Opinion | Realities misplaced to genocide and genocide denial at Stanford

At eight years outdated I landed in Santa Rosa, CA — enthralled by crosswalks with buttons, faculty buses and the idea of sleepovers — issues that usually lived within the TV. I noticed rapidly that my nostril and furry arms didn’t actually match into this TV world, and I used to be equally the topic of enthrallment — or curiosity maybe. I don’t keep in mind the primary time I used to be requested this query, however by the point I used to be in highschool I had perfected the repertoire that adopted “The place are you from?”


“Oh, Romania?”

“No, Armenia.”

“What’s that?”

“You recognize Turkey?”

“Yeah, I like Turkey!”

“Only one nation to the best.”

This was often adopted by my synopsis of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the systematic homicide, rape and ethnic cleaning of over 2 million Armenians by Turkey through the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which stays unrecognized till right now. April twenty fourth marks the remembrance day of the Genocide. Nowadays it’s additionally adopted by futile makes an attempt at explaining the historical past of Artsakh, the warfare of 2020, and the incessant preventing that has resulted within the ethnic cleaning of historic Armenian lands, executed by Azerbaijan with the help of Turkey.  

Such as you studying this proper now, I’m often out of breath by the top of my spiel. 

After sufficient iterations of this dialog, it grew to become a standard routine to start my introduction by explaining my historical past and myself. 

After sufficient cases of being met with unawareness and incomprehension, you begin to perceive that your actuality shouldn’t be shared by others. It exists in your thoughts, in a sequence of recollections and fables of lands out of attain advised in a language that nobody speaks. 

After sufficient summers of seeing your hometown streets empty and your individuals drained of their religion, you start to know that their weight has been shifted to your shoulders. It’s as much as you to maintain singing, maintain talking հայերեն, and maintain telling tales.  

I got here to study of the tales of America. I do know the histories, struggles, resistances, genocides, diasporas, symbols … I hearken to the music. I contact and really feel this shared actuality that defines my life exterior of the Armenian island that’s our house and its 25-square-foot backyard in Santa Rosa. 

Going to Armenia is getting into a special dimension. Whereas I used to be visiting my hometown final summer time, the battle rekindled between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

I noticed a whole nation maintain its breath, I noticed my uncle put together to go away for warfare, and I noticed youngsters and moms learn to transport wounded troopers. I spent per week portray a model new mural with schoolchildren in an Armenian village known as Աղավնո (that means Dove) that two weeks later was emptied and handed off to Azerbaijani troops. 

The villagers determined to destroy the crosses and erase the Armenian language from the mural as a result of they didn’t need Azeris to do it. 

On Instagram, I noticed a Stanford summer time — stuffed with its personal microcosms of expertise outlined by the bubble of Stanford and the cradle of Silicon Valley. 

A couple of months later, within the lifeless of winter, 120,000 individuals had been blockaded into the Artsakh enclave by the Azerbaijani navy, slowly working out of meals, medical provides and gas. 

At Stanford, it by no means occurred. 

On February seventeenth, the Azerbaijani Pupil Affiliation hosted an occasion about “truth-finding” and “peace-building” — to which the Armenian Pupil Affiliation was not invited — and featured solely Azerbaijani audio system. They mentioned Khojaly — a chapter within the historical past of the Armenian-Azerbaijani battle the place Azeris had been massacred by Armenian troops in 1992. This falls within the aftermath of the Sumgait pogrom of 1988 the place a whole lot of Armenians had been murdered and compelled to flee from Azerbaijan. There was no dialog both concerning the 120,000 Armenians blockaded in Artsakh or the relentless assaults of Azeri troops on Armenian villages. Actually, there was no dialog in any respect — except talking to a mirror counts as such. 

There may be nothing that justifies Khojaly and the homicide of harmless civilians. However it’s not justifiable to twist, minimize up and rearrange historical past right into a handy narrative introduced as scientific fact. I sat behind a basement lecture corridor of Most important Quad because the Azeri panel spoke about what Armenians are like, what our historical past is and what our downside is. I heard a forensic historian inform the viewers that my individuals have fabricated the age of our historic cities, that we’re nonetheless so hung up on the difficulty of the Armenian Genocide that we view all the things as an extension of it, and that we have to shift our “psychological map” of Armenia and face actuality.  

He’s proper. Armenians in Armenia and throughout the worldwide diaspora are “hung up” on the difficulty. Our nationwide consciousness processes ethnically focused assaults from Turkic states as extensions of the genocide as a result of we have now but to obtain a correct acknowledgment or apology from Turkey. As a result of to simply accept the wrongdoings of the previous is to confess to hatred for Armenians. The chapter won’t ever be closed as a result of with each denial we expertise an assault on our actuality. At Stanford, this denial is rampant and unnoticed. 

