Daily Illini, IL
April 26 2004
Armenian association holds vigil to remember World War I genocide
By Rachel Bass | Staff writer
Published Monday, April 26, 2004
Huddled together fighting the wind against the bleak, rainy sky, the
members of ArmA, the University’s Armenian Association, held their
first candlelight vigil on Saturday night to commemorate the Armenian
genocide during World War I.
Despite its end 81 years ago, the Armenian Genocide and its horrors
remain vivid in the mind of Zaruhi Sahakyan, a graduate student in
economics and the club’s president.
“We need to raise awareness and make it known that we shouldn’t
forget,” Sahakyan said.
Defined by Laine Pehta, ArmA’s treasurer and senior in LAS, as a
“concerted effort by a political power to completely destroy a
culture,” the Armenian genocide claimed the lives of 1,500,000
people. The Turkish government attempted to annihilate the Armenian
population of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918, and then
again between 1920 and 1923. Diseases plagued the concentration camps
and many others suffered starvation and thirst during the deportation
to Syria. Those that escaped fled to Russia.
Areg Danagoulian, a teaching assistant in physics, emphasized the
importance of remembering the Armenian genocide.
“This was an actual attempt to systematically exterminate a people.
The victims were our ancestors,” Danagoulian said. “When it’s
forgotten, it ends up happening again.”
Sahakyan explained that the international observance for the genocide
occurs on April 24 because on that night in 1915, the Turkish
government arrested more than 200 Armenian intellects and public
“The largest obstacle to overcome now is that the government that
perpetrated this strongly denies it,” Pehta said. “The official
Turkish policy is that this did not happen.”
Nevertheless, the United Nations’ Genocide Convention acknowledges
the Armenian Genocide. Thirty-three U.S. states also officially
recognize it, the most recent of which was Idaho, Sahakyan said.
As part of the candlelight vigil, Pehta read an excerpt from Burning
Tigris, a book by Peter Balakian, an Armenian intellectual who
teaches at Colgate University. Those gathered also recited prayers
and observed a moment of silence.
Lauren Buchakjian, freshman in business, then performed a piece on
the violin by Armenian composer Komitas, titled “Krunk” — which
translates to “swallow.”
“Komitas was a victim of the genocide,” Buchakjian said. “This song
is a portrayal of what he saw and what he felt, and it depicts the
deep sadness that people felt.”
The Rev. George Pyle of the Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church in
Champaign attended to lend his support and stand in solidarity. He
also came to remember his grandmother who suffered in the 1922
“If we forget hatred, we will relieve it,” Pyle said. “I choose to
remember the Armenians and I choose to remember all people who have