Roughly 30 individuals joined hands on the steps of Sproul Hall on Friday afternoon to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
The annual event, called United Hands Across Cal, was hosted by the Armenian Students’ Association, or ASA, to bring attention to the history of the killing of about 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, an event that is widely viewed by historians as a genocide.
Despite the heavy rain, students came together for an hour of speeches, poetry and special singing performances conducted in both English and Armenian. Members clasped one another’s hands, with some attendees crying, throughout the event.
“Holding hands was important because instead of being a bunch of people by ourselves, we were united as one,” said ASA president and campus senior Maria Elvajyan.
The Armenian Genocide typically refers to the deaths that began with the killing of a large population of Armenian intellectuals living within what was the Ottoman Empire, which is now modern-day Turkey. The official date associated with the beginning of the Armenian killings is April 24, 1915.
Turkey and other countries, including the United States, do not use the word genocide to describe the killings. To date, more than 20 countries worldwide have officially recognized the massacre as a genocide.
“The purpose of the event today was to denounce denial,” said Levon Korganyan, cultural chair of ASA and a campus senior. “Mostly it is a celebration of our resounding presence here and the fact that we are still thriving and so alive and so passionate about both the past and also the perpetuation of our culture into the future.”
Many wore matching T-shirts for the event and hung an Armenian flag to honor their ancestors. Behind the circle of people stood 10 painted wooden boards that formed a world map depicting other genocides and crimes against humanity.
“There is a sense of injustice that Armenians feel,” said Hasmig Seropian, campus Armenian language lecturer. “And this will not go away no matter what generation it is.”
The Friday event occurred toward the end of Armenian Genocide Awareness Week, a weeklong event hosted by ASA each year. Members of ASA camped out on Memorial Glade at night all week and hosted a number of events, including a cultural show and movie screenings.
The theme of this year’s event is Mnayun, which translates to “eternal” in Armenian. It also means “We are. We will always be,” Elvajyan said.
ASA ended the event on an upbeat note, with a group dance to an Armenian song.
“We are celebrating the fact that we are here after 101 years … dancing to our music and appreciating our culture,” Elvajyan said. “Our culture is alive and we are very proud of it.”