Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

A Climate for Abduction, a Climate for Redemption: The Politics of Inclusion during and after the Armenian Genocide

  • Lerna Ekmekcioglu (a1)

This article explores a forcible, wartime transfer of women and minors from one ethnic group to another, and its partial reversal after the war. I analyze the historical conditions that enabled the original transfer, and then the circumstances that shaped the reverse transfer. The setting is Istanbul during and immediately after World War I, and the protagonists are various influential agents connected to the Ottoman Turkish state and to the Armenian Patriarchate. The absence and subsequent involvement of European Great Powers determines the broader, shifting context. The narrative follows the bodies of women and children, who were the subjects of the protagonists' discourses and the objects of their policies. This is the first in-depth study to connect these two processes involved: the wartime integration of Armenian women and children into Muslim settings, and postwar Armenian attempts to rescue, reintegrate, and redistribute them. I explain why and how the Armenian vorpahavak (gathering of orphans and widows) worked as it did, and situate it comparatively with similar events. I highlight its uniqueness, and the theoretical possibilities that it offers toward understanding why and how women, children, and reproduction matter to collectivities in crisis.

Corresponding author
Hide All

1 piece, “Badmutiun me Tornigis Hamar, Yerp vor Medznas,” written in New York in 1927, is included in her Giankis Jampen (Antilias: Dbaran Gatoghigosutian Giligio, 1952), 293–98.

2 Ibid., 296.

3 Yergamia Deghegakir H. G. Khachi Getr. Varchutian, 1918 Noy. 18–1920 Teg. 31 (Biennial Report of the Armenian Red Cross in Constantinople covering the years from 18 Nov. 1918 to 31 Dec. 1920) (Constantinople: M. Hovagimian, 1921), 30. The Armenian Red Cross in Constantinople was never recognized as an official institution by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) though official correspondences between the two organizations exist and are housed in the ICRC archives in Geneva (ACICR, B CR 0075-245). It was de facto dissolved in 1922 with the entry of the Turkish Kemalist forces into the capital, and was never restarted.

4 We lack studies of Armenian abortion laws, practices, and rates in the Ottoman Empire that would allow us to fully assess how unprecedented the relief workers' attitude was.

5 Kalemkiarian, “Badmutiun,” 297.

6 This paper refutes Vahé Tachjian's claim that responsible Armenian leadership displayed “opposing forms of prejudice towards two integral components of […] nation: positive towards orphans one the one hand, and negative towards some abandoned women and girls on the other hand.” Though our area of focus is different (his sources are from the Arab Middle East) Tachjian's own examples are enough to disprove his argument that the Armenian leadership's policy towards raped and/or kidnapped women and/or prostitutes was based on “exclusion,” as his essay's title suggests. His examples point either to the kidnapped women's anticipation of exclusion, or to their former family members' (and not “Armenian representatives'”) unwillingness to accept children of Muslim fatherhood into their communities. And even in those cases, families seem to have been willing to accept the formerly kidnapped women. That a few Armenian leaders did not insist on forcibly “rescuing” women who did not want to return does not suggest that these leaders excluded these women. In Tachjian's only example that pertains to a person of leadership seeing children of Muslim fatherhood as “foreign children,” that person was not an Armenian and did not run an Armenian-funded shelter home. Karen Jeppe, a Danish missionary/social worker, directed the Rescue Home in Aleppo as a League of Nations Commissioner. Tachjian Vahé, “Gender, Nationalism, Exclusion: The Reintegration Process of Female Survivors of the Armenian Genocide,” Nations and Nationalism 15, 1 (2009): 6080, here 65. Due to a lack of research in this area and uncritical readings of Tachjian's article, recent publications have replicated his view, and have used it for unfounded generalizations such as arguing that Armenian historiography considered surviving Armenian females as non-existent because post-war Armenian nationalists had viewed kidnapped women as “corrupted,” “polluted,” and their as children bearing “the seeds of their murderers.” As this article demonstrates, the whole vorpahavak was based on the assumption that however “polluted” these women became, there was a way to “cleanse” them and return them to the community. Selçuk Akşin Somel, Christoph K. Neumann, and Amy Singer, “Introduction: Re-Sounding Silent Voices,” in Amy Singer, Christoph K. Neumann, and Selçuk Akşin Somel, eds., Untold Histories of the Middle East: Recovering Voices from the 19 thand 20 thCenturies (London: Routledge, 2011), 17.

