worked tirelessly to make sure that this horrible tragedy is never

`We just want people to know the history. As [Armenian] youth, we’ve
got to continue the story until people accept it and understand it,’
said first-year applied ecology major and ASA committee member Arda

Arjian worked with other ASA members to get the city of Irvine
involved in this event.

`In the city of Irvine, we passed a proclamation about Armenian
genocide, which I wrote. From now, April 24 is going to be a day of
remembrance for Armenian genocide. We don’t want this to be something
that people forget,’ Arjian said.

It is interesting to find a group of young people who have such a
vested interest in their `mother-culture,’ and this may lay in the
fact that this event is still not too far gone.

`I think it’s passed down from fathers and grandfathers, because many
young people have relatives who passed away in the genocide. One of
the biggest reasons that we’re in America to begin with is because
the genocide took place,’ said cultural director of ASA and graduate
student in mechanical and aerospace engineering Vicken Jermakian.

Students of ASA know that they are entitled to learn about anything
they wish as Americans. But they also understand that any society
will attempt to slant their eyes toward certain events while

downplaying others, and it seems that this event is one that is

lesser-known, compared to, for example, the holocaust that

took place against Jews in World War II.

`To me, it’s not about how much publicity we get compared to other
genocides, because I feel that all of them are important,’ Jermakian
said. `It’s been very hard for modern governments to grasp the fact
that genocide is evil. We want the Armenian genocide to be remembered
so as to prevent future genocides from taking place, by educating

This week, a variety of events will be taking place to commemorate
the holocaust. Armenian students would like to see their peers
participate and attempt to learn more about what happened.

On Wednesday evening, there will be a candlelight vigil at 7 P.M.
That same day, there will be a display of Armenian dancing at the
Student Center.

An important event which students should try and attend is a
screening of Atom Egoyan’s film `Ararat’ on Monday evening at 8 P.M.
in HIB 100.

`This movie depicts some of the minor atrocities of the Armenian
genocide. It will help those who know nothing about the genocide. It
gives people a good stepping stone and an idea of what happened when
everyone turned their backs,’ Arjian said.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS