Armenian students commemorate past genocide

The California Aggie Online
April 26 2004

Armenian students commemorate past genocide

Aggie Staff Writer

The vigil took place when the sun was still out Friday evening, but
candles were lit nonetheless in remembrance of the 1.5 million
victims of the Armenian genocide, which took place from 1915 to 1923.
The massacre was backed by the Ottoman Turk government, and is known
as the first genocide of the 20th century.

The commemoration event concluded Armenian Genocide Awareness Week,
and featured speeches and poems from UC Davis students and members of
the Armenian community. The event was put on by the Armenian Student

“It’s not the people they want to erase, it’s our history,” said
Karen Sarkissian, a UCD alumna. Sarkissian told the story of her
grandfather, who was one of many Armenians exiled to Syria. During
his stays in various German-run camps, he learned the German
language. His knowledge of Armenian and German led him to eventually
become a translator for the German army and survived the genocide.

Once the largest minority group in Turkey, millions of Armenians were
executed, starved and died of disease while forced to march into
Syria. The events occurred when the new leadership in Turkey – a
group called the Young Turks – was trying to establish itself as a
World War I power.

Close to a century later, Turkey – a close U.S. ally – continues to
deny the events.

The United States also does not recognize the incident as genocide.
In the last eight annual speeches commemorating Armenian Genocide
Week, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did not use the term
“genocide.” Bush called the events a “great calamity” in his 2003
commemoration speech.

“Every election we get a president who promises to get the genocide
recognized.but they always ignore it immediately,” said Taline
Gulesserian, a UCD law student.

The U.S. Congress has also heard several bills that recognize the
event but have never reached a vote. However, 33 states, including
California, have issued proclamations acknowledging the genocide.

Gulesserian said she was pleased that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
included the term “genocide” in his commemoration speech at the state
Capitol on Saturday.

“Denial is killing them twice,” said sophomore Garo Manjikian, ASA

The Canadian government formally recognized the Armenian genocide on
Wednesday, according an Armenian National Committee of America press
release. Canada joins France and Greece as countries recognizing the

During the week of tabling on campus, Gulesserian said she was
surprised at the number of non-Armenians who have heard about the
incident. Aside from members speaking to students, ASA also showed a
documentary on denial and recognition.

Participants at the vigil were also concerned about the number of
Turkish-endowed scholars teaching in the U.S. Beginning in the late
1990s, the Turkish government has been pushing to endow Turkish
studies programs in major universities in the U.S. with donations up
to $1 million.

According to reports in their campus newspapers, UCLA and UC Berkeley
have both since rejected such endowments.

At the end of the vigil, students recited the Lord’s Prayer in
Armenian and observed a moment of silence.

“Recognition can help ensure the lesson’s learned and can be used to
prevent further atrocities against Armenians and other groups,” said
speaker Christine Vahramian.