For Tsoline Karakelian, being Armenian is more than just “having a last name that ends with ‘ian’” like the Kardashians.
Karakelian, a sophomore business and legal studies major, is the president of the newly formed Armenian Students Association of Temple University. The organization celebrates the culture of the country that lies between Europe and Asia. The group plans to listen to Armenian music, learn about the nation’s history, talk about current events in the country and attend Armenian events around the city.
Michele Bahtiarian, a sophomore biochemistry major and the club’s vice president said its goal is to keep Armenian identity alive.
“We want to bring Armenians together to keep our language alive, keep our culture alive, keep our food alive in a different country,” Bahtiarian said.
Maintaining Armenian identity is important to all of the current club members. The group gives students a way to celebrate their culture while they’re away at college and celebrate the country’s holidays together.
Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day — a national holiday in Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a territory east of the country, observed on April 24 — commemorates the Armenian Genocide, which started in 1915. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the genocide by the Ottoman Empire. The genocide also led to Armenian migration to other parts of the world, including the United States.
Mardo Yeremian, a junior biology major and a member of the club, said the day of remembrance is important to the club members, and the group is working to plan events as April approaches.
“It shows the resiliency of the Armenian people,” Yeremian said. “That we are still here and we still have a voice.”
“Our Armenian Apostolic religion is our main driving force and we have been fighting to get back compensation for all that has been taken from us since the genocide,” Bahtiarian said. “Our lands, our churches, intelligence and people.”
Karakelian said although the club is meant to celebrate Armenian culture and history, all students are welcome to join regardless of whether they are Armenian.
“I went to Armenia last summer and there are people who have moved there that aren’t even Armenian,” Karakelian said. “It’s not just us who love Armenia. Other people also love Armenia.”
She said she wants other people to learn about the culture, explore the history and try traditional Armenian food. She plans to have a special food meeting so group members can try boreg, which is flaky dough stuffed with mixed cheeses and spices, Lahmajoun, which is the Armenian version of pizza, and manti, or dumplings.
“Temple students will definitely see us a lot more on campus,” Karakelian added. “Our flags and our voice.”
Ayooluwa Ariyo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.