Between April 24 and April 28, the Armenian Student Association, or ASA, held a number of events on campus to commemorate Armenian Genocide Awareness Week, including a candlelight vigil, dancing lessons and a protest.
According to ASA cultural chair Nane Petrosyan, the events have been planned for months and are meant to engage students across campus. The week began with a candlelight vigil on Monday, meant to honor the 1.5 million people killed and acknowledge the generations of Armenian families still impacted by the violence to this day.
The genocide officially began on April 24, 1915, said ASA social chair Elen Chakhoyan, when Ottoman authorities began arresting Armenian leaders and scholars. The ensuing campaign lasted over 100 years, and is only recognized as a genocide by 34 countries worldwide.
The goal of the week, according to Chakhoyan, is to raise awareness not only about the genocide itself, but also the ongoing struggles of the Armenian people worldwide.
Over 40 people gathered on the glade for the vigil, which began at 7 p.m. Monday. Over the next hour, students shared a moment of silence and heard a moving speech from ASA President Nareh Aghakhanian.
“When genocide is denied, when genocide is branded as a war, it continues,” Aghakhanian said during the event. “Genocide denied is genocide repeated.”
Students then walked into the monument built by the ASA and tied ribbons the color of the Armenian flag to an apricot tree. The tree, which holds significance in Armenian culture, will be planted locally, according to Aghakhanian.
Standing at nearly 10 feet tall, the cubical memorial attracted the attention of thousands of students on campus. Students were able to walk through and read posters on the wall to educate themselves about the Armenian genocide.
“The reality is that the Armenian genocide is not mandated in any history textbooks throughout the U.S.,” Aghakhanian said. “So what we are trying to do with Armenian genocide awareness week is teach students and hopefully, in some sense, express the importance of recognition.”
Other events throughout the week included a silent protest to represent the forced silence of the Armenian people, an Armenian dance workshop and lastly, a fundraiser selling Armenian pastries such as ponchiks and piroshkis.
Through fundraising, the ASA was able to donate $1,000 to the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund, which supports those who have lost a loved one in combat or were wounded while fighting for Armenia.
Awareness of the Armenian genocide is not only something that the ASA wants to exist during the weeklong events, said ASA cultural chair Sofya Abrahamyan.
“The least (non-Armenians) can do is be interested, research more, ask questions — show up to the candlelight vigil, show up to do Armenian dances, learn more about the culture and what it is like to be Armenian,” Abrahamyan said. “The thing I feel most proud of is how united (Armenians) are, and how we’re able to keep our culture, keep our language, and keep our traditions, even though we’re outside of the country… We can take pride in whatever has happened in the past and be able to raise awareness.”