Around 100 community members gathered on Warren Mall to hold a candlelight vigil commemorating the 104th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The crowd included students from the UC San Diego Armenian Student Association and San Diego State University, as well as community members from a local Armenian church and the greater San Diego area.
The Armenian genocide was the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the government of the Ottoman Empire from 1914-1923. The classification of the mass killings as genocide remains controversial because while the Armenian community considers the murders a genocide, they are not unanimously recognized by the international community as such. Many countries and governments have yet to do so in order to maintain positive relations with Turkey.
The vigil, which was hosted by the UCSD Armenian Student Association, centered around a replica of the Tsitsernakaberd, a monument in Armenia that was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the genocide in 1965. The event began with an opening prayer and short speech from Father Pakrad Berjekian from the St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church. His speech touched on the gravity that the Armenian genocide holds over a century later.
“104 years have elapsed and justice is yet to be found and taken from the dusty cupboards of history,” Father Berjekian said. “However, under the silent downcast eyes of the world today, two people know it well what happened 104 years ago. Those two people are the butcher and the victim. Today, we do not grieve the pain of the loss of our beloved ones as much as we disdain the denial of the criminal himself and those who keep avoiding holding him to the genocide.”
After Father Berjekian spoke, students from the ASA performed several Armenian songs and spoken word pieces. Roses were placed in the middle of the crowd in remembrance of those who were killed in the genocide.
A member from the UCSD ASA, who chose not to identify themselves, explained to the UCSD Guardian the importance to the Armenian community of holding commemorative events for the Armenian genocide every year.
“The Candlelight Vigil serves to commemorate the Armenian genocide of 1915 when 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Empire,” the representative said. “The genocide is recognized by very few countries, and reparations have not yet been made. The United States does not recognize the genocide on a federal level; however, 49 of 50 states have declared their recognition.”
The representative continued by discussing how the global Armenian community continues to honor this day of recognition.
“On the global scale, Armenians everywhere commemorate on this day,” the representative said.
“In Los Angeles, they hold one of the largest protest marches annually. Our ultimate goal is to mourn and commemorate, as well as spread awareness of our history, demanding recognition of the atrocious events.”
The commemorative events began with the ASA tabling throughout the week on Library Walk, which was followed by two events held in collaboration between the ASA and the St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church. The Veradartz Armenian Cultural Show was held on Friday, April 26, which included performances from Armenian students and community members.
Likewise, on Sunday, April 28, the St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church held an Armenian cultural celebration following its regularly scheduled weekly service. According to Father Berjekian and several members of the ASA, it’s important to hold events of celebration for the Armenian culture after a week of grieving in order to highlight the positive history and culture of Armenia.
A majority of the participants at the event were UCSD students. Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Ellen Khachatryan said that it’s important for the community to come together to recognize the Armenian genocide.
“[The] UCSD ASA’s annual candlelight vigil not only serves to commemorate the atrocities of the Armenian genocide in 1915, but it unifies and bonds San Diego’s Armenian community,” Khatchatryan said. “It is important that people come out to acknowledge the genocide that Turkey [continues to] deny to this day. The lives of 1.5 million will not be forgotten.”
The UCSD ASA is an on-campus organization with over 100 members with the goal to “foster and promote Armenian culture and heritage to the UC San Diego Community.” It holds a Candlelight Vigil in commemoration of the Armenian genocide every year on April 24th, the internationally recognized day of remembrance for the genocide.
Photo by Jacob Sutherland.