By Nicole Wong
UC Irvine’s Armenian Student Association (ASA) hosted their annual Commemoration Ceremony as part of their Genocide Awareness Week last Wednesday night in Pacific Ballroom in honor of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Genocide Awareness Week was organized to bring attention to the tragedy suffered in April 1915 by millions of Armenians in Turkey. Under the Ottoman Empire, Armenian citizens were systematically exterminated, deported and underwent death marches and mass murders.
Beyond the Commemoration Ceremony, UCI’s Genocide Awareness Week events included a movie screening of the 2014 film, “The Cut,” about the life of a young Armenian man during the genocide, and a candlelight vigil for the lives lost.
The ceremony at UCI started with an Armenian prayer for the 1.5 million people who were killed during the genocide.
Co-Cultural Chairs Arvin Demerjian and Keysi Ekmekciyan followed with a short speech about the important role the current generation plays in remembering this tragedy.
“We are their voices and they live through us,” said Demerjian. “As the new generation, it has become our job to continue sharing these stories of lives lost and lives saved. We cannot forget the atrocities of 1915 that were unjustly committed and denied.”
While many countries and historians recognize the event as genocide, the Turkish government has still failed to do so, calling those who died casualties of war.
“I continuously ponder the question of how long a people can demand justice from a government that doesn’t seem to budge,” said ASA President Hasmik Piliposyan. “I ask you all today to think about what will be different during the 105th and 110th anniversaries of this horrific tragedy.”
Ekmekciyan performed an original song titled “Recognize,” calling for Turkey’s government to acknowledge the suffering of so many Armenian people.
“100 years passed, and yet you still deny,” she sang. “When will you people recognize the genocide?”
Other students and members of the Armenian community stepped up to recite poems and share their family’s experiences of being Armenian in America.
The last speaker was ASA Treasurer Sarkis Grigorian, who recited a fictional story he wrote about the tragic fate of a young Armenian couple at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Grigorian stated that, although he was glad his story was fictional, for millions of Armenians, such experiences were a reality.
Many ASA members with ancestors who survived the genocide took time to mourn for their suffering and share their stories. During the event, ASA member Anna Dalyan displayed her photo series of nineteen UC Irvine Armenian students telling their families’ survival stories.
“It’s an opportunity to bring Armenian students in the community together in commemorating this pain that continues,” said Piliposyan. “The pain that we suffer with daily as Armenians, this denial by the Turkish state [and] the denial of the killing of our people.”