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Armenian killings revisited

By Kimberly Young

Apr. 23, 2007 10:30 pm

Over 200 guests listened to Father Vazken Movsesian describe his visit to a genocide museum in Rwanda, under which 260,000 bodies were buried.

The African museum held two rooms dedicated to the Armenian Genocide, which Movsesian, a priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church and speaker at the event, said surprised him because the U.S. has yet to label the event as a genocide.

Movsesian’s speech was part of an event Monday discussing the killings that took place from 1915 to 1923, when the Ottoman Turkish government took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians, which the Turkish government denies.

The event, sponsored by the UCLA Armenian Student Association, was part of Genocide Awareness Month, which encourages the Turkish and American governments to label the mass killings a genocide. Both currently do not.

The main speakers discussed their anger over the fact that the United States has failed to do so and urged audience members to take action.

Earlier Monday there was a rally in Bruin Plaza which included a silent march and performances by Armenian rappers.

The evening program began with a moment of silence in memory of Hrant Dink, a journalist who was murdered in Turkey in January.

“We are here today because we do not want history to repeat itself,” said Arine Harapeti, a student who introduced the event.

The event tied the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust as well as similar events that have occurred in Cambodia and Darfur.

“It is our responsibility to remember the (Armenian) genocide every day of our lives,” said Allen Yekikan, a fourth-year history student and co-chair of the ASA’s cultural committee.

Yekikan said events throughout the week and month have tried to educate and motivate students about the Armenian Genocide, as well as the Holocaust and other instances of mass murder in Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur. He added that one action students can do is write to Congress urging them to recognize the killings in Turkey as a genocide.

Taner Akcam, a history professor at the University of Minnesota and speaker at the Monday event, fled Turkey when he was prosecuted under “Article 301″ which states anything insulting “Turkishness” is punishable by prison, said Yekikan, who introduced him.

The speakers encouraged the audience to use information and history lessons to understand genocide and recognize the similarities between genocides throughout history.

“The event was very informative,” said Alex Yerevanian a first-year biology student. “All genocides have a lot of things in common and it’s important that we understand why genocides occur so we can prevent them.”

Another speaker was Paul Von Blum, a UCLA communications studies, art history and Afro-American studies professor, who said his father was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust and had taught him, “Genocide anywhere is genocide everywhere.”

He further explained the need to confront the Turkish and U.S. governments about their failure to label last century’s killings as genocide.

Movsesian had recently visited Rwanda, and was struck by the lack of gray-haired people that remained. He said that it is up to students to be aware of what is going on in the world, and not be caught up in some of the areas the media focuses on, like celebrities.

“Be the champions against genocide,” he said.

Organizers used the event to bring Armenian and non-Armenian students together and hoped this event and the events that occurred over the past month would get students to take action.

“Students are a powerful part of our society, and they have really changed the course of history,” said Babken DerGrigorian, a fourth-year political science student and co-chair of the ASA cultural committee.

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Kimberly Young
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