By Mercedes Gechidjian
FLArmenians Miami Contributor
The Armenian Student Association (ASA) at the University of Miami (UM), organized a “Walk for Justice” this past Saturday, April 23, 2016, sponsored by the Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. and Florida Armenians, LLC. The walk began at 6:30PM alongside Lake Osceola at the University of Miami.
ASA invited the broader Armenian and non-Armenian community to “Walk for Justice,” to demand international recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and to condemn all crimes against humanity. Marchers were holding signs with statements such as “We Remember and Demand” and “1915 Never Again”, in addition to waving Armenian flags as they walked around the University’s historic lake. Participants had a common idea-to march for the recognition of the massacres of 1915. “It is wonderful to have a walk respecting the victims of the Genocide in our own campus,” said Max Armour, a University of Miami senior of non-Armenian descent.
The Association’s E-Board decided to celebrate the lives of their ancestors by performing and teaching Khochari to all the participants. “We want to celebrate their lives, to remember them dancing in the streets of Van and Adana,” said ASA member Guadalupe Gechidjian, “I am extremely proud of this organization and the event we were able to organize.”
Those in attendance were able to enjoy exquisite Armenian appetizers, such as dolma, lavash rolls, baklava, gata, and pockets with basturma, cooked by Sirvard Saakian, a Member of the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals in Los Angeles. In addition, participants received a free t-shirt with the Forget-Me-Not flower in commemoration of the 100+1 anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
The UM-Armenian Student Association would like to extend a big THANK YOU to the following individuals: Reverend Paren Avedikian, Viviana Horigian, Iren and Arsen Gasparyan, and Sirvard Saakian.
In South Florida U.S. Holocaust Museum Memorial Presents Findings on Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Iraq
By Mercedes Gechidjian
FLArmenians Miami Contributor
On Tuesday, February 9th and on Wednesday, February 10th, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton and the University of Miami (UM), respectively, had the honor of hosting a presentation by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) entitled “Exposing the Darkness: Perspectives on Mass Atrocities.” The panel discussion featured human rights experts Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the USHMM, and photographer Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin. This brilliant, powerful discussion was co-hosted by FAU’s Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education and by the University of Miami Hillel.
In 2015, Kikoler and Knowles-Cousin travelled to northern Iraq to document evidence of mass atrocities carried out by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The USHMM report found that IS has committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing against various minority groups and perpetrated genocide against the Yezidi people.
“The event discussed previous atrocities, such as the Holocaust and crimes in Iraq, and brought forth ideas on how these atrocities could be prevented,” stated Michael Bezjian, a University of Miami Armenian Student Association (UM-ASA) member who was present at the Miami panel.
Knowles-Coursin’s work focuses on identity within the context of migration and statelessness, so his photographs documenting the Islamic State’s brutality brought to life the plight of the displaced and persecuted.
According to USHMM’s mission statement, the “Museum strives to broaden public understanding of the history of the Holocaust through multifaceted programs: exhibitions; research and publication; collecting and preserving material evidence, art and artifacts related to the Holocaust; annual Holocaust commemorations known as Days of Remembrance; distribution of education materials and teacher resources; and a variety of public programming designed to enhance understanding of the Holocaust and related issues, including those of contemporary significance.”
Florida Armenians were encouraged to attend the USHMM discussion in the hopes of raising awareness and broadening perspectives on genocide and man’s inhumanity to man.
“Growing up as an Armenian American, I’m no stranger to the stories of genocide, as they were told to me by my grandparents, who learned from their parents. Attending high school in South Florida, we learned about Nazi Germany and the atrocities that took place in the concentration camps during WWII,” stated Florida Armenians Boca Raton Chair George Sarkisian who was present at the FAU presentation.
“’Exposing the Darkness: Perspectives on Mass Atrocities’ was truly eye-opening, and really put in context the level of violence currently taking place in Iraq and Syria. The pictures and stories shared by the panelists provided a small but powerful glimpse into the lives of the people suffering at the hands of ISIS. I was especially touched by the pictures and stories of the displaced people living in camps located in northern Iraq and it feels like the history of the Armenian people a century ago may well be repeating itself today,” Sarkisian said.