April 30, 2015

For Raffi Wartanian MIA ’15, being on the ground in Turkey to remember the Armenian genocide was important both personally and historically.

“It’s about remembering the million and half people who were lost,” says Wartanian, who is concentrating in Urban and Social Policy and specializing in International Media Advocacy and Communications.

Wartanian recently traveled to Istanbul as part of an independent study to document the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the genocide. He worked with the group Project 2015, a coalition of scholars, students, activists, artists, and genocide survivors who conducted a variety of commemoration events. The group offered a study grant that covered his costs.

Wartanian’s primary project is to create a video profile of Ara Dinkjian, a musician who performed during recent commemoration events. Dinkjian is one of the world’s foremost talents on the oud, a traditional string instrument similar to a lute. (He is also Wartanian’s oud instructor.)

Wartanian’s paternal grandparents and maternal great grandparents all survived the genocide. “It’s a big part of my own family’s history and I’d never been to Turkey until recently.” Before beginning his studies at SIPA, Wartanian lived in Armenia for a year on a Fulbright scholarship.

He describes the 100th anniversary period as intense for Armenians all over the world, and expresses frustration that Turkey’s government continues to deny the genocide—noting that Pope Francis recently recognized the genocide and the European Parliament has urged Turkey to do so as well.

In this context, Wartanian said, “It was personally important for me to be there.”