By Rula Al-Nasrawi
Diversity Reporter

On April 24, 1915, Turkish soldiers went from door to door and systematically removed 250 Armenian civilians from their homes before sunrise. This act began the onset of what is now known in many countries as the Armenian genocide.

Ninety-three years later, Armenians across the globe continue to commemorate this day. However, the United States still refuses to recognize this deadly series of events as genocide.

Today, Armenian UC college students are informing the public about these tragedies by honoring Armenian Genocide Commemoration Week, April 21 through April 25.

Paul Mekhedjian, president of the Armenian Student Union (ASU) of UC Santa Cruz, is one of many students who have dedicated their time to educating peers about the Armenian Genocide.

“I want people to take a look at the world around them,” Mekhedjian said. “Bad things will always happen as long as no one says anything.”

Several years ago, the ASU was one of the largest student-run groups on campus. However, in recent years, the group’s membership has greatly diminished. Although the ASU currently consists of roughly 10 people, Mekhedjian explains that the number of attendees is not the only thing that matters.

“No matter how many numbers we’ve had, we’ve always kept our culture,” Mekhedjian said.

Hilary Khteian, former ASU member and second-year student at UCSC, explained that because the public still has not completely come to terms with the genocide, Armenian students fear further denial. As a result, the students are not overly eager in expressing their thoughts on the genocide.

“It’s a fear of losing more of a voice than they already have,” Khteian said.

The goal of the awareness week is for the public to recognize what happened as a genocide, Mekhedjian said. Currently, the Unites States refers to the event as a “massacre” and not a “systematic killing.”

“We want some kind of verbal or written recognition that it really happened,” Mekhedjian said. “Even Adolf Hitler was quoted as saying, ‘Who after all remembers the killings of the Armenians?’”

UCSC is not the only campus involved in raising awareness of the genocide. Natalie Kazarian, a first-year student at UC Berkeley, is heavily involved in the Armenian Student Association (ASA), a group of over 50 students.

Kazarian, as well as the rest of the ASA, hosted a number of events last week to inform the public not only of the Armenian genocide, but genocide on a global scale.

Public speakers, poetry slams and candlelight vigils brought students of all ethnicities together to commemorate various genocides that have taken place around the world.

Kazarian explains that because the Armenian incident was the first genocide of the 20th century, it is extremely important that it be acknowledged as such to give a voice to the voiceless.

“You need to be the ears and eyes of the people that are silent,” Kazarian said.

In an effort to educate students, Kazarian and fellow ASA members gathered over 150 students in the center of Sproul Plaza in an event called United Hands Across Cal. The students held hands and each expressed what they stand for and against politically. “Everything we’re fighting against is everything we’re fighting for, it’s very circular,” Kazarian said. “People have a hard time dealing with the word ‘genocide.’”

Kazarian explained that without the events organized by the ASA, Armenian Genocide Commemoration Week would surely be a lost cause.

“It’s a domino effect of things and nothing ever gets fixed,” Kazarian said. “So many students forget that there’s a life outside of college that needs to be stood up for.”

ASU members at UCSC have made numerous efforts to try to spread the word on home turf as well.

“Life is not a passive thing,” Mekhedjian said. “Be engaged in the world you live in locally, nationally and globally.”

Armenians everywhere have made a collaborative effort each year to assert that the Armenian genocide was indeed a completely factual event that stole thousands upon thousands of lives.

Kazarian boldly recited the slogan for April 24, 1915 just as many others have in the past, and she hopes that many will in the years to come.

“Ignorance is not an excuse,” Kazarian said. “Denial is not the answer.”