Fresno State honors Armenian history

The Armenian Students Organization and Armenian Studies held the 96th commemoration for the Armenian genocide this past week.

April 24, 1915, marks the day in history when the Armenian genocide began. The Ottoman Empire sought to destroy the Armenian people by arresting them, deporting them and killing them. The estimated death toll was around a million and a half people, which was about half of the Armenian population in that area. Many methods were used to kill these people such as burning, drowning and using gasses.

“One of the purposes is awareness to what happened,” Tamar Karkazian, president of the Armenian Student Organization, said. “It brings the community together to remember.”

For more than 40 years, a commemoration for the genocide has been held at Fresno State as part of awareness to what happened. Every year different events are chosen by a council of students in the Armenian Student Organization and Armenian Studies to be run during the week of April 24.

This year the events ranged from Fresno Supervisor Debbie Poochigian speaking, a screening of “The Armenian Genocide,” a candlelight vigil and a lecture by professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian. These events were taken place in a three-day period. T-shirts were made for the commemoration as well.

“We are not just mourning the deaths,” Karkazian said. “We are celebrating a survival of a nation of people.”

Students begin planning for the commemoration months in advance. Every year different activities are chosen for the week of the anniversary of the genocide.

“It took a lot of time and prepare for the activities,” Faten Kassabian, a nursing major and the public relations for the club, said. “We used Facebook to advertise when things were going to happen.”

Connecting to the community was a major motive of the commemoration. The events were not just for Armenian students, but also for anyone in the community who wanted to learn.

“It was wonderful, it brought out a lot of people who didn’t know much about it,” Andrew Esguerra, pre-business major, and coordinator for Mondays events, said. “It feels like we are more connected to the community.”

For many of the students who have ancestors who were involved with the genocide, keeping the history of what went on alive is important. There are some people in the world who disregard that the genocide even existed.

“We want the younger generation to know about it,” Kassabian said. “To continue to fight for recognition until people know about it; people were massacred.”

Many people from the Valley descend from survivors of the genocide. They fled to parts of America to escape being killed.

“The Armenian Genocide was responsible for an unprecedented, large disbursement of Armenians into the diaspora early on in the past century,” Armen Melidonian, an accounting major and member of ASO, said. “Many Armenians in Fresno had parents, grandparents, and relatives who were Armenian genocide survivors.”

Members of ASO found that learning about the Armenian culture is beneficial to their lives and helps them understand more about the history.

“I’ve always enjoyed contributing to ASO as I’m interested in learning more about Armenian history and culture,” Melidonian said. “As an Armenian student, I think taking Armenian studies courses is very important to understanding my identity.”

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