As mentioned in the previous parts, after the best-selling book “My Big Mother” by Fethiye Cetin, a movement began in Western Armenia and many people who had doubts about their identity started to search for their roots. People with similar memories gradually shed their fear and began to speak more boldly about their Armenian ancestors. 

The decades-old taboo cracked. Even the subject of Armenian roots, especially Armenian grandmothers, began to be widely discussed in the most prestigious Turkish newspapers. At the center of it all was Fethiye Cetin, who was visited or received letters from hundreds of people with similar stories. As a result of this, ethnographer Ayshe Gul Altnay, a professor at Cetin and Sabanj University, began collecting stories of different people of Armenian origin, which appeared in 2009, in a book published by them entitled “Grandchildren”.

 The book presents the stories of 25 people from different age groups.

The book can’t really be considered a work of fiction and is more like a series of testimonies, but there are still some notable artistic deviations next to the cold documentation. 

The book “Grandchildren” has a fairly rich documentary layer, the memoirs of specific individuals, sometimes living witnesses. It should be noted, however, that compared to Cetin’s previous book, “My Grandmother”, “Grandchildren” has no artistic value and sometimes elements of propaganda are perceptible. The preface mentions that there is a deep sense of fear among the grandchildren of Armenians who survived the genocide and were often forcibly Islamized, some of them, talking to the authors of the book, often hid their real names, some of them, after giving an interview, demanded that it not be included in the book. 

The words of the authors give a fair measure of the atmosphere of fear passed from generation to generation. “The pain of the Armenian grandfather was not a ‘past’ pain for his grandson, three generations later it continues to shape the present and even the future.”

The stories collected demonstrate the fact that even after one hundred years of genocide, fear and terror persist and spread among the third and fourth generations of survivors. It is also worth noting that the fact that their grandparents were Armenian affected their generations in different ways, but in all cases it was considered a closed subject, which was not desirable to talk about. The geography of the stories collected in the book also shows the spread of Islamicized Armenians. Thus, the stories were mainly collected from generations of converted Armenians currently living in Western Armenia or in former Armenian inhabited areas. Adana, Adiyaman, Arvin, Japagjur, Tigranakert, Kharberd, Yerznka, Karin, Kesaria, Malatia, Mush, Mardin, Sgerd, Sebastia, Tokat, Dersim, Van, Urfa and others. Here are some testimonies from this book that, once again, confirm and complete our assessment of the issue.

Barysh, 21 years old, says that he just learned that his maternal grandmother’s mother was an Armenian woman named Aghavni, who was given the name Nadire after being forcibly converted to Islam. Speaking of his great-grandmother, Barysh mentions that Haghavni was always silent, never laughed, and her eyes were always wet. It is also an important testimony that the Turkish grandmother of Barysh’s father told her grandson with unconcealed pride when he was young, how her husband went to Armenian villages to massacre Armenians.

In another story in the book, we encounter a confessed episode. Arif, 45, who has Armenian roots on his mother’s side, says that when he talked about 1915 on his Kurdish father’s side, he would often say, “We Kurds killed Armenians too, we killed them for money.” Being of Armenian origin was often used with insulting accents in different families, for example, Roya, 22, says that her paternal grandmother was Armenian and when her Muslim mother got angry with her husband or relatives, she insulted them by calling them “Armenian abortions.” Another similar example is reported by Asl, 33, whose father is of Armenian origin and mother is Kurdish. From her story. “When my mother was angry with us or my father, she would say, -False d՛ASALA.

There are also stories in the book that document that even after losing their families and violently converting to Islam, many Armenians tried to keep their national profile in every way possible. Gulchin, 38, says her paternal grandmother and one of her sons, who lived in Derik before the genocide, were somehow saved from the massacre, but the grandmother was later kidnapped by a Kurd and forcibly married to him. Having become a Muslim, the courageous Armenian woman, in the face of mortal danger, preserves her religion and her national consciousness in every way possible. In addition, she married her surviving son to a daughter of an Armenian family who had survived like him, so that the ethnic profile would remain pure. Even on her deathbed, her national and religious consciousness remains alive, and calling her Armenian daughter-in-law, she strictly orders her to make sure that her Muslim family does not bury her according to Islamic customs after her death, and that she can die as an Armenian Christian woman.

To be continued…

Journalist-analyst of Western Armenia TV

Ashkhen Virabyan