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Help Arsen go to Oxford/Cambridge

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My name is Arsen Nisanyan. I am about to graduate from the Classics department at the University of St Andrews. I really want to pursue an academic career as an Ancient Historian and I have recently been admitted to both Oxford and Cambridge to continue my graduate studies there. However, I am from Turkey and funding for international students in the UK is extremely limited. So I need your help!

When I started studying at St Andrews four yeas ago, my family owned a small hotel with only 15 rooms. Back then tourism was a lucrative business in Turkey. My father (Sevan Nisanyan) taught linguistics at university level, and wrote several best selling books on Turkish politics, history, and linguistics. He also had a column in a daily newspaper, and was considered a public intellectual. Everything seemed to be going perfectly well, and my parents did not hesitate to send me to an expensive university so that I might pursue my dreams. 

I say back then, beacuse everything took a negative turn two years ago. Political environment in Turkey turned hostile towards my father when he publicly decried rampant corruption in government. My father penned several articles accusing the Erdogan administration for radically Islamizing Turkey, and called for popular resistance. When the minister of justice called my father an infidel on his Twitter account, and demanded that every good Muslim take necessary action against him, everything began to fall apart. You see, paternal side of my family is Armenian and Turkey has a history of treating the Armenians badly. 

My father was accused of blasphemy and libel – he was given two months to either leave the country or face jail sentence. But my father chose to stay in the country where he fought for more than thirty years to make a difference. He was put into jail in 2014. He decided to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights - the court declared his imprisonment illegal and demanded his release. This verdict was not taken well by Erdogan, who declared that as long as he is the president of Turkey my father would never again see the blue sky; and he remained true to his word. For more than a year and a half now, my father has been kept in solitary confinement; he is not allowed to see his family; he is not allowed to make phone calls. The initial charges of balspehmy and libel were dropped owing to public outcry, but in their stead came trumped up charges of illegal construction. He is now facing 22 years of jail sentence.

If you click on the links below, you can read the full details of my father's struggles in Turkey. The links are from the Washington Times and the Amnesty International.  

And it wasn't just my father who suffered from this character assasination successfully orchestrated by the government. All my family bank accounts were frozen last year, and court declared that our small hotel was illegaly built; it is awaiting demolition which might happen anytime now. The thing is, the building which we operate as a hotel was built more than 200 years ago. Do you realize how ludicrous the court decision is! It declared that a building was illegaly built more than 200 years ago, and asked for its demolution. Moreover, tourism has comlpetely collapsed in Turkey due to political instability and threat of terror - so even if the government does not carry the demolition threat through, it is not likely that my family will make any profit to send me to either Oxford or Cambridge. 

So why do I think that I deserve your financial support? The academia in Turkey, especially the humanities departments, are under constant attack from rapid religious radicalization and growth of political despotism within the country. Classical scholarship in Turkey is in a lamentable condition. I wanted to change this and to this end launched the Arché Project in 2013, which aims to create an environment for the study and teaching of the ancient world. We have organized many summer schools on a number of classical subjects, which were attended by dozens of academics and more than 200 students. One of our summer schools was sponsored by the UNESCO, and others were aided both financially and logistically by different charities and institutions. Soon we are hoping to raise enough money from donations to begin building a headquarters in Turkey that will house the Arché team in the coming years. 

Moreover, in colloboration with eleven archaeologists based in Turkey, I had an important role in founding Sirince Archaeological Association. Sirince is my hometown, situated near the ancient city of Ephesus. The thing that upsets the region (and myself) the most is the constant presence of treasure hunters and their destructive effects. We established the association in 2014 in the hopes that we might take the first steps towards eradicating illegal treasure hunting in the area. So far, we have organized a number of seminars to raise
awareness. In the near future, we hope to work with the municipal government for the protection of minor archaeological sites in the region.

I am only an undergraduate student, but I am trying to do my best to render the classical world relevant at the place where it happened two millennia ago. I think that I deserve a chance to pursue my dreams of getting the best education available in the world on the subject I am so passionate about. I need 21,000 GBP to be able to fully pay for my tuition and accommodation fees. If you believe that my cause is worth supporting, please consider donating. I can assure you that your money will be put to good use!

Thank you,


Arsen Nişanyan

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