To deny the genocide, is to deny that I exist, but I stand here as a survivor, a grieving child of a victim. The blood that flows in me is the same blood that was flowing in my ancestors who suffered and whose blood was spilled by the hands of the Ottoman Turks. They burned us, but they did not know that our flames would spark new generations.
Every summer, I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to visit my motherland, to visit my family who still continues to remember the dark reality of the genocide, but 2004 brings forth an unforgettable trip to Armenia. That summer, I spent two months experiencing Armenia in a new light, not with its delicious restaurants, breathtaking landmarks and historical monuments, but instead I traced back the hardship of my ancestors during the Armenian Genocide, the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians. I learned that I am a child whose great-grandfather was thrown in the river seven times to drown. I am a child whose great-grandfather witnessed the murder of his six brothers, whose bones were scattered through the desert and whose pregnant mother was brutally stabbed to death. Today, April 24, I mourn, I remember, but most importantly I celebrate my family tree.
While attending an Armenian middle school, I was taught the true strength of my nationality, the ability to rise after one has fallen and the courage to never forget where we came from. We continue to rebuild our churches, embrace our folk dance, proudly sing our songs, play our ancient instruments, recite our powerful poetry and live to tell our story. After 100 years of denial, 100 years of pain, we still recall all the children left orphans, all adults without their mates. The occurrence of the genocide is undeniable, this I confess. Yet 100 years later, Armenians still relive this mess.
Our race cannot be destroyed, our voices will be heard, our prayers will be answered and we will continue our fight for justice. I am the 1.5 million, and I have 1.5 million reasons to say, “I am proud to be Armenian!”
For us Armenians, we will continue to stand together, hand in hand as brothers and sisters, side by side as supporters and heart to heart as lovers. While their aim was to demolish our race, erase our beautiful culture and leave us with silent tears of pain, we are living proof that they indeed tried, but the Ottoman Turks failed. As William Saroyan said, “Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
|As the UCI Armenian Student Association (ASA) president and as an Armenian, I have a strong connection with my people and the obstacles we have had to face throughout history. This year is more special because it marks the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and it drives me even more to organize anything possible to raise awareness and fight for recognition.|
Growing up I remember marching with my father and now, with the help of my great executive board and dozens of patriotic Armenian students, I am organizing cultural and humanitarian events in an effort to bring Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide to an end.
My philosophy is that if there was even one person who did not know of the Armenian Genocide and through our campus-wide events became more knowledgeable, then our campaign can be deemed successful.
I am so proud of my Armenian communities across the globe, standing up together and expressing to the world that, although we have lost so much, we have retained our culture and heritage. We were spread thin through murder and deportation, but 100 years later 130,000 of us Armenians marched the streets of Hollywood toward the Turkish Consulate, the Eiffel Tower’s lights turned off to remember our people, the Pope stood in front of the world during his sermon and described this mass killing of the Armenians as “Genocide” and countless non-Armenians stood with us in the fight for recognition. I am proud to be Armenian. I am proud that the Genocide does not define me, rather my strength and determination to keep the flame of my ancestors burning.
– Aram Akhverdyan
Fourth-year, biological sciences.
100 years of pain and suffering have bound our people together,
We have become a race known for our loss,
Remembered for our misfortune,
And marked by our tragedy.
100 years ago I would have been ripped from the arms of my mother
As they took away my brothers and my father
Marched and marched and marched
We have felt more fear
Far great than anything experienced in a horror movie
It’s more than a lifetime
An entire race attempted to be exterminated like animals, animals
To think we were not even considered to be human beings.
They were hung in the streets like they were laundry
Waiting for the blood dripping down their limbs to dry
Mer mayrere, kuyrere (Translation: Our mothers, sisters)
Robbed of their virtue
I think this is the only time it is acceptable
To not have to use your imagination
To not have to imagine what we have endured
Hitler once said,
“Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Meaning to destroy?
We are survivors, we have survived
It should be one hundred years of survival
We have experienced loss
But through it all,
We have come to understand our strength
100 years of strength it should be called.
Because who else could have endured all that agony
Have lived to produce a group of people like this,
Filled with future doctors, lawyers, engineers
They say you can feel a certain kind of pain
When it’s strong enough to burn holes in your heart
But did they even know anything, anything
About the capability of an Armenian heart?
Hayi sirte voche meke chuni they say (Translation: No one has the heart of an Armenian)
100 years and we have grown to be invincible,
We have been able to patch up those holes
We are Armenian,
Genocide does not define us.
So show me your scars
Show the entire world
Display them proudly
For they will forever be etched in our skin
Tattooed on our hearts
And running through our veins
See what has been done to us
What 100 years of survival has produced.
– Lusine Bareghamyan
|As I stood in front of my fellow students at the candlelight vigil in memory of the Armenian Genocide, my words flowed just as readily as my emotions.|
It is impossible for me to talk about my identity and not consider the Armenian Genocide as a painful piece of me. It may sound strange to some people to think that a current generation of young Armenians can have such a strong connection to a genocide that happened 100 years ago, but for me there is a sense of uneasiness when it comes to the denial of any humanitarian injustice, no matter the group of people or the amount of time that has passed.
However, as an Armenian-American and a student of UC Irvine, whose legislative council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the denial of the Armenian genocide, I can proudly say that when we all come together against injustice, it cannot prevail.
– Lusine Bareghamyan
Fifth-year, international studies major, literary journalism minor.
It’s hard to explain how it feels to be Armenian. It’s an unimaginably heart-aching, empowering and wonderful existence all at the same time. I grew up learning about the atrocities committed against my ancestors, how we are the people who were supposed to be annihilated; how my ancestral lands currently fall under Turkish borders and about how we must collectively fight for justice and seek recognition of our “forgotten” past.
As a Diasporan, I was born into the Armenian cause and, throughout the years, the cause played a significant role in shaping my identity. 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, my country and my people continue to grow and flourish. We’re stronger and more united than ever and that’s such a beautiful thing to witness. Our culture is so vibrant and it’s a marvelous feeling embracing it today.
I am a descendent of the Armenian Genocide and while it’s a painful fact to come to terms with, it’s honestly the most powerful and astonishing feeling ever.
– Carla Kekejian
Third-year, English and education sciences.