By Lori Yeni-Komshian
It was a bright sunny day in La Jolla, as I sat down in Price Center Plaza with a piece of red tape covering my mouth. Written on this piece of tape, in large, bold font, was the word “Justice”. This word was highly symbolic of the message that I was trying to convey. And I was not alone. I was at a silent-protest organized by the All-Armenian Student’s Association, put on to protest the continuing denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and to raise awareness about the atrocities committed against the Armenian people by the late Ottoman Turkish Government. When the massacre of 1.5 million people is hidden—erased from history—it is not only detrimental to those people, but to all people and all races. When the perpetrators of past genocides go unpunished and justice is repressed, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.
So on that sunny day, I not only sat there in memory of my grandparents and great-grandparents who saw unimaginable atrocities, I sat there for all victims of genocide around the world. I sat there in hope that one day the Armenian Genocide will be recognized, and justice will be brought to the millions who perished. I sat there in hope that through recognition, future genocides will be prevented and needless killing will be stopped. I sat there in hope that the United States, as a democratic state that champions human rights, will recognize the occurrence of the Armenian Genocide and the decimation of a population from Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia). As a nation that has ratified the “Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, the United States should set an example by recognizing the genocide, which would encourage Turkey to take responsibility for its actions.
As I sat under the warm sun at the silent-protest, I watched as onlookers passed us and read our signs. I could feel the curious eyes staring at the group of students that had taken over the PC Plaza. And I realized the symbolism of our actions. I realized that the red tape covering our mouths represented that we had been silenced. This incredible event, entitled “Stain of Denial” was not only held on the UCSD Campus. On January 31st All-Armenian Student Associations all over California participated in this silent-protest together, including UCLA, UCSB, UCI, UCR, USC, Cal Poly Pomona, CSULB, CSUN, Glendale Community College and Occidental and even on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC. All over, these students stood in unison fighting for a common cause: justice. In the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And the denial of the Armenian Genocide truly serves as a testament to this notion. I am truly proud to have taken part of such an important and well organized event. May the victims of the Armenian Genocide see justice, and may the world never again see such atrocities perpetrated.
Photo by Tamar Barsoumian