7 “Total” or gender-neutral genocides are the exception rather than the norm. Joeden-Forgey Elisa Von, “Gender and Genocide,” in Bloxham Donald and Moses A. Dirk, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 6.

8 Pragmatism as well as contingency dictated that some skilled Armenian men were spared if they were deemed indispensable to their community's well-being (e.g., craftsmen, musicians, cooks, or tailors). My discussion here excludes Armenians who converted to Islam “voluntarily,” either in an attempt to evade deportation, which did not always work, or under serious threat of deportation and persecution.

9 The only book-length study is by a Turkish historian whose detailed research intends to negate “the Armenian claims” regarding a genocide. His central point is that Ottoman wartime policies regarding Christian women and children were devised to protect these vulnerable populations and therefore cannot be considered forcible transfer, an argument I refute in this article. Atnur İbrahim Ethem, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları ve Çocukları Meselesi, 1915–1923 (Ankara: Babil, 2005).

10 Strikingly, these documents are published by the Turkish Republic Prime Ministry General Directorate of the State Archives whose goal in publishing “The Armenian Question” is to negate the genocide theses. Since the legal definition of genocide, as defined by the United Nations in 1948, includes the “forcible transfer of children from one group to another,” the archive's inclusion of such “transfer documents” for publication in the early 1990s requires some explanation. In the 1980s, 1990s, even in the early 2000s, Turkish official narrative relied on the argument that the Armenian case was no Holocaust and that applying the term “genocide” to the “wartime deportation of Armenians” would threaten both the concept of genocide and the legacy of the Holocaust. Turkish officials' argumentation was in line with, and inspired by, the emerging field of genocide studies, which emphasized the Holocaust's uniqueness, that it could not and should not be compared with other cases. For a detailed analysis of the evolution of Turkey's narrative of its “dark past,” see Jennifer M. Dixon, “Changing the State's Story: Continuity and Change in Official Narratives of Dark Pasts,” PhD diss, University of California, Berkeley, 2011. Even in 2005, Turkish nationalist scholars like Atnur (Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları) interpreted the mere existence of such documents and living Armenian women and children as proof of a lack of “intent” (a legal requirement for “genocide”) to annihilate all Armenians.

11 This is not the first document of this sort but it seems to be the most detailed one. Since studies of Armenian genocide have overwhelmingly focused on documenting the physical destruction, they long ignored such transfer/abduction documents, which I believe have a “smoking gun” value. Given the Turkish state's denials, and a general tendency to identify “genocide” with “death,” this is to be expected. An early example of attention to the topic is in Fuat Dündar, Modern Türkiye'nin Şifresi: Ittihat ve Terakki'nin Etnisite Mühendisliği (1913–1918) (Istanbul: Iletişim), 304–7. A recent change is discernible in the field. In 2012 alone two different scholars took up the issue: Taner Akçam, The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 316–28; and Uğur Ümit Üngör, Orphans, Converts, and Prostitutes: Social Consequences of War and Persecution in the Ottoman Empire, 1914–1923,” War in History 19, 2 (2012): 173–92. Both point out that the first document to order that Armenian children be housed in Ottoman Muslim orphanages is dated 26 June 1915; Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri, DH. ŞFR no. 54/411.

12 My italics. Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri, DH. ŞFR, no. 63/142. This document is published in Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler, 1915–1920 (Ankara: T. C. Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü Osmanlı Arşivi Daire Başkanliği, 1994), 141–42. An important word of caution: despite this and similar orders, on-the-ground applications of the policy differed greatly. The killing of infants seems to have been especially common.

