Armenian music, food and dance filled Kogan Plaza last Thursday night as part of Armenian Kef, a cultural event that celebrates Armenian culture.
The festival was co-hosted by the Armenian Students Network and the Armenian Club from the University of Maryland. It was co-sponsored by the GW Arab Students Association, and designed to raise awareness about Armenian culture and provide a place for Armenian students to celebrate their heritage.
The event’s timing was particularly significant, occurring on the eve of the 94th annual Armenian genocide commemoration, when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in Ottoman Turkey. Conflict has continued as many governments refuse to recognize the Armenian killings as genocide.
Senior Leah Brayman, president of the ASN, said the event’s timing was deliberate, but it was not specifically focused on genocide remembrance.
About 250 students stopped by, Brayman said. The group ran out of food just one hour into the event, but many students stayed for the music and celebration.
Hratch Achadjian, a senior and member of the ASN, said he thinks educating students on the Armenian genocide is important.
“Some of this event is about learning more about the genocide simply because it is not recognized. It affected me personally because my grandparents were orphans because of it. I can’t trace my family line back because of it,” Achadjian said.
The Armenian and Turkish governments made headlines earlier this week after leaders agreed to normalize relations with each other, a move that freshman ASN member Berj Ghazarian said gave him hope.
Brayman too seemed hopeful that relations between the two countries, which currently share a closed border, could improve.
“I am optimistic about improving our relationship and every time there are improvements, it’s great for both nations. But there really needs to be recognition,” Brayman said. “April 24 is a very important day for Armenians, especially now since Barack Obama has been very vocal about his acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide, but whether or not he will declare recognition on behalf of the United States is still unknown.”
Most students, though, were content to put politics aside to dine and dance until after 10 p.m.
Achadjian said, “The biggest components any time we get together are food and music.”