In memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who were annihilated by the Turkish government from 1915 through 1923, the Associated Students of Glendale Community College (ASGCC), faculty, staff and students, congregated in Plaza Vaquero for a genocide commemoration ceremony on April 24.
David Arakelyan, student president, talked about the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and the importance of acknowledging such crimes against humanity.
“It is obvious that we cannot do anything to change the mistakes of the past; but what we can do and should do, is remember those mistakes and keep the memory of those who perished, alive,” he said. “Only global awareness and condemnation of such terrible crimes can bring about an end to genocides.”
Also in attendance were members of the board of trustees, Armine Hacopian, Vahe Peroomian, Tony Tartaglia and Anita Qui§onez-Gabrielian, and Vice President of Instructional Services Dawn Lindsay.
“Every student is much more than a body in a classroom,” said Lindsay. “Understanding and respecting different cultures and history is a part of respecting, honoring and celebrating the unique aspect each student brings to GCC.”
Arakelyan believes that it is especially relevant to honor the memory of those who perished during the genocide, “given that we have a large Armenian community here at the college.”
However, the overall sentiment is that it is necessary to hold events commemorating the Armenian Genocide in order to raise awareness of the current atrocities happening worldwide.
“Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is just one step in raising awareness of a crime that often goes unpunished,” said Peroomian. “We need to be heard loud and clear, on behalf of the Armenians, the Jews, the Cambodians, the East Timorese, the Rwandans, the Bosnians and the tribes of Darfur, so that the words ‘never again’ regain their true meaning.”
In his opening statement during the commemoration ceremony, Arakelyan illustrated the inhumane treatment toward the Armenians at the hands of the Turks.
The Turkish government rounded up more than 800 Armenian intellectuals on April 24, 1915, a day which marked the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. Overnight, Armenia was left without political, cultural and military leadership.
The remaining population, hailing from Western Armenia, was forced to relocate. Hundreds upon thousands of Armenians were slaughtered as they marched through the Syrian deserts. Among the innocent victims were men, women, and children who were maimed, raped and gunned down. Their bodies were thrown into the Euphrates River or left behind for preying animals.
Those that did not perish at the hands of the Turks during the march, eventually died of starvation, dehydration and disease.
By 1918, Western Armenia, which was populated by more than 2 million Armenian inhabitants at the turn of the century, was bereft of its native population.
Hacopian’s father and uncle were orphaned during the genocide when her grandparents were killed. She believes that the deaths of those who perished in the genocide were not in vain and said that events like the one in Plaza Vaquero, provide awareness and prove to be a “great step toward educating others.”
“Although this is a small campus, it [the Armenian Genocide] is a big issue,” she added.
Following the genocide, the Turkish government abolished everything relating to Armenia. Armenian churches were converted into stables, architectural structures, which dated back to the ancient and medieval times, were torn down, and cities were renamed to sever any ties to Anatolia, the native Armenian population.
Even today, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the mass extermination of the Armenians.
Arakelyan said that the overall success that the campus may achieve by commemorating the genocide reflects through the information “that is being spread out.”
Recently, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Glendale, introduced a bill in congress to recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide.
“Of course, small events of this scale are not going to change the minds of people around the world, but what it is going to do is promote awareness,” Arakelyan said. “The least we can do is pay respect to the over 1.5 million people that were slaughtered.”