Ara Sarafian

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Ara Sarafian
Sarafian at a meeting on Turkish politics in the UK parliament
Sarafian at a meeting on Turkish politics in the UK parliament
Alma materUniversity of Michigan

Ara Sarafian (Armenian: Արա Սարաֆեան) is a British historian of Armenian origin. He is the founding director of the Gomidas Institute in London, which sponsors and carries out research and publishes books on modern Armenian and regional studies.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sarafian was born in July 1961 in Cyprus.[2] In 1974, while he and his parents were on holiday in London, the Turkish military invaded North Cyprus and his family became refugees. He decided to learn Turkish so that he could challenge the Turkish state's denial of the Armenian Genocide and applied to study the language in Ankara.[3] When the Turkish Ministry of Education turned down his application to study, he went anyway, paying for his tuition by teaching English. According to a New Yorker profile, "coming to Turkey transformed him, in an unexpected way. The combined effect of getting to know Turkish citizens, of higher education, of maturity, and of changing Turkish politics eroded the teen-age hatred until he began to seek out opportunities for reconciliation."[2] Sarafian attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in the United States and earned his M.A. in history under the tutelage of Ronald Grigor Suny.[4][5]

Gomidas Institute[edit]

Sarafian co-founded the Gomidas Institute at the University of Michigan in 1992 and has served as its executive director ever since.[1][3] The institute is now based in London.[2] Among its book publications are English translations of Armenian texts related to the Armenian Genocide.[6] It also publishes the journal Armenian Forum. Additionally, Gomidas has published Talaat Pasha's report on the Armenian Genocide[7] and a critical edition of The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916, commonly known as the Blue Book (originally published in 1916 by British historians Lord James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee),[8] as well as a Turkish edition of the book. The Gomidas Institute has also published the memoirs of former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans[9] and it has collaborated with the Hrant Dink Foundation.[10]


Sarafian conducted research in the Ottoman Archives of the Turkish Government in the 1990s, together with Hilmar Kaiser.[11]

In February 2007, Sarafian accepted the suggestion of the then-chairman of the Turkish Historical Society, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, to cooperate on a joint project.[12] Sarafian later proposed a joint case study of "what happened on the Harput Plain" and "how many people died" during the deportations.[13][14]

A month later, Halaçoğlu announced that Sarafian has declined to carry out the study,[15] and added that Sarafian "was disturbed by the institute's initiative to study the archives of Tashnak, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation".[16] In an interview, Sarafian said Halaçoğlu's "explanation was not true because I had not said any such thing. The case study came to an end when Halaçoğlu stated that the relevant records, which he had initially agreed to use as the basis of the joint case study, were not available."[17] Halaçoğlu's choice to withhold archival records and pull out of the project was criticized at the time in the Turkish press.[18]

The Nation magazine has called Sarafian "the leading authority on the history of the [Armenian] genocide in the English language."[19] He was the subject of two independent documentary films. The first film, Gagik Karagheuzian's The Blue Book, Political Truth or Historical Fact (2009), focused on Sarafian's work and research on the Blue Book.[20] The second film, John Lubbock's 100 Years Later (2015), focused on Sarafian's work with Kurdish civil society organisations in Turkey around the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b "Home". Gomidas Institute. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Khatchadourian, Raffi (5 January 2015). "A Century of Silence". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b Shakarian, Pietro A. (31 March 2015). "An Interview with Ara Sarafian". The Abovyan Group. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  4. ^ Maroot, Matthew (December 1997). "Sarafian Speaks on Kharpert Massacres". Hye Sharzhoom. California State University, Fresno. 19 (2). Archived from the original on 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2008-08-30. Ara Sarafian received his M.A. in History from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  5. ^ Lima, Vincent (2008-01-07). "The Next 1.5 Million: A Panel Discussion on Armenian Studies in the United States". Armenian Forum. Gomidas Institute. 1 (1): 95–101. Retrieved 2008-09-01. The history chair, occupied until recently by Ronald Grigor Suny, has produced two scholars, Ara Sarafian and Vincent Lima.
  6. ^ Tataryan, Hakop (October 2003). "Ara Sarafian Discusses Genocide Memoir To the Desert". Hye Sharzhoom. California State University, Fresno. 25 (1). Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2008-08-30. Ara Sarafian, an archival historian specializing in the late Ottoman Period, is one of the founders of the Gomidas Institute located in London, England. The Institute republishes English translations of works originally written in Armenian by those who experienced the Armenian Genocide first hand, materials that ordinarily would be cumbersome to obtain for present-day historians.
  7. ^ Ara Sarafian, ed. (2011). Talaat Pasha's Report on the Armenian Genocide. London: Gomidas Institute. ISBN 978-1-903656-66-2.
  8. ^ James Bryce; Arnold Toynbee (2000). Ara Sarafian (ed.). The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Falloden by Viscount Bryce. London: Taderon Press (Gomidas Institute). ISBN 0-9535191-5-5.
  9. ^ Evans, John Marshall (2016). Truth Held Hostage: America and the Armenian Genocide – What Then? What Now?. London: Gomidas Institute. ISBN 978-1909382268.
  10. ^ Gomidas Institute Publications: Hrant Dink Foundation Books / Hrant Dink Vakfi Kitaplar
  11. ^ Sarafian, Ara (Spring 1999). "The Ottoman Archives Debate and the Armenian Genocide" (PDF). Armenian Forum. 2 (1): 35–44. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  12. ^ "Gomidas Institute Offer to Historians in Turkey: "Let's Undertake a Case Study of the Events of 1915"". Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  13. ^ Guvenc, Duygu (2007-02-22). "Turkish and Armenian historians are meeting at last". Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  14. ^ "Armenian historian accepted suggestion of Turkish counterpart on joint work". PanARMENIAN.Net. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  15. ^ "Sarafian bows to diaspora pressure, says Halaçoğlu". Today's Zaman. 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  16. ^ "TTK President Halaçoğlu responds to Sarafian's claims". Today's Zaman. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  17. ^ "Sarafian: Genocide deniers weaker today than ever" (PDF). Armenian Reporter. 31 May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  18. ^ Birand, Mehmet Ali (14 March 2007). "Why do we invite them in the first place?". Turkish Daily News. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  19. ^ Shakarian, Pietro A. (13 October 2016). "The Armenian Genocide Finally Gets Its Due With the Film 'The Promise'". The Nation. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  20. ^ Karagheuzian, Gagik (2009). "The Blue Book, Political Truth or Historical Fact". Vimeo. Vimeo. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  21. ^ Lubbock, John (April 2016). "100 Years Later". Vimeo. Vimeo. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  22. ^ "100 Years Later: Dealing with the Legacy of 1915". Massis Post. 10 February 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.