UCI students gathered near Langson Library on Feb. 9 to mourn the Armenian Genocide, along with hundreds of students at college campuses around the country. The action, called the “Stain of Denial,” was organized by the Armenian Student Association at UCI.
The Armenian Genocide was the systematic killing of over 1.5 million Armenian, Greek and Assyrian people by the Ottoman Empire starting in April 1915 and ending in 1923.
Lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” and described it as a concept in 1943 after his study of the treatment of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.
At the action, UCI students covered their mouths with red tape and held signs reading “Humanity over Politics,” “Never Forget, Always Remember,” “Genocide Demands Justice,” and “Why should political superiority silence truth & justice?”
The Republic of Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, does not recognize the genocide and in fact denies that the events that occurred constitute a genocide. Congressional proposals to recognize the genocide, as well as other recognitions worldwide, often receive intense criticism from Turkey’s government.
In Turkey, Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions. It has been used to bring criminal charges against critics of the Turkish government, particularly those who recognize the genocide.
In late 2005, Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk had charges brought against him for recognizing the genocide in an interview with a Swiss magazine.
Worldwide, only 28 countries fully recognize the Armenian Genocide. Recognition by the United States is complicated. Forty-five U.S. states recognize the genocide, including California, but the federal government of the United States does not. Despite high-ranking U.S. officials and former presidents like Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama having called the events a genocide, presidential administrations have generally refused to refer to the events as such. Over the past several decades, presidential administrations have feared alienating the Turkish government, which it considers an important strategic ally in the region.
Since the genocide 102 years ago, Armenian groups worldwide have been active in mourning the genocide and spreading awareness of it in the name of human rights.