Students and the community were invited to attend a commemoration of the Armenian genocide Thursday night at Embarcadero Hall.
More than 50 people attended the event – hosted by the Armenian Student Association (ASA) – which was held in remembrance of the genocide perpetrated against Armenians by Turkey in 1915. The commemoration began at 8 p.m., and included a lecture, videos and photographs addressing the refusal of many countries to officially recognize that the genocide actually occurred. Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day officially takes place worldwide Saturday.
According to estimates made by online information centers such as TheForgotten.org, around 1.5 million Armenians – 80 percent of the Armenian population in Turkey at the time – were murdered during the genocide. Event co-organizer Ara Keshishian of the ASA said the goal of the event was to force people to remember what history has forgotten.
“Imagine if your grandma were shot in front of you and no one recognized it,” he said.
A number of audience members had tears in their eyes as Mariette Soudjian sang both the U.S. and Armenian national anthems to begin the commemoration.
Global and international studies visiting professor Richard Falk gave a speech about the implications of the genocide’s lack of recognition. Falk said he believed that official acknowledgement of the incident would be crucial to the healing of Armenian people.
“The denial of the genocide of the Armenian people persists as an open wound,” Falk said. “It is as important to overcome the Turkish denial as it is for those of Armenian descent to receive the apology in order to heal their wounds.”
Falk encouraged the audience to question whether any progress has been made toward stopping genocide around the world.
“We have to ask ourselves: Is the world safer now?” Falk said. “How far has the legal development against ethnic cleansing come when the Armenian genocide is not even recognized; where countries, including the United States, have ordered their bureaucrats not to use the word ‘genocide’ regarding events in places like Rwanda?”
Falk then recited portions of a poem written during the genocide entitled “The Dance,” by a German eyewitness named Siamanto. The poem details rape, torture and women being burned alive after being ordered to dance nude. ASA members Carolyn Lee and Hermine Barseghian also read from “The Dance,” and violinist Hagop Barseghian played a song in tribute.
Diana Magpapian, ASA member and political science graduate student, echoed Falk’s desire for acknowledgement of the genocide.
“Our presentation is not about money, it’s not about anything except recognition. Most countries officially deny or ignore the Armenian genocide. Denial is ignorance. We are trying to correct ignorance and stop the denial,” Magpapian said.
ASA president and psychology major Talin Nazarian said he especially wanted scholars to recognize the historical significance of the genocide for the Armenian people.
“Armenians exist on all sides of the globe, but the genocide isn’t in textbooks,” Nazarian said. “Until our history is in textbooks, it is important for us to show the history of our people.”