The Bruin Political Union and Campus Events Commission hosted POLITIFEST, a political discussion event, on campus May 22. It featured online commentary outlet The Young Turks’ Ana Kasparian along with several other students groups including Bruin Democrats, Bruins Elect, Bruin Libertarians, Bruin Republicans, the California Public Interest Research Group, Young Progressives Demanding Action and the undergraduate student government’s external vice president’s office.
As one of the largest cultural student groups on campus, the Armenian Students’ Association is outraged that a member of The Young Turks was invited to campus.
The Young Turks hold the name of the Turkish political movement that perpetrated the Armenian Genocide. Although the outlet denies any relation to the movement, it should go unsaid that keeping such a name is extremely offensive to the Armenian community.
The Young Turks came to power in the Ottoman Empire after overthrowing Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1908. Armenians living in the region were hopeful because the Young Turks had a progressive platform. However, the Young Turks began a nationalistic “Turkification” campaign, leading to the Armenian Genocide. The Young Turks initiated killing squads that left Armenians drowned in rivers, crucified and burned alive. Roughly 1.5 million Armenians died.
Considering this background, inviting someone from a program called The Young Turks to campus is like bringing a news station to campus called “the SchutzStaffel,” which killed roughly 6 million Jews, and millions of other victims, during the Holocaust. By inviting Kasparian to campus, the Bruin Political Union and Campus Events Commission have shown that they are either not familiar with the offensive nature of her program’s name, or that they just do not care.
Bruin Democrats did release a statement about the event denouncing The Young Turks’ name and genocide denial, which the Armenian Students’ Association appreciates.
The Young Turks’ co-founder Cenk Uygur also published an op-ed in college denying the Armenian genocide – around the same time he founded the outlet. If he and his colleagues understand the outrage behind naming an NFL team the “Redskins,” it is hypocritical of them to constantly defend the name of their own organization.
We are also outraged by the deliberate censorship of this event. For an event whose sole purpose was to discuss freedom of speech, censorship and the political climate on college campuses, we feel that most of our questions were rejected deliberately.
One of our members asked about the ability of an outlet named after a genocidal group to effectively comment on censorship and social justice.
Kasparian had a generic, ready-made response that would please audience members unfamiliar with the nuances of the situation. Our members were eager to approach her during the meet and greet after she preached about the necessity for open dialogue, but Kasparian left immediately after the event ended.
Kasparian, ironically, did not follow her own advice.
The Armenian Students’ Association is disappointed that organizations on campus do not consider these details when planning events. We have been a part of UCLA history for the past 72 years as one of the most active cultural organizations on campus. We host several educational workshops each year on the Armenian Genocide. These events are always open to the public and serve to educate all members of the community, regardless of whether or not they are Armenian.
We will continue to fight discrimination and genocide denial. We hope members of the community stand in solidarity with our stance and understand the offensive nature of hosting anyone from The Young Turks on campus.
Chichyan is a third-year anthropology student and president of the Armenian Students’ Association.