At the Primise Armenian Institute, Dr. Elise Semerjian spoke about her book “The Remains,” in which tattooed and scarred women reveal the larger story of gender and genocide. Semirjian notes that among the images of the genocide against the Armenians, the community memory of tattooed Islamized Armenian women is the most important. The blue tribal tattoos that covered the face and body signified assimilation into Bedouin and Kurdish Muslim homes.
Semerjian focused his discussion on the context of a 1919 humanitarian portrait of a young woman named Mariam Azaryan. While the name of the genocide victim was forgotten during the collection and connection process, Semerjian presented his methodological approach on the topic of tattooed Armenian women.
There are types of tattoos that are a sign of self-expression, some show that a person is a member of this or that group, and some are a form of punishment. Additionally, there is also a photo of a woman from Aleppo taken in 1919. Her tattoos start from her face and go down to her neck, visible under her half-open shirt.
The woman’s name is not known, but part of her story is presented in the caption explaining the painting. She was Armenian and thanks to the Young Women’s Christian Association she was able to escape from the brothel. The inscription also mentions that during the genocide against the Armenians, women were captured and enslaved, or forced into prostitution, and tattoos were made to distinguish them. This is a deeply disturbing picture, a small story, which constitutes one of the undeniable facts that the genocide took place in the Ottoman Empire, which the Turkish government still denies.