On April 24, 1915, according to Armenians, the Turkish Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of Armenian people in Turkey.
By 1922, 1.5 million people had died. In 2001, only one country in the world, France, has recognized the Armenian genocide.
Armenian students on campus spent Tuesday wearing black ribbons and talking to students about Armenian history. The Armenian Student Organization (ASO), which has approximately 100 members, also sponsored a lecture Sunday night.
The ASO wrote letters to President George Bush, urging him to act on a campaign pledge and recognize the genocide.
“The U.S. fears that if they were to pass the resolution, it would cause bad relations between them and the Turkish government,” ASO member Edwin DerOhanian said. “The Armenian National Committee is hoping George Bush would mention something about the genocide. In his campaign he promised to do something to pass a resolution to recognize the genocide.”
The government of Turkey still denies the murders, junior anthropology major Patrick Galoustian-Shea said.
“The final act of genocide is the denial that the act ever existed. It’s not something that someone would be proud to admit,” he said. “The Nazi party did not get the satisfaction of denying the act. The way [the Armenian genocide] is different is to this day, [the government of Turkey] does not admit that there was ever murder.”
The National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., has devoted a temporary exhibit to the Armenian genocide. Adolf Hitler is reported to have said, before invading Poland, “Who remembers the Armenians today?”
Present-day Armenia, which covers only a portion of the traditional Armenian land, is located near Turkey, east of the Mediterranean Sea. The area has been Christian since the early fourth century when King Gregory the Illuminator officially converted it. The Ottoman Empire, which became present-day Turkey, accepted Islam in the mid-1500s.
Armenia became part of the Soviet Union in 1920 and became one of the Soviet Republics in 1936. Turkey, which never allied with the USSR, stayed friendly with the United States during the Cold War. This, Galoustian-Shea said, is one of the reasons America has difficulty recognizing the genocide today.
The present government of Turkey says that in the early 20th-century war over the land, both sides committed atrocities, but the killings did not rise to the level of genocide.
“The denial is something that affects me today, affects me in class. When you come to a university and the text is not read, it hurts me,” Galoustian-Shea said. “When I’m sitting in a class and the instructor refers to the land as modern-day Turkey, which was Armenia for many years, independent, and you have to swallow your own thoughts and words to finalize the grades for that class, that hurts me.”
The Armenian Student Organization meets every other Thursday night at 8 in the Goleta Valley Room of the University Center.