The Armenian Students’ Association held a silent protest Friday on Sproul Plaza in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, attracting the attention of hundreds of students.
About a dozen members of ASA, with duct tape across their mouths, marched from Memorial Glade to Sather Gate holding signs with various sayings, such as “1915 Never Again” and “Genocide denied is a genocide repeated.” Vanuhi Vartanian, cultural chair of ASA, said the silent protest is an annual event that represents the trauma of the Armenian people due to the denial of the 1915 genocide.
“The best way to eliminate history is to not speak of it,” ASA member Tigran Agadzhanyan said. “Our protest not only recognizes what happened to our ancestors, but also aims to prevent future tragedies from occurring.”
The protest was one of the many events conducted by ASA for Armenian Genocide Awareness Week. Other events included a candlelight vigil, a panel of prominent Armenian campus faculty members, a talk from a popular Armenian comedian and writer Vahe Berberian and a performance by Arzagank — UC Berkeley’s Armenian Choir.
Hakob Mesropian, ASA’s co-social chair, said ASA’s theme for this year’s Armenian Genocide Awareness Week centers around the Armenian alphabet. Mesropian said the Armenian language, with its 38 unique letters, contributes to the Armenian culture’s resiliency and is crucial for its survival.
Mesropian also said the language allows for Armenian students to pay homage to their roots and connect with one another today, despite a history of genocide and foreign control.
“It’s been 102 years since that event happened where 1.5 million of our ancestors died, and the fact that we are here today and connected at Berkeley is a testament to our culture,” Mesropian said.
Teodora Reyes, a high school senior visiting for Cal Day, said she was inspired by the protest and was pleased to see Berkeley’s brand of activism in person.
Paulette Kenney, a visiting Florida resident who has a grandson at UC Berkeley, said the demonstration reminded her of the student activism of the 1960s and that efforts from individuals, such as the members of ASA, will make a difference in the world.
Kenney, who is Jewish, warned that ignoring lessons from the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide will cause such violence to recur. She added that such ignorance has already led to mass atrocities in Darfur and Syria.
Teni Bazikyan, an ASA member, said although genocide is a big part of Armenian identity, it is not the only part.
“I think recognition is important for our culture to find reconciliation,” Bazikyan said. “ It’s significant for the youth to remember but also embrace the culture and all the parts that form our identity.”