13 For examples in each category, see Sarafian Ara, “The Absorption of Armenian Women and Children into Muslim Households as a Structural Component of the Armenian Genocide,” in Bartov Omer and Mack Phyllis, eds., In God's Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), 209–21.

14 For sex-based violence during the genocide see: Dadrian Vahakn, “Children as Victims of Genocide: The Armenian Case,” Journal of Genocide Research 5 (2003): 421–38; Derderian Katharine, “Common Fate, Different Experience: Gender-Specific Aspects of the Armenian Genocide, 1915–1917,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 19, 1 (May 2005): 125; Bjørnlund Matthias, “‘A Fate Worse than Dying’: Sexual Violence during the Armenian Genocide,” in Herzog Dagmar, ed., Brutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe's Twentieth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 1658.

15 Krikor Odian's is just one example of the many memoirs that mention all of these practices: Accursed Years: My Exile and Return from Der Zor, 1914–1919 (London: Gomidas Institute, 2009).

16 While assimilation was the norm, there were exceptions where children were allowed to practice Christianity in their new Muslim household. See Panosian Sdepan, Giank Me Ir Hankrvannerov U Khoherov (Toronto: Hay Kir, 2009), 134–38.

17 This excludes the deportations and massacres of prominent figures and Anatolian laborers in Istanbul.

18 Atnur, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları, 71.

19 Karakışla Yavuz S., “Kadınları Çalıstırma Cemiyeti Himayesi'nde Savaş Yetimleri ve Kimsesiz Çocuklar: ‘Ermeni’ mi, ‘Türk’ mü?Toplumsal Tarih 6 (Sept. 1999): 4655.

20 The binary of “rescue” versus “kidnap” has been central to how groups have understood their children crossing racial, ethnic, or state borders. Karen Dubinksy recently discussed such narratives in terms of international and domestic interracial adoptions, and also the debates between Cuba and America over Peter Pan Children.” Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 2010).

21 Adams David Wallace, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding Experience, 1875–1928 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995).

22 Bjørnlund, “Fate Worse than Dying,” 36.

23 Kieser Hans-Lukas, “From ‘Patriotism’ to Mass Murder: Dr. Mehmed Reşid (1873–1919),” in Suny Ronald G., Göçek Fatma Müge, and Naimark Norman M., eds., A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 126–47.

24 Delaney Carol, “The Meaning of Paternity and the Virgin Birth Debate,” Man 21, 3 (1986): 494513.

25 Ottomans remained highly cognizant of the demographic significance of marriage, and often managed it centrally. For a discussion of how the 1874 law prohibited marriages of Ottoman (Sunni) women to Iranian (Shiite) men, to prevent the creation of Iranian citizens, see Karen Kern's Imperial Citizen: Marriage and Citizenship in the Ottoman Frontier Provinces of Iraq (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011).

26 Peirce Leslie, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

27 Even though Western sources as well as Armenian memoirs and oral history interviews constantly refer to the kidnapping of the “prettiest of the girls,” Vahakn Dadrian's claim that “Ottoman Turks saw the Armenian gene pool as invaluable source for the enrichment of the mainstream Turkish nation” is not supported by either the available evidence or scholarship to date (“Children as Victims,” 422). Nonetheless, that the students and teachers of the Western missionary schools in Anatolia were among those kidnapped first suggests that further research on this topic is needed.

28 Maksudyan Nazan, “Foster-Daughter or Servant, Charity or Abuse: Beslemes in the Late Ottoman Empire,” Journal of Historical Sociology 21, 4 (Dec. 2008): 488512.

29 As proof that this was a legalized approach to encourage Muslims to take Armenian women and children, Taner Akçam (Young Turks' Crime, 319) refers to a telegram sent by the chairman of the Abandoned Property Commissions to many provinces on 11 August 1915. But one document is insufficient to generalize from, and more research is needed to assess how common this practice was. Survivor memoirs do not mention it.

30 Peirce Leslie, “Abduction with (Dis)honor: Sovereigns, Brigands, and Heroes in the Ottoman World,” Journal of Early Modern History 15 (2011): 311–29.

