AS Beat Reporter
On Feb. 25, the Armenian Student Association (ASA) at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) organized a silent protest in front of Storke Tower to demand recognition from governments of the Armenian Genocide. The Bottom Line (TBL) sat down with members of the ASA to discuss the history of the Armenian Genocide, how the fight for recognition has continued on, and how UCSB students can spread awareness of this atrocity.
The Armenian Genocide was a mass murder campaign conducted against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire (now modern-day Turkey) from 1915 to 1916. To this day, the Turkish government and other world governments refuse to recognize these past atrocities as genocide.
The United States officially acknowledge the Armenian genocide for the first time last year — a historic move.
“It’s been over 100 years and there has been no acknowledgment from Turkey [but rather] continued denial,” said Simonyan Suren, a fourth-year student and member of the ASA.
According to Paulina Sipilian, the president of the ASA, this protest is part of a larger movement in which many Armenian Student Associations across California participate in the Stain of Denial Protest at their schools.
The Armenian Genocide and the atrocities that were committed are remarked as something that has “shaped every Armenian person” and their identity, the fourth-year biopsychology student explained.
As descendants of genocide survivors and others who have passed down these stories and generational pain, Sipilian added that many Armenians find it upsetting how the perpetrators of these acts never faced any consequences or repercussions for their actions.
“Until we get that recognition, this wound is always going to be open for all of us,” Sipilian told TBL.
The ASA students recognize, just as Armenians learned these stories because they were passed down through family, how the Turkish people might have their own version of the genocide that is also retold throughout generations. Thus, part of ASA’s goal is to also open up this kind of dialogue.
Simoyan Suren, a fourth-year student and member of ASA, said that the conversation with students of Turkish descent has been “strange” because it seems that they experience the event “completely differently.”
“One thing I noticed is that the younger generation […] they feel like [the Armenian Genocide] isn’t something they did, so they don’t want to be held responsible for it,” Suren explained. “But they weren’t necessarily denying what had happened. So, I think with further dialogue, there can definitely be some kind of agreement we can reach.”
While Sipilian said that they have tried a lot of “angry” and “yelling” protests in the past and plan to continue doing them in the future, the ASA wanted to do a silent protest because they recognize the importance of having different approaches to raising awareness.
“It makes us seem a bit more approachable, so people can come and ask us questions and we can get the word out and educate our peers in a different way,” said Sipilian.
Although activism is a big part of what they do, the ASA also puts on many social events, as well, and provides “a safe space” in which many people can come together as a community.
For example, during her first year, Sipilian said she felt lost. But, getting involved in the ASA has helped her and other students connect with people who grew up in similar ways and share the same experiences.
Finally, Tanya Mankerian, the vice president of ASA, added that the organization also welcomes many Armenian allies and friends, with whom she is able to share and celebrate her culture.
“It’s like a home away from home,” Mankerian remarked to TBL.
To find out more about the Armenian Students Association and future events, the organization’s information can be found on their Instagram page.