Students Recognize Armenian Genocide

by Stella Cho, Arshi Khan, and David Lumb

New University Online, CA
April 28 2008

Photo: Nune Alaverdyan | Staff Photographer Darfur Action Committee
event coordinator Sevag Mahserejian informs students about atrocities
committed against Armenians in 1915.

For Armenians, April 24, 1915 is recognized as the start of the
Armenian Genocide, an extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by Turkish
forces. The day carries the charge of injustice for those descendents
of the half-million Armenians who were lucky enough to survive,
and as such has been commemorated by the UC Irvine Armenian Student
Association in recent years through the "Peace, Love and Genocide"
event series.

The events remembering the genocide lasted from April 21 to 24. These
events were held to inform individuals about the tragedy and to
celebrate the enduring nature of the Armenian people.

For Thursday night’s presentation, Mariya Andriasian, a third-year
biological sciences major, opened the commemoration in English.

"The 93rd commemoration of the Armenian Genocide [are] simple words
that may strike a sense of familiarity for some … or anger, despair
and a sense of community for others," Andriasian said.

Following opening comments, Gary Ohanian, a third-year biological
sciences major, performed an original composition on piano accompanied
by audio clips. The news report sound bites described the purportedly
increased tensions between the United States and Turkey, should
Congress pass a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

At the event, artist Madelyne Oliver, a member of the Darfur Action
Committee and a second-year anthropology and art history double-major,
captured the brooding mood of the night’s events on a canvas painted
throughout the night.

"Because of the bloodshed and suffering, I pushed the red paint to
the [left] side of the canvas. In the middle, I used brighter colors
like blue and green because they’re more hopeful and optimistic,"
Oliver said.

At the center of her piece, Oliver painted two people at the
top of a mound "looking down and watching their culture fall
downhill." According to Oliver, the bright yellow paint behind the
miniature figures at the top represent the Armenians moving "past
their history."

Sevag Mahseredjian, a fourth-year psychology major and the event
coordinator for "Love, Peace and Genocide," agreed that the Armenian
genocide is an event worth remembering.

"It is up to us to educate others to prevent [similar] atrocities
from ever occurring," Mahseredjian said.

Earlier that day, Mahseradjian led a group in a mock protest and handed
out signs with provocative messages such as: "U.S. … Recognize the
Armenian Genocide!" and "Never Forget!"

Although aimed at the college community, individuals of various ages
participated in activities throughout the week. One young girl recited
a poem in Armenian about the suffering of her people at the candlelight
vigil. Translated into English, the poem contained the words, "Even
with all that’s happened we are, we will be and we will grow."

The main guest speaker of the night, Ara Malazian, a member of the
Armenian National Committee, recalled speaking at the 2006 incarnation
of the event when four Turkish students protested the event.

According to Malazian, though ASA apologized to him for the protest,
Malazian stated that he was glad it happened as it proved that the
Armenians are justified in raising awareness about the genocide.

Despite the increasing attention that the genocide has received,
many believe that Turkey will never admit to the genocide. One such
student was Maral Gazarian, a third-year biological sciences major
and Alpha Gamma Alpha member, who volunteered at the event.

"I’d be shocked if [Turkey] recognized it, because it’s been 93
years. It’s more difficult to accept it," Gazarian said.

Regardless of what stance Turkey takes on the issue, Malazian
stressed that he will continue to raise awareness about Armenian
issues. According to Malazian, his success is evident through the
Armenian diaspora.

"Turkish people [have] signs [that say] we should’ve finished it
… [it] still bothers me. However, I have hope … we have to come
to terms with our past," Malazian said.

Malazian also referenced the attempt to pass a non-binding agreement
known as House Resolution 106 in the United States Congress.

"The House Resolution is not binding, it doesn’t cost Turkey anything
… [however,] it causes them to face their history," Malazian said.

Malazian connected the Armenian Genocide to many other ethnic
cleansings that have occurred in the world and the importance of
recognizing the past mistakes of humanity.

"If we had done something in 1915, maybe Darfur, Rwanda, the Holocaust
wouldn’t have happened," Malazian said.

Prior to the series’ climax, the week began with a Day of the Dead
event modeled after Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos in which a model of
a Turkish skeleton was built. The model was then marched around Ring
Mall in order to evoke the fact that Turkey has yet to acknowledge
its role in the genocide.

Tuesday celebrated Armenian culture by featuring Armenian flute playing
that is known as duduk. The event reflected the style of music popular
among Armenian society during the times the genocide began.

Wednesday’s event raised awareness about the Armenian genocide, as a
group of 50 individuals stood completely still by the UCI flagpoles
and held signs that contained information about the Armenian genocide.

Thursday’s noon meeting at the UCI flagpoles involved volunteers
from a number of student organizations. To represent the thousands
of children killed during the course of the slaughter, a mountain of
bright infant and toddler clothing was stacked in piles in front of
a booth setup by Alpha Gamma Alpha, a multicultural sorority.

Similar to Alpha Gamma Alpha, Alpha Epsilon Omega, a primarily Armenian
fraternity, opened a booth alongside the mound of clothes to display
several shirts for sale. Some shirts were emblazoned with the April
24 motto: "Never Forget" and others lamented the death of Hrant Dink,
a Turkish journalist who was assassinated for speaking out against
the Turkish government about the Armenian Genocide.

Above all, Mahseradjian was proud of the week’s success. "In four days,
I think we’ve accomplished and raised more awareness and educated
more bypassers than any other commemoration that’s ever taken place,"
Mahseradjian commented.

Although Mahseradjian felt the event was a success he admitted that
reaching the UCI community is an uphill battle.

Similarly, Vache Minasyan, a first-year undeclared major, mentioned
that while the event was helpful in raising awareness, more must
be done.

"It’s always good to educate people. We’re doing what’s within our
means here, but we could do more, we should do more, and we will do
more," Minasyan said.

According to Mahseradjian, ASA’s next step in raising awareness about
Armenian issues will be establishing an Armenian history course at UCI.

"We’re working on creating a class here at UCI. We’re almost
done completing that, so if everything works out there will be an
Armenian history class. And of course it would feature the genocide,"
Mahseradjian said.