The University of California, Irvine’s Center for Armenian Studies, in partnership with the Armenian Students Association and the Center for Truth and Justice, on October 16 hosted Garo Paylan.
The program began with a few words of welcome and introduction by the Center’s Director and Meghrouni Family Presidential Chair in Armenian Studies, Professor Houri Berberian, who recognized the audience’s presence on the ancestral and unceded homeland of the Tongva and Acjachemen peoples. She did so not in a performative way but because of its resonance and meaning for Armenians whose ancestral homelands, including most recently in Artsakh, are also unceded territory.
The hall exceeded its capacity as 120 members of the campus, including students and faculty, and the Orange County community attentively listened to Paylan’s message of unity as a path to strength and peace for Armenia and its newest refugees forced out of their homeland in Artsakh. Attendees imbibed Paylan’s message of unity in the face of an existential threat and welcomed his point of view informed by his inside knowledge of Turkish politics as a former parliamentarian (2015 – June 2023) in Turkey.
In brutal honesty, Paylan emphasized the need to move beyond victimhood and recognize past mistakes and missed opportunities for reconciliation. He encouraged reassessing maximalist and inflexible stances, maintaining that Armenia has much more to gain by treaties and accords with its historical enemies/neighbors, such as Turkey, than by taking an unyielding approach.
After a long and spirited Q&A with some challenging questions, the program ended as eager attendees surrounded Paylan continuing the conversation and probing further. Whether they agreed or disagreed with all of his points, they seemed appreciative of his voice, position, and intervention.
Armenian Studies at UC Irvine includes undergraduate coursework in Armenian history and language, as well as a quarterly lecture series that bridges historical and cultural topics regarding Armenians worldwide.
To learn more about Armenian Studies at UCI, visit the website.