LOS ANGELES, Calif.—T he UCLA Armenian Students’ Association held a demonstration on May 22 against the Young Turks’ Ana Kasparian, who was invited to speak at an event called POLITIFEST organized by the Bruin Political Union and Campus Events Commission.
The event featured several groups including Bruin Democrats, Bruins Elect, Bruin Libertarians, Bruin Republicans, CALPIRG, Young Progressives Demanding Action, and the USAC External Vice President’s Office.
“As one of the largest ethnic student groups on campus, we are outraged that no consideration was taken into account when bringing a member of The Young Turks to campus,” read a part of the statement released by the student group.
The Young Turks, an online commentary outlet, holds the name of the Turkish political movement that perpetrated the Armenian Genocide. Although The Young Turks deny any linkage to the names historical significance, it should go unsaid that keeping such a name is nothing but offensive to members of the Armenian community.
In 1908, the Young Turks came to power in the Ottoman Empire after overthrowing Sultan Abdul Hamid. Armenians living in the region were hopeful because the Young Turks stood on a progressive platform. However, this was not the case as the Young Turks began a nationalistic Turkification campaign leading up to the events of the Armenian Genocide.
The Young Turks organized killing squads, which began the liquidation of the Armenian people. The Young Turks initiated a process that left Armenians drowned in rivers, crucified, and burnt alive. The main figures of the Young Turk movement, Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Ismail Enver Pasha, and Ahmed Djemal Pasha spearheaded a Genocide that resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million Armenians.
“It should go unsaid that any name affiliation with the “Young Turks” is highly offensive. In allowing Ana Kasparian, a member of The Young Turks, the Bruin Political Union and Campus Events Commission have shown that they are either not familiar with the offensive nature of the name of the organization Mrs. Kasparian represents or that they just do not care,” read a part of the statement.
“UCLA Armenian Students’ Association is outraged by the deliberate censorship of this event. Many of the members, Armenians, submitted questions but were deliberately not chosen. For an event whose sole purpose is to discuss censorship, free speech, and the political climate on college campuses we feel that our questions were deliberately rejected,” the statement continued.
A freshmen Armenian Students’ Association member Ara Mandjikian asked the following question during the event: “In the U.S., there have been many instances of censorship. But, in the past as well there have also been incidents where a minority voice was silenced due to popular appeal such as the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire. Don’t you think naming a news organization after fascists who committed genocide compromises your ability to comment on censorship and social justice in general?”
Kasparian had a generic response that would please audience members that were not familiar with the nuance of naming an organization The Young Turks. ”Our members were eager to approach her during the meet and greet after she preached about the necessity for open dialogue but Mrs. Kasparian left right when the event ended. How can someone speak so sincerely about progressivism and the need for freedom of speech but not be able to confront issues such as these?” the statement continued.
The Young Turks is a media outlet that has had a cloudy history of refraining to touch upon the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Although the company’s founders have denied any linkage to the name’s historical significance, Cenk Uygur had published a college article denying the Armenian genocide. As a co-founder of The Young Turks, Uygur created the company during a time when he publicly denied the Armenian Genocide. “How can an organization such as The Young Turks be committed to social justice and progressive issues but not understand the highly offensive nature of their name? The answer is simple, The Young Turks do not care about offending Armenians,” the student group said.
The Armenian Students’ Association at UCLA said that it is disappointed that organizations on campus do not consider all details when hosting events such as these on campus. The Armenian Students’ Association at UCLA is one of the most active cultural organizations on campus and they have a long history as an organization. The organization hosts several educational workshops each and every year on the Armenian Genocide. These events are always open to the public and serve to educate all members of the community.
The organization will continue to fight discrimination and genocide denial as members of the Armenian Diaspora. They hope that members of the community will stand in solidarity with the organization stance and understand the offensive nature of hosting The Young Turks on campus.