CSUN: Lawn display commemorates Armenian Genocide

“Lawn Display Commemorates Armenian Genocide”

CSUN Daily Sundial
Thursday, April 23, 2004

By Ani Asatryan
Contributing Writer

More than 500 red carnations and two piles of bloody bones have been
placed on display in the middle of the Oviatt Lawn this week as part
of an event organized by the Alpha Omega Alpha Armenian sorority to
commemorate the 89th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

`We wanted to promote awareness in the CSUN community regarding
thetragic events that took place in 1915, which has been continually
denied by the Turkish government,’ said Armine Asatryan, director of
cultural affairs forthe sorority.

The flowers scattered across the quad each represent approximately
2,700 men, women and children who were massacred by the Ottoman Empire
during World War I.

The bones, one pile slightly smaller than the other, symbolically
represent two mountains in Armenia’s history: Mount Ararat and Mount

`The mountains have been twin pillars of hope and strength for the
Armenian people all throughout history,’ said Sylvia Barsegian,
treasurer for the sorority. `Even though the Ottoman Empire tried to
exterminate us, those mountains, just a few feet from our border,
still stand, just like the Armenian people still exist and will
continue to exist.’

The display has been attracting the attention of people passing by who
can’t help but notice the pile of bloody bones in the middle of

`When I first saw it I got goose bumps,’ said Jerry Avetisyan, junior
business major. `I’m not very involved in the Armenian community or
educated about the history. Being an Armenian myself, … if there’s
one thing every Armenian knows about, it’s the Genocide, and this pile
of bones actually puts that history into reality and you really get a
sense of what happened.’

Others didn’t react the same way toward the display and thought it was

`Some people are disturbed by it because they think it’s too harsh;
imagine the suffering of the people who had to go through it,’ said
Christina Malyan, vice president of the sorority. `If you find it
disturbing, you canalways walk away, but 1.5 million Armenians
couldn’t and the generations to follow can’ t walk away from their

Jon Pinnere, graduate senator for Associated Students, was impressed
with the display and said he was delighted to see the organization was
getting the word out.

`When I first saw it, I thought there was a funeral going on and then
I read the signs and realized it was for the Armenian Genocide,’ said
Pinnere. `I think something like this is very effective.’

`We wanted to do something to catch someone’s attention, something
unusual to entice a person to stop and look at it,’ said
Asatryan. `CMen, women and children were massacred without any
mercy and we wanted to honor their memory with our display and show
the world we have not forgotten and we never will.’

News of the display quickly spread among the Armenian community, which
reacted with support and encouragement for the organization.

`The most important thing is that students are taking a stance on this
very important issue, because students are the ones that affect social
and political change,’ said Ardashes Kassakhian, Armenian National
Committee government relations director for the Western region. `This
generation didn’t suffer the Genocide or its aftereffects and
it’s very encouraging to see them carrying the torch of justice.’

The Turkish government actively continues to deny the Armenian
Genocide. According to the Web site , Turkey
blames wartime traditions on the death of so many Armenians.

Levon Marashlian, a history professor at Glendale Community College,
believes there are two reasons why the genocide is being denied.

One of the reasons for denial is based on human nature. According to
Marashlian, it is human nature to deny faults because the Turkish
government knows they did something wrong and they are embarrassed by

Another reason for the denial is the consequences Turkey will face if
it admits to the genocide.

`Admitting guilt is harmful to their national image, and Turkey is
afraid that admittance will lead to consequences and to justice,’ said
Marashlian. `It’ s like getting a speeding ticket. There are
consequences: you have to pay a fine, attend traffic school and your
insurance might go up.’

The AOA sorority is a fairly new organization on campus, having been
officially recognized as a club since November 2003.

`Our main goal with anything we do on campus is to educate the
CSUNcommunity about the Armenian culture and Armenian causes,’ said
Angineh Abed,president of the sorority. `We work toward the
advancement of our culture notonly within ourselves but with other
cultures as well.’

In its short time of existence the sorority has hosted and
participated in a series of community events, including toy drives for
Northridge Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, a `Feed
the Homeless’ program, and a college fair.

At the display, Abed stood silent for a moment and then sighed deeply
as she rearranged a carnation that had fallen to the ground.

`We put a lot of hard work into this project, and our main goal wasto
educate the CSUN community about the first genocide of the twentieth
century,’ said Abed. `It needs to be recognized and it still hasn’t
and even if just one person learns something new from this and knows
about our history, then we’re one step closer to justice.’