In commemoration of the nearly 1.5 million Armenians killed at the onset of the 20th century, the Armenian Student Association will celebrate Armenian culture tonight.

Beginning at 8 p.m. in I.V. Theater 2, the event will analyze the mass killing — which many scholars consider genocide — and the subsequent survival of the Armenian culture. Although 94 years have passed since the killings, only 21 nations have officially recognized the Ottoman Empire’s massacre of Armenians during and after World War I as an act of genocide. The Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the massacre as “genocide.”

ASA President Artin Sarkisian, a fourth-year statistical science major, said the purpose of the event is to publicize the controversial atrocity.

“People don’t know too much about it, so that is what we are trying to do: spread our word,” Sarkisian said. “We need to spread awareness of the first genocide of the century because the fact that Turkey denies it sends a message to the world that it is OK.”

Nanor Balabanian, an ASA member and first-year political science major, said although this event is generally a commemoration, it should also serve as a reminder of the gross violation of basic human rights that has gone unacknowledged for nearly a century.

“The United States has prioritized its economic relations with Turkey,” Balabanian said. “Once the genocide is recognized — and that is only the first step — it can help prevent future genocides.”

The event will include a dance and poetry recital by ASA member Zepur Mehrabian, guest speaker Vache Thomassian from the Armenian Youth Federation in Los Angeles, a monologue recital by ASA member Nanor Balabanian as well as a guest performance by rapper R-min.

ASA Vice President Vana Kouyoumji said the arts play an important role in conveying the Armenian perspective in the conflict.

“We are focusing on arts because the genocide tried to destroy us,” Kouyoumji said. “We want to show how we can rebuild our culture, despite the diaspora, and to show that we have continued to grow and thrive.”

Ani Babayan, a third-year political science major, said this event is an indication of the Armenian population in Santa Barbara.

“Armenians have gone through every type of torture and massacre under the hands of the Persian Empire, the Turkish Empire and the Soviet Union,” Babayan said. “And we’re still here.”