My uncle Hakob Ismail: Arslan Ozdemir

  • by Western Armenia, January 13, 2024 in Politics
54 views

Journalist Arslan Ozdemir published an article entitled "My Uncle Hakob Ismail" on the website bianet.org. In the article, Ozdemir referred to the stories of Islamized Armenian children. The author notes that the stories of Islamized Armenian children remind us of the cruelty and lasting consequences of massacres against Armenians.

During the genocide against the Armenians, the Ottoman government and its supporters carried out a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenians. Within the framework of this campaign, thousands of Armenian children were adopted by Muslim families and converted to Islam.

Many of these children were the only survivors of the pogroms. Their families had been killed or disappeared, and they needed a new family to survive. Muslim Kurdish families often adopted these children as their own and taught them their culture and religion.

Armenian children who accepted Islam had to lose their identity and past. They forgot Armenian and abandoned Armenian customs. Some of them did not even know that they were Armenians.

The stories of Islamized Armenian children are part of the tragedy of the Armenian pogroms. These children are a reminder of the Armenian people who disappeared during the massacre. The process of assimilation of Islamized Armenian children was generally as follows. the children were adopted by Muslim families, adopted a Muslim name and surname, received a Muslim religious education, dressed in Islamic custom, and integrated into Muslim society.

The stories of Islamized Armenian children are part of the tragedy of the Armenian pogroms. These children are a reminder of the Armenian people who disappeared during the massacre. The process of assimilation of Islamized Armenian children was generally as follows. the children were adopted by Muslim families, adopted a Muslim name and surname, received a Muslim religious education, dressed in Islamic custom, and integrated into Muslim society.

My uncle, Hakob Ismail, was  example of these children. My grandfather, Sheikh Qasim (He was one of the famous families and sheikhs of Omeriya Ashiret.

During the Ottoman Empire, he was a judge in the Savur region), from the caravan of Armenian children being taken for killing to the Syrian Der Zor  in Goliye village of Mardin (Goliye village also played an important role during the genocide against Armenians in 1915. The village is responsible for the migration of Armenians.

Armenians and Assyrians living together in this village were forced to migrate and their lands were confiscated by the Muslims) from the rest camp set up from the soldiers who provided security for the caravan, two majidiye (a silver coin used during the Ottoman period, worth one-fifth of the Ottoman gold at the time) part or twenty Kurush) had taken him in return. Also in that caravan was Hakob Ismail's uncle's sister, Adel, whom he could not find despite all the searches, and thus until his death his relations  with real family members were broke up. 

Hakob Ismail, my uncle, was from Goghul village of Kharberd province of Elazigh, which played an important role during the Armenian pogroms. Most of the population of the village were Armenians, and in 1915 the village became the center of massacres initiated by the Ottoman government.

The Armenians living in the Armenian village of Goghul in the Kharberd province of Elazigh belonged to the Mashterl clan. The Mashterl clan was one of the largest clans of Armenians. Ashiret lived in the region of Eastern Anatolia (Western Armenia-Akunky ed.), especially in the provinces of Elazigh, Malatia and Bingol. Mashterl Ashiret suffered great losses during the Armenian Genocide. About 10 thousand members of Ashiret were massacred.

Uncle Jacob's father's name was Balyoz, and his mother's name was Vasilis. He had two older brothers. Father Balyoz was wealthy, the richest family in the village. He must have imagined the future in his head, because he sent his two eldest sons to America with Marcelo. (The Hamidian pogroms of 1894-1896 and the Armenian pogroms of 1915 increased the pace of Armenian migration to America. Armenians who were spared from these tragedies struggled to establish a new life in America. Armenian communities in America worked together to overcome these challenges and succeed. Today, the U.S. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians live in America. Armenians live in cities and towns in America.

Armenians are an important part of America's rich and diverse culture.) His oldest son, Sargis, had just got married. He did not take his wife with him when he left. Maybe after settling in America, they would take the whole family with them. However, the murder of the family and the exile of the survivors, Hakob and Adel, broke all ties with those who went to America for life.

First they took Hakob's father, uncle and other senior men of the family. When the family members did not hear from them for days, they realized that they had been killed. It was the turn of women and children

Before taking  women away, Jacob's mother gave Jacob and Adele a piece of gold each and asked them to swallow it. He thought it might be needed down the road. He put the valuables in a box and buried them at the threshold of the basement of the house. While burying the worm, he told the children where it was and taught them to come and dig it out if they were saved.

Then the women were taken to be killed. However, the newly married wife of Sargis was not killed, she was taken as a wife by a Muslim from the neighboring villagers. Probably as a strategist. Only the children remained.

When Hakob and Adele were taken out of the village, they were led through  the bloated corpses of their murdered elders. The bodies were not specially buried and the children were made  to see the bodies of their parents. Maybe they were given this message. "You no longer have a past, your past has been destroyed." Did they have  conscience who gave that message to children? While the Prophet of Islam lived in fraternity with the representatives of all religions in Medina, how did the members of this religion reach this point?

Goghul village is known as the center of massacres of Armenians. The Armenian residents of the village were massacred by soldiers and Muslim villagers and Chets. The village became a symbol of the destruction of Armenians.

The history of Armenians in Goghul village is a tragic reminder of Armenian pogroms. The inhabitants of the village experienced great pain and loss during the pogrom. Their stories are reminders of the brutality and injustice of the massacre.

The Armenians of Gogul village are represented with  few people who survived  the massacre. These people have tried to raise awareness by sharing their experiences of the pogroms. Their stories are important in commemorating the victims of the massacre.

When my grandfather took my uncle Hakob Ismail out of the convoy, they set off for our village. On the way, my grandfather told him that now he should become a Muslim and change his name.

When my uncle was living in Gogul village as Hakob, he had a Muslim friend named Ismail, and remembering him, he wanted his name to be Ismail.

My uncle, I say, was more of an uncle to me than my real uncles. My uncle was the second eldest son of the house and adopted all the siblings born after him. My father respected my uncle who took care of his brothers until his death. 

My father always teared up when telling memories about him. My grandfather, Sheikh Qasim, did not separate  him from his  children and considered him his most trusted son. My grandfather married him to a girl from his tribe, and they had four girls and four boys from this marriage. 

My uncle, Jacob Ismail, found traces of his brothers who survived the massacre in America, but he gave up this search because the mediator wanted him to leave his wife and Islam.

My uncle, Hakob Ismail, was a true Muslim, but he always lived with his Armenian identity. He never forgot the family members killed in front of his eyes. 

He took a vow and tried to fulfill his Islamic duties in his  best ways  until death. Perhaps he was one of the purest, most honest Muslims in the society he lived in. However, despite this, it has always been called "Bav Fele" (ie Fele father. The Kurds called Armenians "Fele" - this word comes from the Arabic word Fellah, which means "cultivator, sedentary", for the nomadic Kurds). He was of low origin, low class).

My uncle's children also lived as true Muslims and Kurds.

However, they were also aware that their father was of Armenian origin. In this sense, their grandchildren also searched and tried to discover their Armenian identity.

Some of the Islamicized Armenian children learned of their true origins when they became adults. Those children fought to regain their Armenian identity. Some rejoined Armenian communities and began learning Armenian. Others have tried to raise awareness by sharing their experiences as witnesses to the Armenian pogroms.

The stories of Islamized Armenian children remind us of the brutality and unpleasant consequences of Armenian pogroms. These children are a reminder of the Armenian people who disappeared during the Genocide.