Each year, the Fresno State Armenian Students Organization (ASO) hosts commemorative events in memory of the Armenian Genocide, in order to raise awareness about it and to bring justice to its victims and survivors. This year, the ASO commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Genocide with the slogan “Remembering our past, Forging our future.”
The week of commemorative events began on Monday, April 18 at the Free Speech platform in the center of campus. Students passing by would have their photo taken behind a cutout of a traditional male or female outfit. In addition, ASO members set up a display of duduks, Armenian books, and Armenian artwork to showcase the richness of the Armenian culture. They also passed out informational pamphlets about the Genocide.
Continuing the week of events, ASO hosted a screening of The Cut on the evening of Wednesday, April 20. The movie portrayed the story of a man who survives the Armenian Genocide and goes on a quest
to find his twin daughters, from whom he had been separated. Following the screening, the audience walked to the Armenian Genocide Monument, where a candlelight vigil was held. Participants honored the victims and survivors of the Genocide with a moment of silence, then joined in a prayer led by Rev. Phil Garo, Associate Pastor for Children and Youth Ministries at the First Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno.
The week culminated with a one-hour commemorative program held at the Armenian Genocide Monument at noon on Friday, April 22. Armenian Studies Program Director Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian opened the program and welcomed the audience. He stressed that participating in this event was a way to honor the memory of those who had lost their lives in the Genocide. ASO President Lucie Ekezyan introduced the ASO Executive officers and then gave her thoughts on the Genocide.
The program included musical performances by Aramayis Orkusyan and Kevork Ajamian, who performed the song Aghunik, and by Faten Kassabian, who sang Adana, Giligia, and Der Voghormia. ASO members Diana Gasparyan and Hourig Attarian read memoirs of Genocide survivors from their families, and ASO Vice-President Tadeh Issakhanian delivered a call to action prompting everyone to get involved in the Armenian cause.
The keynote speaker for this year’s commemoration was Dr. Matthew Jendian, Chair of the Department of Sociology. Dr. Jendian emphasized the importance of taking action to prevent crimes against humanity, particularly genocide, stating “We the people have the ability to create enough pressure for an administration to act. If the world does not act and remains silent, we send a clear message to current and future perpetrators of genocide of the legitimacy of their actions.”
Dr. Jendian also stressed the importance of unity in the fight to prevent crimes against humanity. “We must not think about cases of genocide in isolation and focus on our particular group’s experience alone. Together, we stand up for truth. Together, we stand up for justice. Together, we have the power to make a difference and to stop and prevent genocide. Together, we can overcome our past and forge a more just future,” emphasized Dr. Jendian.
The program concluded with the placement of carnations inside the Armenian Genocide Monument accompanied by Aramayis Orkusyan playing the traditional Armenian song Hovern Engan on the duduk.