31 Ibid., 312.

32 Deringil Selim, “‘The Armenian Question Is Finally Closed’: Mass Conversions of Armenians in Anatolia during the Hamidian Massacres of 1895–1897,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 2 (2009): 344–71, here 363.

33 “Allies to Punish Turks Who Murder; Notify Porte that Government Heads Must Answer for Armenian Massacres,” New York Times, 24 May 1915.

34 Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri, DH-ŞFR, 92/196, quoted in Atnur, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları, 133.

35 Ibid.

36 For a memoir of a vorphavak officer in Mesopotamia, see Jinbashian Iskhan and Parian Levon, eds., Crows of the Desert: The Memoirs of Levon Yotnakhparian (Tujunga, Calif.: Parian Photographic Design, 2012), 109–13.

37 Der Yeghiayan Zaven, My Patriarchal Memoirs (Barrington, R.I.: Mayreni Pub., 2002), 181–82.

38 One such girl, then nineteen, remembered how, with two male guards, she would go to Muslim households and even when the lady of the house claimed that there were no “infidels” (non-Muslims) in the house she would forcibly enter the household and find children hidden in basements. Sanasarian Eliz, “Gender Distinction in the Genocidal Process: A Preliminary Study of the Armenian Case,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 4, 4 (1989): 449–61, here 455. Oral history interviews conducted with survivors in their old age, mostly in the United States, have not been explored with regards to vorpahavak efforts.

39 Ibid., 185. According to an April 1921 report prepared by the Patriarchate in Istanbul, the total number of kidnapped Armenians reached sixty-three thousand, out of which six thousand were in Istanbul and its environs. Özdemir Hikmet, Ermeniler: Sürgün ve Göç (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2004), 123. A similar table was reproduced in Amenoun Daretsuytse 15 (1922): 261–65.

40 Watenpaugh Keith David, “The League of Nations' Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920–1927,” American Historical Review 115, 5 (2010): 1315–39, here 1315.

41 Shemmassian Vahram, “The League of Nations and the Reclamation of Armenian Genocide Survivors,” in Hovannisian Richard, ed., Looking Backward, Moving Forward: Confronting the Armenian Genocide (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2003), 94.

42 The Ottoman police support to the rescue effort is recognized in an open letter from Zaruhi Kalemkiarian to Halide Edib (Adıvar), in which she asks her to organize Muslim women to help the police find Armenian orphans in harems. As one of the most revered female writers and activists of the period, Halide Edib was also known to Armenians as a brave figure who openly condemned the 1909 massacres of Armenians in Adana. This letter, dated 29 December 1918, was probably written before Armenians learned about Halide Hanım's active wartime role in Islamizing Armenian children in orphanages in Lebanon. See note 63, this paper. “Pats Namag Halide Edib Hanemin,” 29 Dec. 1918, personal archives of Zaruhi Kalemkiarian housed in the Yeghishe Charents Museum of Literature and Art in Yerevan, Armenia.

43 Atnur, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları, 135–38.

44 The patriarch mentions this but provides no numbers. Der Yeghiayan, My Patriarchal Memoirs, 181.

45 For an earlier complaint of this nature, dated 20 February 1919, see Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler, 224–25.

46 Der Yeghiayan, My Patriarchal Memoirs, 181.

47 Haygaz Aram, Bantog (Beirut: Mshag, 1967), 138.

48 This topic has been little studied in Greek historiography. For an initial attempt, see Konstantina Adrianopoulou, “Social Policy and ‘National Mission’: ‘Little Ethnomartyrs’ in the Christian Orthodox Community of Istanbul during the First World War,” paper presented at the Princeton University Hellenic Studies seminar, 2007.

49 For a comparative discussion, see Andrea Parrot and Cummings Nina, Sexual Enslavement of Girls and Women Worldwide (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008).

50 The March 1919 report, “La liberation des Femmes et Enfants Nonmusulmans en Turquie,” was prepared by Zabel Yeseyan, the most distinguished Armenian female writer and activist of the time; Nubarian Library, National Delegation archives, 1–15, correspondence Feb.–Mar. 1919, report titled 1919, 9.

