SCSU hosts conversation to remember the Armenian genocide

Osman Kavala sits with President Mary A. Papazian as a key note speaker at the event “Remembering the Armenian Genocide.”

Jene Thomas – General Assignment Reporter 

In remembrance of the Armenian genocide in Turkey that began in 1915, Southern Connecticut State University’s president sat down with a human rights activist to discuss the nation’s present day state.

“Turkey today is not the Turkey of 100 years ago,” said President Mary A. Papazian, “and so it’s important for us outside to begin to understand what some of these changes are, what some of the tensions are and what might emerge for it all.”

Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and human rights advocate in Turkey, was invited to speak on the matter during the “Remembering the Armenian Genocide” event on Feb. 19, sponsored by Professor Armen T. Marsoobian and the department of philosophy.

“When I first met Osman as I said four years ago,” Marsoobian said, “we thought [his family’s collection of historical photographs] was an important way to present the story of Armenians before, during and after the genocide to the Turkish public. What they know about it has either been distorted or they know that there was this event, but the particularity of it, what the life of Armenians were like in those lands before the genocide and what they try to do in terms of recovering after the genocide is a part of the story that isn’t told.”

Between 1915 and 1923, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed while more than a million were deported.

With notes in hand, Papazian asked Kavala a series of questions regarding the present state of Turkey. When she visited Turkey, she met Kavala and the subject was brought up. Together, they worked to bring the discussion to Southern. She asked questions on how much change has happened with the last century.

Though there has been evidence of change, timeliness has not been a factor. People are now just starting to see it.

“Until recently, Armenians were unacknowledged by the Turkish government,” Kavala said. “I think that is changing.”

An indication of the change, he said, was the restoration of Armenian churches. Previously, there had been graffiti that defaced them. This was the most physical restoration. During her stay, Papazian said she had seen some of the graffiti and was curious as to Armenian efforts to reclaim their identity.

For a while, these churches were not attributed to Armenians. The word “Armenian” had not even been on the signs until the government proposed the idea a few weeks ago.

Kavala is the Chair of Anadolu Kültür, a non-profit organization that brings people from the art, business and civil world in order to come to a mutual understanding of regional differences, according to its website. As a human rights advocate, he encourages the developing relationship between Turkey ands its neighbors in Greece and Armenia in regards to cultural diversity.

Despite the initial start time of 6:30, there were some technical difficulties in regards to the microphones, which delayed the conversation. A reception preceded the discussion at 5:00 p.m. outside of the Anthony V. Pinciaro Memorial Conference Room.

Due to a minimal attendance of students, it was faculty and community members that gathered around the two tables for food samples inspired by Turkish culture. There were Turkey, Provolone and Pesto sliders, mini spanakopita, cucumber yogurt dip, also known as Tzatziki dip, lemon scented hummus and raisin walnut crisp, among others.

The event was free and open to the both the Southern community and the public. It gave those who attended a chance to learn what happened 100 years ago in Turkey and what’s to come in the near future.

“I couldn’t pass up such a unique and important event,” said Jean Incampo, professor in the English department.

Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas

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