On the 100-year mark of the genocide, April twenty fourth, 2015, Stanford’s Turkish Pupil Affiliation launched a press release titled “The Armenian genocide: The Turkish facet of the story.” This assertion frames their plea as such: 

“The Armenian thesis claims that the occasions represent a genocide, that the Ottoman authorities had an official (albeit hidden) intent to exterminate the Armenian nation. It makes in depth references to the Holocaust to create the impression that the Armenian Genocide had related strategies and targets and is simply as indeniable because the Holocaust. This place is traditionally not right.” 

One of many audio system on the panel, Hakan Yavuz, flown in from the College of Utah, is a recorded denier of the Armenian Genocide. His analysis is funded by the Turkish Coalition of America, a company that lobbies for and generates content material about genocide denial within the US. At Stanford, Yavuz tried to symbolize Reality on the difficulty of Armenians. 

A couple of days after this occasion, an Azeri information platform ran a headline: “Stanford College, dwelling to 17 Nobel laureates, hosted a convention devoted to Khojaly Genocide”. 

Though the overtness of this try to make use of Stanford’s fame to validate the narrative propelled concerning the battle is sort of humorous — it’s disturbing to see an establishment like Stanford introduced as a legitimizer of genocide denial. 

Whatever the intentions or consciousness of the College relating to this concern, it’s crucial that it perceive the impression of supporting such types of freedom of expression. The College’s inadequacy to answer such occasions was additional illuminated when the Armenian Pupil Affiliation filed a protected id hurt report. The assistant dean of pupil help merely knowledgeable college students that previous cases of anti-Armenian sentiment have already been recorded at Stanford and that they might be pleased to offer us with “a processing circle.” The scholars continued their efforts by requesting conferences with each the workplace of the President and the Vice President of pupil affairs and acquired no response. So as soon as extra, our actuality felt illegitimate. 

One other headline following the panel learn: “Armenians try to disrupt the convention held in US on the thirty first anniversary of the Khojaly genocide”. 

This tried disruption consisted of me asking the organizers of the occasion why Armenians weren’t invited to an occasion marketed as being concerning the “pathway to Azerbaijani-Armenian peace-building.” I used to be advised that it was merely a matter of logistics and the organizers merely didn’t have sufficient time to ask a wider vary of panelists. This last-minute occasion included audio system flown in from North Carolina College and the College of Utah. 

Genocide is greater than the destruction of land or the homicide of individuals. It’s a destruction of id, an erasure of historical past and an assault on a individuals’s collective and private actuality. Thus the violence continues, not simply with emptying villages however with each denial of historical past, with each second that our tradition feels invisible and with each world historical past class that skips over this historical past. It continues within the voids of silence. This mass-organized gaslighting is damaging. 

The invisible nature of Armenian tradition in many of the US (save Glendale) is in some ways a pure one — it’s unrealistic to anticipate that everybody is aware of concerning the complicated and nuanced historical past of a tiny nation misplaced someplace … within the Center East? The results of invisibility, nonetheless, run deep.  

In a Wilbur elevator, my good friend started to sing an Armenian people tune. Their voice echoed — 

“Սիրուն աղջիկ սիրուն յար, եկուր եկուր հոքիս առ …” 

—  sending chills via me. It was virtually absurd to listen to this music exterior of my head, and much more absurd to listen to a bit of my tradition being skilled by somebody who wasn’t Armenian. 

I don’t know the best way to be Rima with out carrying the load. 

Some days all I can do is select ignorance: to keep away from Armenian information sources, keep away from conversations with my mother and father and skip over images of previous Armenian winters. I don’t take pleasure in passing on daily basis battling to affirm my very own actuality, convincing myself that my historical past is actual —  that I exist. I don’t need to be shocked that my music is price listening to. I want I might speak concerning the genocide as a bit of the previous. I want I might start to are likely to the injuries of the previous, start to heal and let it go. 

However I can’t as a result of the blood retains flowing and exhibits no indicators of stopping. 

At a latest row home social gathering I fell right into a dialog with a Turkish woman. 

“People at all times ask me concerning the genocide,” she laughed. 

“It’s so foolish, I’ve to clarify to them that’s up to now.” She brushed it off, smiling, along with her crimson solo cup twirling in her hand.

“You recognize there are nonetheless issues taking place in Artsakh proper?” 


“Armenians are nonetheless being pressured to go away their ethnic lands” 

“What? I don’t—”

And with that, the music swelled and we had been swept again into the social gathering. 

This text is a private piece and isn’t related to the Armenian Pupil Affiliation.