51 One interviewed survivor said that a few Armenian men who had been in the United States during the war returned to Adana (in southern Turkey) to search for their wives. They found their wives, but all had married Muslim men. The interviewee described the meeting of these women with their former and new husbands: “[The former wives] all came dressed like Turks with veils on their heads. [Their Muslim husbands] told [their Armenian husbands] that anything can happen during wartime…. [The Armenian women] would not leave—one of them said that if they returned, people would say that they have been Turks' wives and would mock them. [The Armenian husbands] all gave up […] They remarried. And all of them returned to the U.S.” Derderian, “Common Fate,” 13.

52 Haygaz, Bantog, 157.

53 Yesayan, “La liberation.”

54 See my points regarding Zaruhi Bahri's cases in this article.

55 The Turkish press of the time and subsequent Turkish nationalist historiography interpreted Armenian women's reluctance as proof of their initial consent or eventual happiness, thus implying that women were happier among Muslims than among Armenians. Armenian historiography, on the other hand, has simply ignored reluctant women and children, reflecting the biases of male memoirists.

56 Bahri Zaruhi, “Inch er Chezok Doune?Aysor, 3 May 1953.

57 From 8 Feb. 1919, Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri, DH-ŞFR, 96/100, quoted in Atnur, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları, 174.

58 Ibid., 180.

59 Ibid., 181.

60 Based on research on refugee women's memoirs, and Karen Jeppe's reports of incoming women refugees to her Reception House in Aleppo, Victoria Rowe reached a similar conclusion to mine, that the “Armenian and international community made it a policy to offer women the chance to return to the Armenian community.” Armenian Women Refugees at the End of Empire: Strategies of Survival,” in Panayi Panikos and Virdee Pipa, eds., Refugees and the End of Empire: Imperial Collapse and Forced Migration in the Twentieth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 164.

61 Bahri Zaruhi, Giankis Vebe (Beirut: n.p., 1995), 189.

62 Ibid., 191.

63 Halide Edib Adıvar accused Armenians of brainwashing Muslim children; The Turkish Ordeal: Being the Further Memoirs of Halidé Edib (London: Century Co., 1928), 17. Armenians, though, accused her of Islamizing Armenian children. For an example, see Aghavnie Yeghenian, “The Turkish Jeanne D'Arc: An Armenian Picture of Remarkable Halide Edib Hanoum,” New York Times, 17 Sept. 1922. Edib herself fostered a Kurdish (or possibly Armenian) war-orphan girl at home. Çalışlar İpek, Halide Edib: Biyografisine Sığmayan Kadın (Istanbul: Everest, 2010), 158.

64 Even though written from a markedly Turkish nationalist perspective (Armenians are the only kidnappers of the story), the following work remains informative: Funda Selçuk, “Türk Basınında Ermeni Sorunu (Mayıs 1919–Aralık 1920),” MA thesis, Ankara Üniversitesi, 2003.

65 Kévorkian Raymond, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 760–62.

66 Zaven Dikran, “Miamedutiun E Khosil Kuynerou Vra Guyri Me, Khghji Vra Chartarari Me,” Zhoghovurti Tsayne, 26 June 1919.

67 Maksudyan Nazan, “The Fight over Nobody's Children: Religion, Nationality and Citizenship of Foundlings in the Late Ottoman Empire,” New Perspectives on Turkey 41 (Fall 2009): 151–80.

68 Tavitian Anahid, Yergu Dziranner (Arvesde yev Engerayin Dzarayutiune) (Beirut: [published by her family], 2006), 168.

69 Chakerian personally returned the daughter of a certain Tevfik Efendi, whose daughter was mistakenly retrieved by vorpahavaks and kept for four days. Though Chakerian apologized to Tevfik Bey, another vorphavak agent named Garabed subsequently took the daughter away again, and again Chakerian returned the daughter to her father. Atnur, Türkiye'de Ermeni Kadınları, 165.

