May 5, 2010
In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were annihilated.
Some refer to what happened as a tragedy, and others use the phrase “Medz Yeghern,” meaning “great calamity,” to allude to it.
However, today, Armenians are still fighting for recognition of the catastrophe that occurred in 1915 as “genocide.”
The Armenian Student Association held a commemorative event marking the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 22 in LB 220 at noon.
The event featured guest speaker Father Vazken Movsesian, priest of the St. Peter Armenian Church in Glendale. He spoke about why the genocide should be recognized and its implications for the present and future of global society.
Early on in the presentation he discussed what he deemed an inaccurate report made by USC Annenberg TV about an Armenian commemoration held at USC. The report discussed the commemoration and what happened in 1915, but it did not refer to either of these as genocide.
“What they reported was that the Armenians got together to remember the ‘tragedy’ that befell them,” Movsesian said.
“When the event name is ‘Armenian Genocide Commemoration,’ and you as a reporter don’t even report the name, what are you saying? You’re saying that somebody told you to take off that name.”
According to Movsesian, “there is no other side to the story. It’s genocide.”
He continued: “We’re all victims of genocide. We’re all children of genocide, because this affects each and every one of us.”
Movsesian highlighted a response given by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to a question posed by California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Glendale), as to why the Armenian Genocide is the only one the United States is “incapable of recognizing.”
Rice responded to this by saying that the United States encouraged Turks and Armenians to examine their past, and by doing so, “to get over it.”
“So we as Armenians have a tough, tough situation,” Movsesian said in reply to this, adding that the genocide should be remembered and recognized.
Because America has yet to recognize the genocide, Movsesian applied the implications of the event to issues currently facing society, specifically the Rwandan genocide and the war in Darfur.
He shared with the audience that he took a trip to Rwanda in Africa in 2006.
“The reason why I went there, I figured, if I saw Rwanda in 2006, I’d know what it was like to be in Armenia [in] 1925.
“Obviously our stories are a little bit different. Armenians were thrown out of their country, Rwandans still are there, but they do present us an opportunity to [see], how do you survive with the perpetrator right above you?”
He encouraged the audience to maintain awareness of the event that took place in 1915 and of issues facing today’s world.
“You have technology at your hands,” he said. “It’s great to play Farmville; put a time limit. Give it 10 minutes, then spend the same 10 minutes looking into genocide issues … I know it’s fun, keep up with the Kardashians, OK? Now give yourself 50 minutes to keep up with what’s going on in Armenia.”
To wrap up his presentation, Movsesian discussed the war in Darfur to reemphasize the importance of the Armenian Genocide.
“1915 was the first step. The second step was the Holocaust. Then came Cambodia. Then came Bosnia. Then came Rwanda, and now, it’s happening in Darfur.
“Learn about it,” he said about the situation in Darfur. “Blog about it. Put yourself in their shoes. Walk with them. Feel what it’s like. Understand what the story’s about. Right now in Darfur, every morning parents have to make the decision, ‘Who’s going to go out to get the water for the family?’ And you know who gets to go out?
“They send out the girl to go get the water and this is because the worst thing that will happen to her is that she will only get raped…. Parents shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
He concluded by urging those present to also take part in upcoming commemorative events, including a fast that was held on campus on April 24.
“We as Armenians have a past. We need to bring that past into the present and make it work to forge the future,” he said.
As the event approaches the 100-year mark, many are still far from letting it fade away in history without recognition.
“My ancestors experienced one of the greatest atrocities between the years of 1915 [to] 1923,” said Tevin Chopurian, president of the Armenian Student Association. “[We] as a nation are still fighting for recognition and reparation. Fighting to get our historic lands back and advocating so that history won’t repeat itself.”
The event has yet to be recognized by the Turkish government as genocide, and Turks feel differently from Armenians about the issue.
The report posted by Annenberg TV News presented the viewpoints of some Turkish students, including Rifat Tigli who said, “These people, who have never been to Armenia, who doesn’t know about Armenian culture and Turkish culture, are making claims about my history.”
Another Turkish student, Enes Kilic, said that both Armenians and Turks suffered from the event in 1915.
“My father’s family went through tough times. They were attacked by their own neighbors,” he said.
Other Turks appear ready to move forward. According to Hakan Tekin, consul general of Turkey in Los Angeles, said, “We want to build bridges of friendship with the Armenian community.”
Rep. Schiff has previously attempted to introduce legislation to recognize what happened as genocide. However, Turkey, a key NATO ally and U.S. partner in military functions in Iraq, claims that a genocide never occurred.
The Armenian Genocide is commemorated by Armenians worldwide on April 24.
More information about the GCC Armenian Student Association is available at http://www.gccasa.org.