WASHINGTON, DC – While dedicated Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and anti-genocide activists across the nation were making their final push to urge their Representatives last week to support H.Res.252, the Armenian Genocide resolution, high school and college students brought activism out of the Armenian American community and to the campus helping raise awareness about this crime against humanity.
“While local ANCs are doing their part to help ensure that the Armenian American community is mobilized on this issue, students have helped lead the effort to broaden the anti-genocide coalition strength behind H.Res.252,” notes Garo Manjikian, Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region Executive Director. “Campuses have long been the driving force behind human rights and social justice movements even as recently as anti-Apartheid efforts in South Africa in the ‘80s and Darfur today. Recognition and justice for the Armenian Genocide is part of the fabric of campus activism.”
Manjikian pointed to student activists like Nina Frounjian, from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee who upon learning that her Member of Congress, Rep. Gwen Moore, was not a co-sponsor of H.Res.252 reached out to classmates, faculty and campus leadership shed light on the importance of US Congressional affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
While Frounjian’s efforts made sure that dozens of individuals reached out to Congresswoman Moore and secured her support of the resolution, a team of students at University of California, Los Angeles made it their goal to generate over 300 new contacts on the issue in the three days leading up to the vote. Within a few hours of tabling on campus they were well beyond their daily target of 100 webfaxers and were joined by non-Armenian students to continue the effort in the following days.
“We already know about the Armenian Genocide, especially being on a leading campus within the field of genocide studies, but only a small portion of students get to learn about this important issue,” says Tereza Yerimyan a sophomore volunteer who tabled at UCLA on Monday. “The genocide is not an issue between Armenia and Turkey, it is a human rights issue and that means we are all responsible for making a positive difference on this issue. This is the only way we help end the cycle of genocide.”
At the University of California, Riverside, Marie Ghanime along with volunteers from the Armenian Student Association and Alpha Gamma Alpha sorority spent the day before the vote canvassing their campus to make sure that California’s Inland Empire had its voice heard on the issue.
Earlier last month, Levon Bagdasarian, a student at the University of California, Davis and fellow UC Davis students tabled in front of Memorial Student Union taking the opportunity to reach out to hundreds of students as well as dozens of student government leaders and fellow student organizations.
“America’s entrance into the international stage came as a response to the Armenian Genocide. Leaders like President Teddy Roosevelt and American Red Cross founder Clara Barton led this effort,” notes Bagdasarian. “Standing against tyranny is at the heart of American History and the American people. Allowing a foreign government to successfully threaten the United States of America into silence and denial of its own history disrupts this essential framework and the international humanitarian spirit which began then and lives with us even to this day as we see in our response to the earthquake in Haiti.”
With ANCA activists active throughout New Jersey, Rutgers University students Kristyn Manoukian and Talene Boodaghians wanted to do their part from campus to help spread the word beyond the Garden State. Working with Manjikian, they reached out to constituent activists in other states in the Eastern Region.
“Even though the committee vote is over, building up the community’s volume in support of the resolution has only just begun,” said Manoukian. “We all have a part to play in reaching out to our representatives — especially on campuses where the leaders of tomorrow are created.”