70 Archives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, PCI Bureau, 3d report, 6 Mar. 1922.

71 Bahri, Giankis Vebe, 187.

72 Even discussions within the National Assembly confirm this point, but only additional study will give us a deeper understanding of the policy. Armenian critics, including the assembly's chairman, Tavit Der Movsesian, accused the Neutral House for acting like an “inquisition court,” selling the orphans or taking bribes from their Muslim families. A Patriarchal commission found these accusations unfounded, but this did not prevent T. Der Movsesian from repeating them in his memoirs: Kaghutahayutian Hamar Yelits Miag Aghake (Paris: Jarian, 1935), 196207.

73 Haygaz, Bantog, 138. Responsible authorities' memoirs either refute the accusations or remain silent on the topic. The head of the Armenian National Relief Committee in his memoir italicized the following: “I affirm that we had no wish to Armenianize any Turk's child.” Eblighatian Madteos, Giank Me Azkis Giankin Mech: Aganadesi Yev Masnagtsoghi Vgayutiunner 1903–1923 (Beirut: Antilias, 1987), 185.

74 Haygaz, Bantog, 138.

75 See Khachadourian Haroutioun, “Hayun Vrezhe,” Amenun Daretsuytse 15 (1921): 134–35, here 135.

76 Weitz Eric, “From the Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions,” American Historical Review 113, 5 (2008): 1313–43.

77 Der Yeghiayan, My Patriarchal Memoirs, 205.

78 The patriarch assured him that the survivors living in foreign lands intended to return to the fatherland at first opportunity, and did not even try to improve the condition of their (temporary) homes (ibid., 207).

79 Ülgen Fatma, “Reading Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” Patterns of Prejudice 44, 4 (2010): 369–91, here 376.

80 Mark Hayganush, “Khmpakragan: Hay Ellank,” Hay Gin 1, 3 (1 Dec. 1919).

81 My discussion here excludes psychological dimensions of achieving or trying to achieve recuperation by physically reproducing; that is, substituting the dead with the living. We lack numbers to assess whether a “baby boom” occurred among Armenians following the genocide.

82 A contributor to Hay Gin proposed that the Armenian Patriarchate should collect extra taxes from singles and decrease taxes on families with multiple children. Salmaslian Armenag, “Pnagchutiun Yev Amurineru Vra Durk,” Hay Gin 1, 21 (1 Sept. 1920).

83 Original emphasis. Dokt. Derorti, Ur Gertas Hay Gin,” Hay Puzhag 3, 9 (July 1922): 150.

84 In his analysis of Armenian claims to territory and sovereignty in Cilicia (contemporary southern Turkey, which remained under French occupation from 1919 to 1922), Sam Kaplan shows how, in order to “prove” their numerical majority, Armenian lobbyists made the argument that all inhabitants of the region, even the Turkish-speaking Muslims, were in fact of Christian origins, the descendants of the medieval Armenian kingdom in Cilicia (1137–1375). Though Kaplan's analysis fails to take into account the role of the recent genocide in Armenian claim-making (except for his rare references to “the tragedies of war” or “internecine hostilities”), his observations remain significant by showing that, if need be, Armenian spokespersons could even make room for Muslims in new definitions of Armenianness. Territorializing Armenians: Geo-Texts and Political Imaginaries in French-Occupied Cilicia, 1919–1922,” History and Anthropology 15, 4 (2004): 399423.

85 , “Hay Gnoch Aroghchabahagan Tere Hayasdani Mech III,” Hay Gin 1, 19 (1 Aug. 1920).

86 Mookherjee Nayanika, “Available Motherhood: Legal Technologies, ‘State of Exception’ and the Dekinning of ‘War-Babies’ in Bangladesh,” Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research 14, 3 (2007): 339–54.

87 Harris Ruth, “The ‘Child of the Barbarian’: Rape, Race and Nationalism in France during the First World War,” Past and Present 141 (1993): 170206.

