Students Recognize Armenian Genocide

Nune Alaverdyan | Staff Photographer

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.

Paul Backus contributed to this report.