Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, (above) where every year on April 24, thousands gather to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenian Genocide Remembrance
This week we bring you a letter from two Bruin alumnae shining a light on the Armenian Genocide and its Remembrance Day — April 24.
The word genocide, broken down into its base parts, is nothing more – or less – than the intent to exterminate an entire group of people for no other reason than their race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. In the case of the Armenian Genocide, the existence of Armenians around the world today evinces the manifest failure to exterminate the Armenian people. However, Turkey’s century-long genocide-denial campaign, in a misguided attempt to revise the darkest chapter in Ottoman history, proved detrimental to humanity at large. Had the world unequivocally recognized and forcefully condemned the Armenian Genocide one hundred years ago, it may have deterred countless genocides in the 20th century and the outbreak of the more recent military attack by Azerbaijan and Turkey on Armenian civilians in 2020.
From 1915-1923, 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide. Armenian children who were not murdered were stripped of their Armenian identities in Turkish orphanages, and many were enslaved into the Ottoman army. The surviving Armenians, and other Christian minorities including Greeks, Assyrians and Chaldeans, were forced out of the Ottoman Empire (which successively became the modern-day Republic of Turkey) on death marches (without food or water) through the unforgiving Syrian desert.
Genocide Watch explains that the tenth and final stage of genocide is denial. And so, for over a century, the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and their progeny, championed an important call to action: the world’s recognition of the 1.5 million martyred souls who were systematically murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, such recognition was slow to come to the few countries with the political will to stand up to the Republic of Turkey, which denies the immutable facts to this day. Then, in 2019, both chambers of the United States Congress voted near-unanimously to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Still, the calls to finish the genocide echoed in the halls of Erdogan’s palace in Ankara. On Sept. 27, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey joined forces with Turkic kin in the Republic of Azerbaijan to engage in a military attack on the indigenous Armenian population of the Republic of Artsakh, employing Syrian mercenaries and ISIS terrorists. Thousands died while hospitals, schools and churches were bombed by drone warfare. Survivors in many of the regions were forced to flee their homes and seek shelter in Armenia, where they are currently refugees. It was a sequel that no one saw coming – no one except for those familiar with the events of 1915.
This year, we remember more than the Armenian Genocide. This year, we remember that where the powerful are left unchecked to commit atrocities and rewrite history, humanity suffers. And, we remember that we cannot overcome crimes against humanity on our own. There is value in allyship and there is strength in a diverse – but united – front against impunity. Humanity has come a long way since the days of empires, but even today it requires guardians in us all to ensure the fundamental right to life.
— Elina Avakian '07, J.D. '10 (left) and Gayane Khechoomian '09 (right)
Join UCLA Alumni Diversity Programs & Initiatives for a special edition of EmPower Hour, where alumni will share how their Armenian background has impacted their community work.
In honor Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, The Promise Armenian Institute invites you and your household to watch "Intent to Destroy" online. Then join us on the Armenian National Committee of America Facebook page for Q&A discussions with the producer and director.
UCLA Health and the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA have partnered to start UCLA’s Operation Armenia, a coordinated effort of a dedicated interdisciplinary team to provide immediate medical disaster relief and long-term humanitarian aid and infrastructure support to Artsakh and Armenia. Interested in volunteering? Click here.