88 The rare intellectual who refused to consider Armenian motherhood sufficient for eligibility for national belonging received little attention, and no corresponding policy. For one such example, see Bedros Bondatsi's piece in which he assures his “dishonored sisters” that they will remain virgins for Armenian men with whom they will have new weddings in the new Armenia. But he cautions them to “secretly abort what is there in your womb. Armenia needs her true/authentic natives (harazad).” Yeghernayin Harsanik,” in “Yerevan”i Daretsuytse (Constantinople: n.p., 1920), 32.

89 Weitsman Patricia, “The Politics of Identity and Sexual Violence: A Review of Bosnia and Rwanda,” Human Rights Quarterly 30 (2008): 561–78.

90 Mazlmian Kohar, “Prni Mayrutian Bardatrvadz Teradi Mayreru Hokegan Vijage Yev Anonts Yerakhanerun Zrganknere,” Hay Gin 1, 11 (1 Apr. 1920). For interviews with survivors who neglected or abandoned their rape babies, see Miller Donald E. and Miller Lorna Touryan, Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 101–2.

91 Kalemkiarian Zaruhi, “Zavage,” in her Giankis Jampen, 272.

92 Elliott Mabel, Beginning Again at Ararat (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924), 25.

93 For an example of how “naturally” the Armenian church in Adana baptized the baby of a woman who was pregnant when rescued, see Garougian Varteres, Destiny of the Dzidzernag: Autobiography of Varteres Mikael Garougian (Princeton: Gomidas Institute, 2005), 96.

94 Quoted in Derderian, “Common Fate,” 14.

95 Bedoukian Kerop, Some of Us Survived: The Story of an Armenian Boy (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979), 201.

96 Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill conducted interviews with mail-order brides who entered Canada in the 1920s. She concludes that marriage was the immediate goal of refugee girls and women for reasons ranging from hopes of bringing their surviving family members to the New World “to save them,” to desires to end a life “in transit.” Armenian Refugee Women: The Picture Brides 1920–1930,” Journal of American Ethnic History 12, 3 (1993): 329, here 3.

97 Ibid., 22 fn. 54, 29.

98 Kipritjian Nargiz, “Goch Me Hay Mayrerun,” Hay Gin 1, 10 (16 Mar. 1920).

99 Yeramsia Deghegakir H. G.

100 Minassian John, Many Hills Yet to Climb: Memoirs of an Armenian Deportee (Santa Barbara, Calif.: J. Cook, 1986), 236.

101 This does not mean that everyone accepted them wholeheartedly. Yet various survivors and Western social workers mention how tattoos did not pose a fundamental obstacle to integration. Virginia Meghrouni, whose memoir is rare in explicitly talking about how she was raped among Bedouins, and the process of her getting tattooed, also mentions how her fiancé (who was in America during the war) saw her tattoos as her “valor and honor.” Derdarian Mae M. and Meghrouni Virginia, Vergeen: A Survivor of the Armenian Genocide (Los Angeles: ATMUS Press, 1997), 249. For a narrative construction of a tattooed woman's attempted return to her original family after thirty-seven years, see Hourig Attarian, “Lifelines: Matrilineal Narratives, Memory and Identity,” PhD diss., McGill University, 2009.

102 A recent documentary, despite its ungrounded overgeneralizations, provides a glimpse into the life of a tattooed woman who continued her life as an Armenian. Khardalian Suzanne, Grandma's Tattoos (New York: Cinema Guild, 2011).

103 The best-remembered precedent for such an attitude was Kegham Der Garabedian's marriage to Gulizar, a young girl who had recently rescued herself from the household of the Kurdish Musa Bey, into which she had been absorbed in 1893. For a sample of how Armenians remembered the case in post-war Istanbul, see Musa Bey yev Gulizar,” Amenoun Daretsuytse 10–14 (1916–1920): 151–52.

104 Mesrob Sahag, “Yegherni Hushartsan, Anonts Anune,” Aravodi Darekirk 1 (1921): 8386 (this is an almanac).

105 The patriarch would not easily give away orphaned girls even to their Armenian relatives, even when they provided extensive proof of their relationship. Haygaz, Bantog, 133.

