On the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, the Armenian Youth Federation – Western United States concluded its 100 Days of Action campaign.
In the past 100 days, the AYF has planned and executed daily actions to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide, divest funds from the Republic of Turkey, and present the Armenian community’s demands of recognition and reparations to government of intolerance.
The 100 Days of Action began on Jan. 14 with a vow to advance the Armenian Cause through at least one action per day. For 100 days, we showed the world that despite the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to annihilate our people and the present-day Turkish government’s best efforts to deny this genocide, the Armenian people survived and we continue to fight for justice for the 1.5 million souls that were brutally murdered 100 years ago; for our lands that were wrongfully taken from us; for reparations to make amends for the loss, pain and devastation; in the name of humanity and morality.
Throughout the 100 Days of Action, the AYF continued its 82-year tradition of on-the-ground, grassroots activism in the community through educational forums, cultural displays, political lobbying and weekly social media campaigns. We highlighted Armenian achievements, the Armenian language and culture, and several other successes in the past 100 years through the #TurkeyFailed hashtag. Stories of genocide survivors were shared every Tuesday to illustrate the pain and suffering our forefathers endured. More importantly, these stories demonstrated our rise from the ashes; our will to live on, to hold on to our roots, our language, our culture.
The AYF also broke new ground during the 100 Days campaign with brand new approaches. The Divest Turkey initiative has found success across two major UC campuses so far. The initiative was started by the AYF in order to pull over $72 million in investments made by the UC school system in the government of Turkey. Essentially, UC students’ tuition is funding Turkey’s genocide denial campaign. At UCLA, the resolution passed the student government unanimously. A few weeks later, a similar resolution passed unanimously in Berkeley, despite heavy opposition. The AYF will take the initiative across all UC campuses, and eventually to the UC Regents. This week, a similar resolution was introduced in the California State Assembly, which, if passed, will prohibit the investment of state retirement funds in Turkey, taking the AYF’s initiative from student government to state legislature.
Through another effort, the AYF gained unprecedented social media attention when we staged a “die-in” demonstration in front of the Staples Center, as tens of thousands of fans were leaving a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game. Perhaps the most memorable event in the campaign, the “die-in” took place on a rainy day in Los Angeles, with AYF members simultaneously dropping to the wet ground in order to bring attention and awareness to the Armenian Genocide in the busy plaza.
At Venice Beach a few weeks later, AYF members grabbed the attention of passersby with posters and multilingual pamphlets about the genocide. Similar to the “die-in”, the Venice Beach event tapped into an audience largely unfamiliar with the Armenian Genocide.
Every Wednesday, we took to social media to thank governments around the world who have recognized the Armenian Genocide. We also sent the letters to their respective embassies to thank them for being champions of justice. Mondays throughout the 100 Days of Action were called “Demands Mondays.” Along with Armenian high school students, we delivered thousands of letters to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles outlining the Armenian community’s demands from the government of Turkey. Towards the end of the 100 days, these deliveries were met with hostility from the consulate and building security, who denied us access to the building. They were scared to face us, to face the truth.
On two separate occasions, AYF members took the campaign to the streets of the Greater Los Angeles area to, once again, raise genocide awareness. In a line of cars, we marched through the streets of Hollywood with signs and banners on our cars. The following day, we rode our bikes through the San Fernando Valley in the Cycle Against Denial.
On April 17, one week before the commemoration of the genocide centennial, we displayed the Soles of Survivors exhibit in front of the Turkish Consulate. It displayed Armenian Genocide commemoration monuments from around the world with pairs of shoes walking away towards the consulate’s door. The shoe soles personified the souls that marched in the desert and perished in the genocide. They also represented the souls of those who are now marching toward justice and reparations for the victims.
A day after the conclusion of the 100 Days of Action, we took part in the March for Justice on April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide. The historic march accumulated tens of thousands of demonstrators and garnered widespread media attention, shining a bright light on our Cause.
The 100 Days of Action are long gone now, but the fire within us is burning bigger and brighter. Our objective remains the same. Our will to fight is only growing. We will continue to work until we achieve recognition, restitution, reparations and the just resolution of our Cause.