Century's 1st genocide remembered by students
Somber music floated around passersby, as Armenian-American students and others convened to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, the first of the century, in front of Brower Commons yesterday on the College Avenue campus.
Yelena Allakhverdov, a former vice president of the Rutgers Armenian Club, described the mood at the gathering as solemn.
"This is an annual event. We have speeches, a candlelight vigil and people get the feel of the genocide," said Allakhverdov, a Rutgers College senior. "I think it's really touching. We are doing a post-event showing of the movie called Screamers by System of a Down."
The group handed out literature describing the genocide and displayed emotionally grabbing posters.
One poster showed a bookshelf of history books with a volume of the year 1915 missing, expressing that references to the genocide are often punishable by law in Turkey, where the conflict occurred.
Rutgers Armenian Club member Knar Mesrobian explained the historical situation surrounding the genocide.
"Three Turkish princes organized the Armenian Genocide, and it was organized to basically annihilate the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire," said Mesrobian, a Rutgers College junior. "The Armenians were, at the time, asking for more rights because of the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. It was also about unifying all the Turkish people and excluding others."
Masrobian said in order to save money, Armenians were marched into the desert until they starved or died of exhaustion, while others were drowned or hung to conserve ammunition.
She described how there are still people denying that the Armenian genocide ever happened.
"History does repeat itself. Had the Armenian genocide received more attention, other genocides might not have happened," Masrobian said. "Hitler was quoted as saying, 'After all, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?'"
Dennis Papazian, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, was asked by the group to speak about the genocide.
"I talk a lot to Turkish denialist," he said. "It's become a career in a sense. I enjoy listening to them because sometimes they amuse me."
Apologists for the Turkish government say there is no real evidence, Papazian said.
"Well, I beg to differ," he said. "In the first place, we have the evidence of the victims themselves and their personal testimony."
Papazian said records exist from both the Axis and Allied powers that give credence to Armenian ancestors speaking about the genocide, being forcefully removed from their homes and being marched through the Syrian dessert.
All of this information is blocked from Turkish textbooks, he said.
"Let's go to the Austrians and to the Germans, and if you go to the archives, you find the same story," he said. "The officials reported back saying that there is a process of racial extermination going on in the Ottoman Empire."
Rutgers Armenian Club members also held up posters commemorating genocides of the 20th century, namely the Holocaust and Darfur. The posters lamented the genocide continuing to rage in Sudan.
In a more tranquil mood, students gathered in a circle holding candles for one minute of silence as the wax dripped on their hands.
"We see the generations that are missing. Many of us have our grandparents tell us the stories when we gather and teach us about the genocide," said Haig Minassian, a former president of the club and a Rutgers College senior. "On this day, 93 years ago, Armenian dignitaries and elite members of the society were marched into the desert."