UCLA: Students commemorate Genocide

Students commemorate Genocide

By Van-Anh Tran
April 22, 2004
[email protected]

About 50 students marched in silence around the UCLA campus Wednesday
in commemoration of the 89th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by
the Turkish government – which some countries, including the United
States, do not officially recognize.

Starting on April 24,1915, the Turkish government of the Ottoman
Empire started an ethnic cleansing policy by relocating its Armenian
population toSyria.

Between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have been
killed, and no consensus number is agreed upon by historians.

There is also debate on whether the killing of Armenians during World
War I by the Turkish government can be called a genocide, but most
Armenian students on campus don’t see it as a debatable issue.

“The Armenian genocide is not a political issue, but a historical
fact,” said Raffi Kassabian, treasurer of the Armenian Student
Association and a third-year political science student. “As a great
civilization, we must learn from the past so we will not repeat what
happened in the future.”

Participants in the silent march were dressed in black and carried
posters with slogans like “Recognition ends repetition” and “We seek

One poster bore an American eagle with the message “United We Stand,”
despite the fact the U.S. government has not officially acknowledged
the genocide. The silent march ended with a presentation, including
speeches, poetry readings and music performances at Bruin Plaza.

“We do these events to increase the awareness about the genocide,
because there have been denial in the past on campus about it,” said
Christina Ohanian, cultural director of the Armenian Student
Association and a second-year political science student.

The association sponsored the event with the help of Alpha Epsilon
Omega and Alpha Omega Alpha, UCLA’s Armenian fraternity and sorority,

“It is important that Armenian students organize such events, because
one unrecognized genocide tells us it’s OK that it happened and that
we do not need to recognize it,” said Lory Bedikian, a 1994 alumna who
read poetry at the presentation.

Sion Abajian, Bedikian’s grandmother, is an Armenian genocide survivor
who still has nightmares about her experiences crossing the Syrian
desert, Bedikian said. Abajian used to talk a lot about her
experiences and has burning sensations on her feet that doctors
speculate are caused psychologically from her memories, Bedikian said.

Posters and information were displayed on Bruin Plaza throughout the
day to attract students and offer more information about the genocide.

“I believe that if we would have recognized the genocide of 1915, then
it wouldn’t have been repeated in Rwanda and Bosnia,” said Tamar
Nazerin, member of Alpha Omega Alpha and a third-year physical science

The only U.S. president to recognize the killings as a genocide was
Ronald Reagan.

Concerns for U.S.-Turkish relations have often been cited as the main
reason for the United States not formally acknowledging the
genocide. Many nations, including France, Israel, Russia and Canada,
have recognized that the genocide was a crime against humanity.

UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a resolution
Tuesday night acknowledging all the atrocities perpetuated against
humanity, including the Armenian killings.