Fifty days into the 100 Days of Action, I am filled with pride, hope, and more determination than ever before.
So far, the campaign has involved a number of events and social media campaigns geared toward gaining attention and awareness for the Armenian Cause.
A few events in the first 50 days stood out for me:
On January 17, a day after we learned that Armenian Genocide denialist Edward Erickson would be speaking at UCSD, we made the trip down to San Diego and attended his lecture. We listened to Erickson talk about the Ottoman Empire during World War I, referring to the genocide as the “1915 Relocation of Ottoman Armenians” and repeatedly overlooking the systematic and targeted killings by the Ottoman Empire. After he was done, the 30-something of us in attendance raised our hands for questions and exposed every hole in his so-called research. The next day, another group of AYF members attended his lecture in Orange County and did the same. The point was, we were not going to let this unmistakable denier of the genocide spread his false information, not where we can reach him.
Fast forward a few days, AYF members found themselves at UCLA for a student government vote on an initiative started by the AYF. The University of California invests over $72 million in Turkey, including bonds owned by the Turkish government. Essentially, the money that UC students pay for tuition funds Turkey’s efforts to deny the genocide. So, the AYF began this initiative in order to pull that $72 million investment. UCLA’s student government unanimously passed the divestment bill. About a month later, UC Berkeley’s student government also passed the bill unanimously, despite heavy opposition. At both schools, Armenian students, as well as non-Armenian supporters, spoke in favor of the bill using historical facts and logical reasoning to make their points. The opposition, in turn, had a nonexistent argument because they didn’t have the truth on their side. The same thing will continue to happen as we take the divestment initiative to the rest of the UC campuses.
On March 1, the AYF took to the streets of Downtown, Los Angeles, to raise awareness about the genocide. Around 6 p.m., when 19,000 fans would be exiting the Staples Center following the Lakers game, over 60 AYF members performed a “die-in” demonstration, simultaneously dropping to the ground despite the rainy weather. Passersby stopped and took pictures, read our signs, and asked us what we were doing. People who had never heard of the Armenian Genocide before now heard, and may very well have gone home and researched it to learn more. In the next few days, there was an overwhelming social media buzz about the “die-in” as people from all over the world saw photos and videos of the demonstration.
Three days after the “die-in”, we learned that the Carson City Council would be voting on a measure to erect a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in a city park. If the measure passed, there would be a statue of the man who continued to perpetrate the Armenian Genocide following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in Southern California, where the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia resides. Over 400 Armenians attended the city council meeting to voice their opposition. When the Turkish Consul General took to the podium, Armenians in the room stood up and turned their backs as she spoke. Six speakers spoke for each side, but as was the case in the UCLA and Berkeley divestment measures, our side had the facts and the truth, and was ultimately successful when the city council unanimously voted against the building of the statue.
And that was just the first half.
Through all these actions, I have witnessed the hard work and undying dedication to the Armenian Cause by my fellow Ungers. The fire is burning inside each of us. Yes, our recent successes have been exciting, but we’re not satisfied. Our passion for the Armenian Cause is only growing. I’ve noticed this through my Ungers’ actions; I’ve noticed it in conversations with my Ungers. We know that the future of our Cause is in our hands, and it seems we’re ready to assume responsibility.