USC: Vigil Remembers Genocide

“Vigil remembers genocide”
Hymns and poems are used to commemorate the Armenian genocide that occurred
89 years ago.
By Aaron Burgin

Published: Friday, April 23, 2004 — USC Daily Trojan

Adrineh Khatchikian’s voice lifted the spirits of a somber crowd of
200 Armenian students, faculty and other onlookers commemorating the
genocide that nearly wiped out a population of Armenians almost 90
years ago.

Singing “Kroonk,” a hymn written by famed Armenian monk and songwriter
Komitas, Khatchikian was part of the annual vigil held at Hahn Plaza
created to inform people about the Armenian genocide, said Dina
Yadegarian, president of the Armenian Student Association

April 24 is the official memorial date for the estimated 1.5-million
Armenians killed between 1915 and 1922 at the hands of the Talaat
Pasha and the defunct Ottoman Empire.

Commemorations were held at USC on Thursday, however, to ensure that
most of the campus’ Armenian student population, mostly commuters,
could participate, Yadegarian said.

Some who participated in the vigil, such as Markar Markavian,
performed musical pieces for the event.

Markavian performed “Dele Yaman and “Kroonk” on the tar, a traditional
Armenian musical instrument, bringing some of the onlookers to tears.

Several speakers, including ASA chaplain Father Vazken Movsesian and
poet Lory Bedikian, addressed the crowd with a message of hope for the
future and a possible recognition of the genocide by the Turkish
government, which does not recognize the genocide.

Movsesian, known as “Father Vazken” to students, said that there was
an air of excitement surrounding the solemn occasion.

“It is a very momentous occasion, because, despite the atrocities, the
Turkish government’s plans were foiled just by the presence of
Armenians,” Movsesian said. “It just shows our strength as a people,
and our resolve to keep the memory of our people alive.”

Bedikian, a University of Oregon alumna, read two poems in honor of
her grandmother, Sion Abajian, who, at 100 years of age, is one of the
few living survivors of the genocide.

She urged passersby to stop to recognize the event and to read the
posters, brochures and pamphlets that told the story of the Armenians.

The “ghosts” she spoke about in her poem that haunt her grandmother
came from the lack of official recognition of the genocide.

“It makes you feel like being the victim of a crime,” Bedikian
said. “You feel alone and isolated.”

In his speech, Movsesian said that the lack of acknowledgement of the
genocide led to other genocides throughout the 20th century.

“It adds insult to injury because of what we’ve gone through, the lack
of recognition made the way for the Holocaust, Rwanda, Ethiopia and
all sorts of atrocities,” he said.

“Hitler himself said, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?'” Movsesian said.

In terms of recognition by the U.S. government, the House of
Representatives recognized the Armenian genocide on April 24, 1975 by
designating April 24 as a “National Day of Remembrance of Man’s
Inhumanity to Man.”

Student Senate also recognized the Armenian genocide on April 24,

Only with recognition, Movsesian said, can the healing process
actually begin, adding that only then could the Armenian deaths not be
in vain.

All of the speakers said the event was not meant to incite hatred
toward anyone, but to recognize the events that occurred and the
people who suffered and continue to recognize their legacy.

Armenians who attended the commemoration looked on with grave faces as
the speakers each addressed the audience with their words of
encouragement and remembrance of their ancestors lost during the

Arpine Shakhbandaryan, a student who attended the vigil, said she
could only remember as far back as her great-grandparents’ generation,
something that her friends who were with her could relate to.

She said the main reason she was there was because too many of the
original survivors died without seeing any changes.

“I’m angry and frustrated because most of those who survived are
either of old age or dying without seeing justice,” she said. “We’re
going to continue to battle so that these memories aren’t forgotten.”

Vazken said he believes that the Armenians’ strong Christian faith and
belief in the resurrection will carry the day.

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its national

“We are the only nation who have adopted Christianity, never to enjoy
a day of peace in their existence,” Movsesian said. “We’ve always been
the object of persecution and opposition.”

“However, Armenians strongly believe in the Christian notion of the
resurrection, and we will always be strong and rise above all the
adversity that has befallen our people.”