Reedley College commemorates Armenian genocide

Reedley College Political Science program provides a free presentation on Armenian genocide to memorialize 108th anniversary

(Reedley College)
(Reedley College)
Derek Fleming
Published April 5, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – The Reedley College Political Science program is providing a presentation on the Armenian genocide, not only to commemorate its 108th anniversary, but also help educate the public on the ongoing ramifications of the tragedy. 

The event will take place on April 17 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and is titled, “The Armenian Genocide; 1915 & Beyond.” It features guest speaker Savag Tateosian, a writer and host of the San Joaquin Spotlight podcast. The event is open to the public and is free to attend. 

The Armenian genocide has major historical ramifications for residents of the Central Valley. Thousands of Armenians immigrated to the United States in the years after the genocide began, with many settling in the San Joaquin Valley. 

According to Tateosian, early Armenian settlers found the Valley to be reminiscent of Armenia, and a community was established here as early as the 1880s. The community helped draw in immigrants who were fleeing the murder and persecution that was being inflicted on the population in their home country by the Ottoman Turks and Kurds. 

“If you look at the way Reedley is, it’s got the agriculture and it’s got the mountains right close to it. That is very similar to historic Armenia and Armenian land, where immigrants were coming from,” Tateosian said. “It really reminds you of where Armenians once lived, which is present day historic Turkey.”

According to Reedley College political science instructor and department chair Bryan Tellalian, the political and economic situation surrounding the genocide tend to obscure the facts of what happened. Tellalian is the Reedley College host of the April 17 event. 

“It is very tricky. However, recently, President Joe Biden did recently recognize the Armenian genocide,” Tellalian said. “There is some positive direction on that front, but things continue to be a little bit dicey on this issue, at least for Congress and the Executive branch to be more proactive in solving some of the issues with Turkey.”

The Republic of Turkey has continuously denied allegations of acts of genocide even as recently as 2023. A fact sheet published by the Foreign Ministry of Turkey describes the official position by claiming that the forced relocation of Armenians, which began in 1915, was carried out because of revolutionary actions by the population. Armenians are accused by Turkey of becoming belligerents in the First World War, siding with Russia, who was fighting against the Ottoman Empire, which covers 44 countries in the present day. 

The Foreign Ministry claims that the “Armenian experience,” while tragic, does not meet the United Nations definition of genocide because the population was not targeted on the basis of ethnicity, but rather because militant groups took up arms against the ruling empire and were aided by citizens. 

Turkey further points out that the forced marches through the deserts of Anatolia were not the sole form of death, nor are there multiple documentations of mass-murder. Instead, the Ministry claims, the majority of those who died perished due to famine, disease and other causes resulting from the ongoing World War. 

“Something that is fundamental to understanding the Armenian genocide is that there is a fundamental dignity to the human person,” Tellalian said. “When we are navigating foreign policy or even when we are navigating our own domestic disputes, we need to recognize the dignity of the human person and we need to look at our neighbors and fellow countrymen as such. 

He continued, “It’s important that we not subject our fellow man to being put in the second position. We can find common ground, we can live peaceably, but it’s important that we don’t take our freedom for granted.”

Derek Fleming