The Armenian Student Association hosted a silent sit-in outside Storke Tower yesterday in remembrance of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
Mouths sealed shut with duct tape, the 16 student participants were part of a statewide effort among Armenian student groups at various University of California, California State University and private college campuses to bring attention to this ethnic cleansing genocide that took place at the start of the 20th Century. Resulting in over a million deaths, the incident is a point of contention between the Armenian population and Turkey, who currently denies the ethnic cleansing by the Ottoman Empire occurred.
Second-year economics major Simon Elmoyan, a first-generation Armenian American, said he takes great pride in his heritage and took part in the event because of the effects the genocide had on his family.
“I’ve had relatives as well that had their whole families wiped out; some of my great grandparents had their entire families destroyed,” Elmoyan said. “A powerhouse country like the United States should not be ignoring such an important human rights issue simply because they have some economic ties to Turkey.”
According to fourth-year sociology major and Armenian Student Association Vice President Lusiné Davtyan, the ASA hopes to promote recognition year-round.
“I think we did get our message across,” Davtyan said. “We had students come by, take pictures, read the posters — it’s not like we were completely ignored and people just walked by. They did notice us. Hopefully it got them thinking.”
ASA usually protests the Armenian Genocide on April 24 but decided to hold an additional sit-in yesterday in order to give more people a chance to become aware and active about the issue.
“It’s important for the public to know that this did exist,” Davtyan said. “I know many states have acknowledged it but … we want Congress, as a nation, to acknowledge it — to say, ‘Yes, there was a genocide that took place.’”
Armenian Student Association President Nick Ohanian, a fourth-year biology major, said ASA’s protest aims to encourage international attention to an issue that has deeply effected many Armenian students at the UC and worldwide.
“I think it’s important to understand we’re not trying to recognize soil that was stolen from Armenia; we’re not trying to recognize that our land was taken away,” Ohanian said. “We’re trying to recognize that 1.5 million people were massacred, inhumanely murdered to annihilate the race, and that’s all we want the government to do.”
The Armenian Student Association has around 40 members from various Armenian ethnic groups, including Lebanese-Armenians and Syrian-Armenians, among others.
In remembrance of the genocide’s 99th anniversary, Davtyan said the ASA is planning a larger awareness effort called Genocide Commemoration Week in April during the week of the 24th.
Assistant News Editor Peter Mounteer contributed to this report.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.