STAND brings awareness to Armenian Genocide

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Sasha Vassilyeva, staff reporter

The Armenian Genocide is one of many massacres caused by cultural violence and mass murder. STAND had its annual Peace Advocacy Week on April 13-17 to raise awareness about human rights, refugees and genocides.

According to STAND member Maeve Plunkett, one of the goals of the week is to make students aware of what genocide is. Three groups of student members of the club talked to sophomores and freshmen during their SRTs on different topics related to human rights. One group focused on freedom of speech, another on slavery in South Asia and the third group focused their presentation on the Armenian genocide.

“We’re talking about genocide and [bringing] awareness [to] it and also other human rights crises that are around the world,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett is part of the group that was giving presentations on the Armenian genocide. In 1915, leaders of modern day Turkey put into effect a plan to massacre allArmenians that were living in the Ottoman empire. The genocide began April 24, 1915 and went on for seven years.

According to STAND Sponsor Matthew Whipple, for a long time the Ottoman empire was dominated by Muslims. However, for a long time it had a diverse culture with many other religions, including Christianity and Judaism. In the late 1800s-early 1900s, leaders of the empire began looking at this mixed culture differently.

“If you get all the way up to the late 1800s, the Ottoman leadership becomes really very conservative and […] far less supportive and tolerant of Christians and Jews,” Whipple said.

According to Whipple, the oldest Christian church that was established was the Armenian church in the 1300s and a majority of Armenians were Christian. Growing intolerant of other religions in the empire, there were some attacks on Christians and Jews living in the empire.

“There [were] some warning signs that the leadership of the Ottoman empire [was] growing more and more uncomfortable with the Christian populations,” Whipple said.

According to Whipple, when World War I began in 1914, the Ottomans allied with the Germans to face France and Russia. The Ottomans fought against Russians inArmenian lands and because they shared religious beliefs, Christianity, the Ottoman Empire began to indicate that the Armenians were part of the enemy.

“[The Ottomans] had created a plan that essentially said, ‘We will, in the midst of this war, eliminate the Armenians,’” Whipple said.

The genocide began when the Turkish government arrested and executed hundreds of Armenian intellectuals. Other Armenians were then evicted from their homes and forced to go on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert where many died of starvation and dehydration. Some were forced to take off their clothes and walk through the burning sun until the heat killed them, and people who stopped to rest were shot.

At the same time, an organization was created that made “killing squads” in which murderers and ex-convicts made up the majority. They were drowned, thrown off cliffs, crucified, and burned alive. According to, there were about 2 million Armenians living in the empire during the time of the massacres and about 1.5 million of them were killed.This year marks the hundredth year anniversary of the Armenian genocide. As part of Peace Advocacy Week, STAND members held presentations for freshmen and sophomores about the genocide during their SRT. According to Plunkett, many countries still don’t accept the Armenian genocide as a genocide at all.

“The interesting thing about it is that even though it happened a hundred years ago, there are still a lot of countries today that don’t [recognize] it [as a genocide],” Plunkett said. “Not even our federal government accepts it, [and] Turkey completely denies that it happened.”

Twenty-two countries, including Russia, Canada, most of South America and most of Europe, have recognized it as a genocide. In a few countries, such as Greece, Switzerland and Cyprus, it is illegal to deny the Armenian genocide. According to, only Turkey and Azerbaijan still hold official denial of the genocide.

At the end of this seven-year massacre in 1922, there were only about 388,000 Armenians left living in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian genocide continues to be remembered and recognized in most parts of the world.