Cal Poly’s Armenian Student Association (ASA) has been celebrating Armenian Heritage Month in April with the goal of bringing the Armenian community together and commemorating the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire, modern-day Turkey, that took place from 1915-1923.
“April marks the anniversary of the official beginning of the Armenian genocide, which happened on April 24th, 1915,” ASA Vice President and computer science sophomore Sophie Martyrossian said. “This is a really significant day for a lot of Armenians because we remember the tragedy that happened and the justice we haven’t had for the past 107 years.”
Turkey has not made reparations regarding the genocide; the Turkish government continues to deny the genocide ever occurred. When U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged the Armenian genocide, it created a lot of backlash in the Turkish community.
“One of the things that students can do [to support Armenians] is by boycotting [products made in Turkey],” Martyrossian said.
Martyrossian gave a presentation about Armenian diasporas and the effects the genocide had on them during ASA’s general meeting on April 22.
More than seven million Armenians are living outside Armenia, Martyrossian said in her presentation. Most of them are now living in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. The genocide has caused many to immigrate to the United States as well. Notable Armenian-Americans include Kim Kardashian and Cher, who are both half Armenian.
At the end of Martyrossian’s presentation, members of ASA shared their family’s history and how the genocide has impacted them.
“My great grandfather was actually in Wisconsin at the time looking for work and when he decided it was time to go back home, he found his wife and his kids dead,” philosophy freshman Bella Papazian said. “So, he ended up remarrying and moving to Syria, and that’s where my mom’s side of the family [ended up].”
Papazian also shared the story of their dad’s side of the family.
“[On] my dad’s side of the family, my great grandfather actually survived the genocide,” Papazian said. “He was hiding under his mother’s dress as the raids were going on . . . His mother was killed while he was under her [dress] and they didn’t find him, so he was able to flee and he actually went to Syria as well.”
Activities ASA hosted during this month include Easter egg painting on April 15 and painting the P the colors of the Armenian flag on April 17.
This week is Armenian Heritage Week, which included an ASA-facilitated discussion and reflection on Sunday, an Armenian genocide information booth and Armenian genocide memorial on Monday and an ASA general meeting on Friday, according to an Instagram post.
The information booth on Monday informed Cal Poly students about the Armenian genocide since not many are aware of it, Martyrossian said.
“We’re going to talk more in depth [about the genocide] and the side effects and what it means to us today,” Martyrossian said. “And then, in conjunction with the Armenian Genocide, there’s still the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that still hasn’t been resolved and we still haven’t gotten any justice work. We’re planning on speaking about that and what students at Cal Poly can do to help the Armenian community.”
During ASA’s general meeting, ASA Treasurer and political science senior Jenny Galoyan will present her senior thesis on the Armenian genocide in 1915 and its connection to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, which was a conflict between Armenia and Azerbajian.
According to Galoyan, fewer people understand the Nagorno-Karabakh war than they do the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide.
“I’m postulating that there was a relationship — that the legacy of the genocide affected how the war played out in 2020, which includes the war crimes, the resolution, how the relationship between [Armenia and Azerbajian] is like now and with Turkey and the rest of the pan-Turkic world,” Galoyan said.