About the problem of Western Armenia 

  • by Western Armenia, May 01, 2023 in History

There are contradictory data in various sources, which prove that Christian Armenians who were forcibly converted to Islam during the genocide, as well as Christian Armenians who were rescued in various ways, remained in Sassoun.

It is known that the genocide committed against Armenians was also accompanied by the destruction of Armenian cultural monuments (cultural genocide), and after 1915, the presence of Armenian clergy was impossible in the half-destroyed or completely destroyed churches and monasteries of Western Armenia. 

Under these conditions, the Christian Armenians who survived in Sassun faced serious obstacles in performing religious rituals. It would be naive to think that in the years following the Genocide, the non-providence of an Armenian clergyman to the inhabitants of Sassoun, who retained their Christianity, was only due to the “indifference” of the Armenian Patriarchate. It is clear that the serious control of the occupation authorities did not allow Armenian clerics to come to the territories of Western Armenia, and rare secret visits were always followed by pressure and violence.

Thus, the wave of Islamization began in the 1950s to the groups of Sassun Christians who survived under such conditions. In the late 1950s, various departments of the occupation authorities called on Armenians to convert to Islam, which, however, provoked opposition from some Sassoun Armenians who rejected the forced religious conversion. However, the pressure continued and the power structures were also included. 

As a result of all this, a part of the Christian Armenians, at least in appearance, gave in and accepted Islam. Along with the violent methods, the Turkish occupation authorities also implemented other measures, and Muslim imams and sheikhs often began to visit Armenian villages without clergymen, who tried to convince the local population to voluntarily accept Islam, so that it would be possible to perform their mission, ceremonies: weddings, funerals, etc. 

 This method also yielded results, as Armenians deprived of a bishop had to resort to this approach. However, it should be noted that according to our interlocutors, the conversion of their relatives was definitely not accepted by the surrounding Armenians, who openly criticized the converts. Sometimes this helped to stop or reduce the extent of Islamization. According to testimonies from various sources, cases of Islamization of Armenians in these places were also recorded in the following years, for example in the 1980s. 

The ongoing persecution forced some of the surviving Armenians of Sassoun to move to Constantinople, some of them accepted the religion imposed by the Turkish authorities and the situation created, and some of them turned into secret Christians. It should be noted that during this period, a similar policy was applied to the Armenian groups that survived in different parts of Western Armenia. 

All this proves that the Turkish government continued the policy of forced Islamization adopted by the Ottoman Empire, which eventually yielded its results, and today there are almost no openly Christian Armenians left in the territory of Western Armenia, except for certain nuclei.