By Ariane Bonzon Reporter
During the 1915 genocide, tens of thousands of Armenians, women and children were kidnapped, converted and married by force. Many Turks are now discovering that one of their grandmother was Armenian. published on slate France
U n state secret, the existence of these “hidden Armenians”. The talk is undermining the national myth of “the Turkish and Muslim identity” foundation of the Turkish Republic. The first time I heard of “crypto-Armenians,” I did not really believe elsewhere. Published on slate France
It was the early 2000s, Mesrob II Mutafyan , Patriarch of Turkish Armenians, received the solemn setting and slightly kitsch of his residence in Kumkapi on the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Carrying the cross and the ecclesiastical dress, copy the holding of its predecessors for five centuries -whose long series of portraits, not always endorsements, adorned the murs- His Beatitude evoked touring Anatolian. He recounted his visit to the village of “Cibinli near Urfa where Armenians fled in 1915 had abandoned their girls, teenagers from 12 -14 years.”
Mesrob II Mutafyan it had spoken to a man and many grandchildren from forced marriages contracted by these young girls with Turks.
The historian Ara Sarafian estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Armenian women and children escaped death or deportation in the desert during the genocide of 1915. The hidden one -by “Righteous” Turkish – others kidnapped, adopted or espoused. To speak of these survivors, the Ottomans used a chilling phrase: “the remains of the sword.” But for years, Turkish and Armenian historians have said not a word of these “crypto-Armenians.”
My research crypto-Armenians
“Until there is 10-15 years, it was a kind of taboo, confirms the researcher Bared Manok. Matter of dignity for the Armenians; mistrust and contempt converted by the Turks. On both sides, it did not evoke this disturbing reality. “” It is not known but it is thought that it was not as important and perhaps we would not know either, “recognizes the French philosopher of Armenian Michel Marian. Because admit that there may be Muslim Armenians is very disconcerting for those in the diaspora whose identity was previously closely related to Christianity.
I explained my project to Hrant Dink: go to Anatolia to find them and shoot Islamized Armenians. It was not very encouraging. According to him, it would be very difficult to find these “crypto-Armenians” who absolutely do not want to reveal. They will never accept to talk on camera, for fear of reprisals, he warned me.
He himself had not dared to publish Agos in its investigation of Sabiha Gökçen , the adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Turkish Republic, an Armenian who had lost their parents during the genocide. A state secret, like the still supposed Christian roots of President Abdullah Gul , an Islamic-conservative, whose grandmother was, too, Armenian.
Armenians who go to the mosque
“An Armenian convert, suggests the university Etienne chips, one of the best connoisseurs of Turkish nationalism is seen as a traitor since it is the epithet that sticks to the Armenians. “Insult” Ermeni Dolu “(” seed of “Armenian”) is common. “Given the contempt contained in this insult, says Etienne chips, it is certain that if it turned out that a significant part of the Turkish population is descended from Armenians (converted or not), this would be a shock, a hardly acceptable truth. “
A bit like a common ethnic lie of apartheid in the 90s, when it was so difficult to white Afrikaners to recognize that they also had black blood, that of the employee of the farm seduced by the grandfather for example.
After wiping tens of refusal, I was finally able to pull this off in 2007. For the first time, an Islamized Armenian family spoke openly on camera. As seen in this video , nothing distinguishes these “hidden Armenians” other villagers same baggy pants, even scarf on the hair for women, even food.
They do not even speak Armenian, Turkish and barely above Kurdish. They go to the mosque, their children attending schools in the Republic of Turkey and their dead are buried in Muslim cemeteries. But sometimes their graves desecrated, not to mention stubborn jealousy vis-à-vis this family of “infidels”, richer than others.
“The remains of the sword”
As an extension of this singular history, other Islamized Armenians began to speak. In the remains of the sword (Thaddeus Publishing, 2012), French journalist Laurence Ritter investigates. Portraits and stories she has collected finally break the silence, the “basic rule of survival” in which these hidden Armenians were walled up. While in the center of the book, photos of Max Sivaslian give a face to the memory, lived or transmitted genocide.
Turks and Armenians still compete on the number of victims in 1915: 300,000 dead, say the first, more than a million, say the latter. Should we count the survivors, the ancestors of these crypto-Armenians? And if so, where, in which category?
“The dead” since they are recognized nowhere suggests the Turkish sociologist Ayse Gül Altinay in the afterword of the book Small children (Actes Sud, 2011). The one missing? Forced Islamization comes she strengthen the thesis of genocide? Or otherwise mitigate? Sensitive issues that explain why these family secrets have become a state secret.
Another question: in 2012, how much are these Muslim Turks who have Armenian roots, sometimes even without knowing it? In Turkey, at least 10 million, according to a series of historians cited by Bared Manok:
“Encryption is all the more difficult as the Islamization did not only Armenians […] [and that] Muslim minorities, Arabs, Kurds and Alevis, turn have undergone imposed turkification. […] The official discourse in Turkey is that there is one people, characterized by Islam and Sunni. All others had to go one way or another in this context “
One of the son of the Armenian family hidden that I filmed in 2007 no longer lives in the village but in Istanbul. In the anonymity of the big city, he decided to “convert” to Christianity. Which would be impossible, too risky for his life remained in the Anatolian countryside.
“The number of” re-conversions “increased,” confirms me Luiz Bakar, Turkish-Armenian lawyer who lives in Istanbul. It calls for these converted Armenians resume Armenian names keeps their own language, their religion and can thus revive their identity openly in Turkey.
Independent journalist. Works on Turkey, the Middle East and Southern Africa where it was relevant for 20 years. Written sometimes on France. His blog (in English): http://arianebonzon.fr