106 Mark Hayganush, “Khmpakragan: Angial Gineru Hamar,” Hay Gin 3, 4 (16 Dec. 1921).

107 Anayis (Yeprime Avedisian), Hushers (Paris: [published by her family], 1949), 264.

108 Fifty thousand Greeks and Armenians left the city between October and December of 1922. Alexandris Alexis, The Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, 1918–1974 (Athens: Center for Asia Minor Studies, 1983).

109 Referring to this group as “Islamized Armenian survivors,” Ayşe Gül Altınay and Yektan Türkyılmaz criticize Turkish and Armenian historiographies for either ignoring the existence of this group or reducing them to the Ottoman government's efforts to “protect life” (in the case of Turkish historiography) or to a representation of the “eradicated nation” (in the case of Armenian historiography). They insist that by failing to consider these convert women and children as “survivors,” historians have treated them as non-entities. Notwithstanding the importance of studying the lives of converts (for who they were), I contend that an undifferentiated label of “survivor” is problematic because it takes no account of the initial logic of the genocide. Physical endurance and continuation of the ethnic-religious identity must be treated separately. If “survivor” means “someone who continues to function in spite of opposition,” then we need to take into account (among various factors) the nature of the violence against which “survivor-ness” is defined. That these women and children physically continued life is not in and of itself reason enough for them to be lumped into the category of “survivors” of this specific genocide, during which the goal of the perpetrators (as I demonstrate in this paper) was to irreversibly absorb them into the Muslim community, and this is what in fact happened to them. To put it differently, that some of these formerly Armenian people continued their post-war lives as Muslim Turks/Kurds/Arabs and reproduced Muslim Turks/Kurds/Arabs does not amount to the failure of the génocidaire logic (as implied in the term “survivor”), but instead is testimony to its success. Moreover, even the term “Armenian” in the description “Islamized Armenian survivors” needs to be problematized rather than assumed, since many converts, regardless of the conditions of their conversion—forced or not—lived and died as Turks/Arabs/Kurds and/or devout Muslims. In the absence of a blood-based definition of Armenianness (that remains intact regardless of external social conditions), the unqualified characterization of all such converts as “Armenian” might preclude a discussion of the converts’ multilayered self-understandings, rather than putting them in scholarly light. “Unravelling Layers of Gendered Silencing: Converted Armenian Survivors of the 1915 Catastrophe,” in Singer et al., eds, Untold Histories of the Middle East: Recovering Voices from the 19th and 20th Centuries, 25–53.

110 For a collection of interviews with their grandchildren, see Altınay Ayşe Gül and Çetin Fethiye, Torunlar (Istanbul: Metis, 2009).

111 It should be noted that among Turkish Muslim citizens in Turkey, having Armenian ancestry is still widely considered shameful, and the person potentially disloyal. “Ermeni dölü” (Armenian sperm) is still used as an insult. In February 2004, when the Turkish Armenian weekly Agos (published in Istanbul) claimed that one of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's adopted girls might have been an Armenian orphan, the Turkish media and various state institutions took it upon themselves to aggressively deny it. Sabiha Gökçen was not only the daughter of “the founder of new Turkey,” but also the first female combat pilot, and thus represented the success of the Turkish modernization project. The Gökçen controversy initiated a process of demonizing Hrant Dink, the most prominent Turkish Armenian editor, leading eventually to his assassination by a Turkish nationalist teenager, on 19 January 2007. For a detailed discussion of his demonization, see Fatma Ülgen, “‘Sabiha Gökçen's 80-Year-Old Secret’: Kemalist Nation Formation and the Ottoman Armenians,” PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2010, 109–53.

112 The only known past case that acquired public attention, to a certain extent, was in 1962. A certain Ms. Pilibosian, born as Muslim but raised in Armenian orphanages in Istanbul and France, visited Turkey from France and found her Turkish siblings. The case was the lead story in a popular Turkish daily: Talu Esin, “Akşam Köşesi/ Madam Pilibüsyan'ın Macerası,” Akşam, 17 Dec. 1962: cover page, and p. 5.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 89 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 308 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.