April 24 marks the 90th anniversary of the the Armen-
ian genocide of 1915.
About 1.5 million Armenians in the eastern Anatolia region and
in western Armenia were killed under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman government, said Hermine Mahseredjian, CSUN instructor and director of the Armenian Studies Program.
“We just want humanity to recognize it,” Mahseredjian said. “From there, we can stop other injustices from happening.”
Mahseredjian said 1.5 million Armenians were massacred, out of a total of 4 million Armenians in that region during World War I.
According to Mahseredjian, the Turkish government still denies the accusations of genocide, claiming there were numerous casualties due to war.
“That’s a big fat lie,” Mahseredjian said.
Although it took place during World War I, the Armenian people of that region were strategically annihilated, Mahseredjian said. The government first eliminated Armenian intellectuals, leaders, and men, leaving women, children and the elderly last,
Armen Carapetian, government relations director of the Armenian National Committee of America western region, said the organization was founded partly to bring awareness and recognition of the Armenian genocide.
“Our basic attempt is to make sure the history of the genocide is truthfully told and truthfully remembered,” Carapetian said.
ANCA has been successful in having laws passed that stipulate California schools must teach about the Armenian genocide, Carapetian said. That way, people can become aware of the history, he said.
More than 170 congressmembers have signed a letter urging President Bush to not “evade (using) the word genocide” in his annual address regarding the issue, Carapetian said.
“If Turkey finds it offensive to be truthful, then I find it offensive to not be truthful,” Carapetian said.
According to Carapetian, this is not something that only the Armenian people are claiming, but an issue historians have recognized and written about.
Another effort is being made by the band System of a Down, which is holding its third annual Souls benefit concert at the Universal Amphitheatre April 24.
About 8,500 people are expected to attend the concert. The proceeds will be given to various charities, including the ANCA, said bassist Shavo Odadjian.
Carapetian said the ANCA uses those funds to work on the Armenian genocide recognition effort, as well as the recognition of modern cases of genocide that are taking place, such as in Sudan.
Odadjian said the reason for putting on a concert is to raise awareness.
“I felt like it’s an issue to be voiced,” Odadjian said.
The issue of genocide is something that has always been prevalent since Odadjian was a child, especially coming from an Armenian school, where he was taught the history of it repeatedly, he said. It isn’t only a political issue, but one that is personal to Odadjian. He said he cannot trace his family tree to his ancestors, just like many other Armenians.
“It was a crime against humanity,” Odadjian said. He wants people to “open their minds and ears to all the injustices going on in the world.”
Odadjian said he believes the souls of his ancestors will not rest until there is recognition.
Lena Kaimian, director of the Armenian Assembly western region, said the organization is an advocacy group that also works to help the Armenian cause. Like ANCA, the Armenian Assembly is working to reaffirm use of the word genocide to describe the 1915 atrocities.
“It’s a very strong and important issue for our community and the Armenian nation as a whole,” Kaimian said.
Kaimian said the reason the United States has not gone on record is due to political reasons, because the United States is a NATO ally with Turkey.
“Turkey uses the NATO card to get the United Sates to not reaffirm the genocide,” Kaimian said.
Turkey is looking to apply to become part of the European Union. Kaimian said there are certain requirements that need to be met, one of which is that Turkey reexamine its past.
“They are trying to make it a non-existent issue,” Kaimian said. “It’s a responsibility for us to continue to pursue this.”
The group is working to make April 24 a day of observance as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in California, Kaimian said.
“This is a very passionate issue for me,” Kaimian said. “As an Armenian, you were born with it.”
According to Pattyl Kasparian, ANCA professional network board member, all of the Armenian Student Associations have come together and organized a march that will take place on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood’s Little Armenia. About 15,000 participants are expected to attend. She said the project is costing around $85,000.
“This goes to show people our age are directly impacted by it and are showing compassion for it,” Kasparian said.
Ani Asatryan, junior journalism major and vice president of the Armenian Student Association at CSUN, said the ASA and the Armenian Fraternity and Sorority Council have joined for the first time to work on genocide recognition efforts on campus.
Asatryan said 1,500 red carnations were planted on the lawn in the Quad to represent the 1.5 million people massacred.
There will be a candlelight vigil held on the Bookstore Lawn at 7:00 p.m. today, she said. The keynote speaker at the vigil will be Ardashes Kassakian, who is the Glendale city clerk, Asatryan said. There will also be poetry presentations and clips of survivors and their stories.
“As an Armenian, I feel like it’s my duty to do this, because history repeats itself,” Asatryan said. “You can’t cure a pain without finding a way to heal it.”