Turkish researcher Erol Ketenci has found two documents containing important information about Hamshen and the Hamshen-Armenians in the government’s Ottoman archives in Istanbul.
One of the documents dated 1 June 1913 is a document that the main headquarters of the Ottoman Army had sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to Agos Weekly, the document reads that “the people known as Hamshen in the villages (names are recalled one by one in the document) of Hamshen region are Muslims who have become detached from the Armenian identity.” The second document (3 June 1913) is an official letter that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had sent to the office of the governor of Trabizon, stating the names of villages where the people “are of Armenian descent, but have converted.”
Briefly presenting the content of the documents, Agos writes that the main purpose of the two documents is to not let the people of Hamshen “give in to the tricks of missionaries due to naivety and lack of experience.”
At the request of Agos Weekly, lecturer of the Faculty of Armenology and Philology at Yerevan State University Haikazun Alvrtsyan expressed his views on the document.
He said there is recently more and more interest in Hamshen and the people of Hamshen and that there are scientific works and works that are ordered. The latter, according to the expert, are mainly aimed at distorting the history of the Islamized Armenians of Hamshen. The Armenians of Hamshen are mainly presented as an element with Turkish origin. “Although the people of Hamshen have never presented themselves as Turks, the majority of them haven’t spoken out about their Armenian identity due to fear or other factors,” Alvrtsyan said. According to him, the above mentioned documents help make revelations that he presented in four points:
- The comments of Turkish authorities and the Turkish government-led circles making “academic claims” that the people of Hamshen are non-Armenians are being denied.
- The phrase in the documents stating that “the activities of missionaries will be very easy due to the naivety and lack of experience of the people of Hamshen” is interesting. What’s interesting is that alongside the people of Hamshen presented as converted people of Armenian descent are the Muslim Lazs, but there is no fear that the latter can fall into the missionaries’ trap. Perhaps the authors of the document referred to Armenians under the name of “missionary”.
- According to the information in the documents, 200 years have passed since the Islamization of the Armenians of Hamshen, but the authorities feared that the Armenians of Hamshen could return to their Armenian identity and the religion of their ancestors.
- Finally, the documents help raise a very important question: Who wanted to distort the history of the Armenians of Hamshen, when was it distorted and why?
Erol Ketenci said the revelation of these documents shows that nothing can remain a secret forever.