In 2015, the Armenian community will have spent exactly a century fighting for the recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, orchestrated by the Ottoman Turkish Empire under the leadership of Mehmed Talaat Pasha.
In recognition of the horrific massacres, the board of trustees passed a resolution recognizing April, 2015 as a “Month of Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.” Passed on Sept. 9, the resolution is based on one that was adopted by the Los Angeles Community College district in August, which brought the issue to the attention of superintendent/president David Viar.
With the help of college-wide educational and cultural events, the Armenian Genocide will be discussed among faculty, student body, and the community at large throughout the entire month of April.
As stated in the resolution, the state of California “has been at the forefront of encouraging and promoting a curriculum relating to human rights and genocide in order to empower future generations to prevent recurrence of genocide.”
Viar said all the arguments in favor of the resolution were strong, particularly since the Armenian community is still facing the repercussions of the genocide 100 years later.
The Armenian population decreased from more than 2 million to fewer than 300,000 as a result of the massacres. Many were forced to migrate out of the country. As a result, the Armenian diaspora today is larger than the actual number of Armenians living in their home country.
The overall idea of the resolution is to recognize the anniversary of the genocide and to use that day to raise awareness so that people can be more conscious of the brutalities that continue to this day, as mass killings are still taking place in countries like Syria, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Viar points out that “[the genocide] could happen to any of us anytime and we need to stay strong.” He also stated that “one way or another, almost everyone in our community has some story to tell.”
Coming just nine days after the college adopted the resolution, Gov. Jerry Brown officially signed the Armenian Genocide Education Act into law on Sept. 18.
The law requires social science departments in middle schools and high schools to incorporate the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfuran, and Rwandan genocides, as well as the Holocaust, into their curricula and to use survivor, rescuer, liberator and witness testimonies to enhance their lessons.
Osheen Keshishian, Extended Opportunities Program and Services counselor, believes that it is important to recognize and preserve historical events such as the Armenian Genocide because he is hoping it will prevent similar injustices in the future.
After the resolution was passed, Viar approached academic counselor Sarkis Ghazarian and asked him to put together a committee that would carry out the intentions of the resolution. Ghazarian, Keshishian and political science professor Levon Marashlian formed a trio of unofficial planners who met and generated a list of people they would like to include in the official committee.
Once the committee is formed, its members will develop a series of activities, events, and programs to implement genocide awareness efforts. The idea is to involve faculty members who can utilize their knowledge and help Ghazarian, who would like to “take advantage of the opportunity of having a month-long program rather than a one-day event.”
Marashlian is also an adviser to the Armenian Students’ Association, a campus organization that spreads Armenian genocide awareness and hosts a variety of events pertaining to Armenian culture.
Despite the efforts of such organizations, however, many people are unaware of the Armenian Genocide.
“Armenians have not stopped living since 1915,” said Ghazarian. “However, “[Armenians] can no longer afford to be reactive, [they] need to be proactive and plan ahead.”
The board of trustees does not intend to direct what should be taught during a lecture, but they want to provide the faculty with suggestions as to how they can increase recognition in classrooms and on campus.
Suggestions vary based on course subjects, depending on whether it is history, sociology, political science or anthropology.
“There won’t be a specific class,” said Viar. “It would be more lectures and presentations.”
The upcoming planning committee is looking forward to educating the community about the genocide by possibly showcasing the talents of Armenian students on campus, releasing documentaries or movies on the subject, and maybe even having musical performances throughout the month of April.
Ghazarian, Keshishian and Marashlian do not plan on making any final decisions until the date gets closer. For now, all they can do is look forward to a month full of recognition on the matter and hope that people gain something from the events that will eventually take place.