Between 1915 and 1918, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians living within the Ottoman Empire were arrested, tortured, and massacred at the hands of the Turkish government. This event, controversially known as the Armenian Genocide—a title formally unrecognized by Turkey and the United States as of today—is what initially sparked the formation of the Boston College Armenian Club in the late 1970s.
In addition to educating people about and promoting activism in petitioning for the U.S. government to officially acknowledge the genocide as a crime against humanity, the Armenian club celebrates Armenian culture and heritage. Through monthly dinners, community outreach, volunteer outings, and educational forums, the club attempts to gather together both BC Armenians and those interested in learning more about and sharing in Armenian customs and traditions.
The Armenian Club, which currently boasts about 25 to 30 active members—with a few hundred others on the listserv—is headed by Cara Megerdichian, A&S ’15, who, since joining the group her freshman year, has steadily progressed upward in rank from treasurer, to secretary, to co-president, to president for the 2014-15 academic year. Other officers include Natalie George, vice president and A&S ’17; Hagop Toghramadjian, treasurer and A&S ’17; William Musserian, outreach coordinator and A&S ’16; and Arev Doursounian, A&S ’17, and Emma Vitale, A&S ’16, both secretaries.
“We’ve gotten bigger as we hold more events,” Megerdichian said of her club’s numbers. “It really depends on how enthusiastic the incoming class is, and for the last few years, we’ve had a really enthusiastic class, so that makes a really big difference.” In terms of the events themselves, the BC Armenian Club has already hosted several on- and off-campus outings, including dinners in September and October to gather together, meet new freshmen and upperclassmen, socialize, and discuss the year’s plans, eboard meetings every few weeks, and volunteering opportunities. “There were significantly more people in October, which was awesome,” she said.
Most recently, members volunteered at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass. for its 58th Annual Church Bazaar, held Nov. 7 and 8. There, they served food, cleaned tables, and met other Armenian members of the local community—one of whom included the BC Armenian Club’s co-founder, Robin Tutunjian Hines, BC ’80.
“This year, we are really trying to get out into the community more,” Megerdichian said. “There is such a big Armenian community and influence in the area, so we’re in a really good spot to get involved.” The club’s next volunteer opportunity is at the Armenian Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain, Mass. “We’re hoping to get a good group of about six to seven kids together to read to the elderly and keep them company,” she said.
Additionally, the BC Armenians usually have events with other Armenian clubs in the area—such as the Armenian Students Association of Boston University, for example. On Nov. 21 at an Armenian restaurant in Watertown, the BC Armenian Club is co-hosting and attending a dinner/dance social together with all similar clubs in BC’s proximity.
In terms of possible events on the calendar for next semester, the club is aiming to take a trip to the Armenian Library and Museum of America, also located in Watertown, Mass. “If everything works out, we might have a cooking lesson,” Megerdichian said. “We did last semester, and it was a big success.”
One of the club’s most important events, however, is on April 24: Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. The group then gathers to commemorate all of those brutally taken from their homes, forced upon death marches through the Mesopotamian desert, and otherwise murdered by leaders within the Ottoman Empire under the “Turkification” campaign government, which at the outset of World War I sought to remove Armenians from war zones along the Eastern Front under suspicions that Christian Armenians—and non-Turks in general—posed a grave threat to this new, more modern constitutional state. This year will mark the 100th-year anniversary of the genocide’s beginning on April 24, 1915.
“We by no means are trying to spread hatred, or anger, but rather to educate,” Megerdichian said. “Obviously, because it hasn’t been recognized by the U.S., it’s a political hot topic, and we are trying to advocate for recognition of the innocent 1.5 million who died.”
Featured Image by Harout Arabian / Flickr