The Armenian Students Association and the Armenian Fraternity and Sorority Council presented the annual commemoration of the 1915 Armenian genocide with several events, including a candlelight vigil Thursday night on the Bookstore Lawn.
The event consisted of song and dance performances, speeches, a video and slide show, and ended with the candlelight vigil. The theme chosen for the evening was “struggle, survival, and rebirth,” and was intended to “bring recognition to the CSUN campus about the forgotten genocide,” said Talin Mardirosian, senior theater major.
Those involved in the event believe the genocide was carried out by Turkey’s Ottoman Empire during WWI. The government of Turkey has not recognized the genocide, and has attributed the high number of deaths to war fatalities.
Mardirosian is an ASA member, an Alpha Omega Alpha sorority sister, and a member of the committee that planned the vigil. She pointed out that it is the responsibility of Armenian youth to carry on the memory of the genocide and educate as many people as possible.
The stage was surrounded by several large poster boards that said in red letters, “Who recognizes the Armenian Genocide?” on which CSUN students were invited to sign their names. The evening began with an opening speech by Christina Malyan, vice president of Alpha Omega Alpha and president of the AFSC. Malyan stressed the importance of remembering the genocide.
Malyan was followed by a series of performers, including dancers Niree and Lori Arslanian, costumed in swirling red veils and black skirts.
“My sister and I have danced for 15 years, and we wanted to plan something for the (anniversary),” said Niree, who graduated last year from CSUN with a degree in English literature.
Students in attendance expressed why commemoration of the genocide is important to them.
“I just want to get the recognition that we never got,” said Silva Petrosyan, junior graphic design and biochemistry major. “We’re not asking that they give us our territory back, because they’re not going to do that. We just want (the Turkish government) to admit, ‘Yes, we did that.'”
“Armenians lost about 80 percent of their ancestral homeland,” said Ardashes Kassakhian, former executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, Glendale city clerk and keynote speaker at the event. “The current Republic of Armenia is approximately one tenth the size of historic Armenia.”
Roughly 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the 1915 genocide, which was more than half of the nation’s population at that time. The genocide started when about 200 cultural and community leaders were arrested then executed, Malyan said.
“There are documents that indicate there was an order given to exterminate and annihilate the Armenian race,” Malyan said.
Commemorating the anniversary of the genocide is important to many members of the Armenian community.
“I (have) attended every year,” said Narine Grigoryan, freshman political science major. “Even when I was in Armenia, I attended (a commemoration event).”
Grigoryan said she found out about the event through her Armenian Culture class, and said she feels Armenians should make a point of remembering the genocide every year.
In his speech, Kassakhian also stressed the importance of the Armenian community’s continuing to remember and commemorate the genocide, since many governments, Turkey in particular, he said, refuse to recognize the event’s occurrence.
“Because of denial, the burden (to) remember becomes harder and harder,” Kassakhian said. “If we don’t remember, we are lending a voice to those that actively, proactively, and aggressively deny the Armenian genocide.”
The event ended with a silent, solemn candlelight vigil.
“It was very moving; it was very emotional,” said Aline Ishkhanian, senior finance major. “The speakers were very informative, and the videos were really graphic. They really grabbed your attention, which is what they needed to do.”