After the end of the First World War, many Armenian organizations and foreign missionaries helped women and children to free themselves from their captors. These rescue missions turned into large-scale operations fraught with danger. 

In particular, the Danish missionary Karen Jeppe, who collaborated with the leaders of the Arab sects, managed to free 2000 Armenian women and children from Muslim captivity by 1928. With her help, widows’ shelters were established in many places, where many Armenian women, victims of terrible suffering, found shelter.

Many volunteers participated in the rescue at the risk of their lives and many Armenian women died trying to escape. The abduction and subsequent rescue of Armenian women and children is one of the most tragic and dramatic pages of the genocidal policy of the Ottoman government against the Armenian people at the beginning of the 20th century.

One of the most influential books written on this subject, Fethiye Çetin’s “My Grandmother” is extremely important in terms of bringing the issue of Armenian women who were Islamized in Western Armenia during the genocide to the public and literary agenda and initiating public debates. However, the disclosure of the facts and their flavoring with high art gives the book not only documentary but also artistic value and makes it different from other similar works.

In addition, the book has played a seminal role in deepening the Armenian theme in Turkish literature, and has brought great movement in public and literary circles.

Fethiye Çetin is a lawyer and has been working on the Hrant Dink case for many years. A leftist, she was repeatedly persecuted and even imprisoned after the 1980 coup. Fethiye learned at a young age (25-26 years old) from her grandmother Seher, who had spent her whole life as a Muslim, that she was in fact Armenian. In 1915, during the genocide against Armenians , an Armenian girl named Heranoush Katarian was abducted from exile by a policeman, adopted and converted. She was given the name Seher.

Ten-year-old Heranoush experienced all the horrors of the massacres and exile that accompanied her throughout her life, but kept them a secret until old age.

Heranoush has a deep bond with one of her grandchildren, Fethiye, to whom she entrusts the biggest secret of her life at an advanced age (70). There are several reasons for the bond between grandmother and granddaughter, but as with Irfan Palal’s grandmother, this time I think Heranoush saw or tried to see in the granddaughter something that connects her lost family. Her oft-repeated words to Fethiye are proof of this: “You look like ours.”

According to Çetin, her grandmother had a good memory, but in order to remember the details of her Armenian family, the exile, the massacres, she kept repeating them to herself throughout her life, so she was constantly traumatized. Other Armenian women like Heranoush were in a similar situation: 

“Later on, I realized that many women who had suffered my grandmother’s fate were talking among themselves because they could not express themselves like her.” 

Moved by this discovery, Fethiye Chetin decided to turn her grandmother’s story into a book.

To be continued…


Ashkhen Virabyan westernarmeniatv