IN SEARCH OF ROOTS RAYS OF MEMORY AMONG THE DESCENDANTS OF ISLAMIZED ARMENIANS
It’s already quite a long period of time that among the forcedly Islamized Armenians and their descendants living in Turkey one can witness different intriguing processes which have directly or indirectly come to prove about preservation of certain layers of national self-consciousness and memory. In particular, in parallel with the unfolding discussions about “crisis of identity,” in the press are being spread stories of Islamized Armenians, are published announcements of people searching for their roots, lost relatives. In the Istanbul published newspaper “Agos” are a lot of suchlike announcements, and as in his time was noticed by Hrant Dink, “today many are wandering in the labyrinth of their identity in Turkey.” It is noteworthy and at the same time natural that this process of searches is more spread among the Islamized Armenians and their descendants.
Besides, today come to the surface people of mixed heritage with occurrences peculiar to “ethnic crisis.” The existence of such people with Armenian roots in Turkey and out of its borders is a fact, which must be perceived not only from the scientific but also moral and psychological standpoint. One may suppose that the question of Armenians and their descendants on different stages of assimilation and with anomalous identity need to be the subject of serious and thorough study, only after which any estimation may be given.
In Turkey the issue of identity becomes more and more scaling by time and as the evidence of it one may consider the setting up of the program “I am looking for my relatives” in Istanbul in 2006. For the idea and organization of the program are liable the local community youth groups “Grain” and “New awakening.” They have an objective to help people in search of their lost relatives about the existence of which they most often learn from the elder generation1 by menas of spreading announcements. By the way, a big role in the existence of the program “I’m looking for my relatives” plays “Agos” newspaper and the coordinator of the program is the co-worker of the very newspaper Aris Nalji.
However, it can’t but be mentioned that for the nation with such a big Diaspora as we Armenians have, it is not anything new: still in the Soviet Armenia, in the second half of 1960s, in the newspaper “Hayreniki dzain” was organized an analogical program, which was also called “I’m looking for my relatives.”
Telling about setting up of the program in the issue of November 18 of the newspaper “Evrensel Ayate,” Aris Nalji mentions that at the beginning one of their aims was wide spreading of many suchlike announcements, which would bring people to “Akos” in search of their relatives. “At that period, tells Aril Nalji, we pasted up 500 notices, and even a tourist from England could find his brother quite by chance by this notice.” According to Nalji, aspiring to expend the geography of their program, they have an objective of spreading its beyond the bounds Istanbul – In Europe, Lebanon and different regions of Turkey. Concentrating all their means and ties, they managed to do this, and, as Nalji says, the program gain international scale. At present it is spread in Berlin, Cologne, Paris, Beirut, in short, in the places inhabited with a big number of Armenians. A site is created where people may place an advertisement as well as look for their relatives through already existing ones, at that, in several languages. In the next year the organizers are planning to have the Armenian version of the site in Armenia.
It is quite natural that creation and development of the program is of certain social demand and may become quite an interesting and significant showing to understand the current processes among the Armenians in Turkey, which were forcedly Islamized or are of mixed heritage. It is quite remarkable the fact that this program is being carried out among the Armenians and is widely spread with the effect of snow lump not only in Turkey, but also among our compatriots living in different countries of the world. The facts have come to prove that there are very many people with grandmas or grandpas of Armenian origin and were told about their real families not long ago, or they knew about it but were afraid to speak out. These very people, who found out their real identity hidden from them tens of years, today suffer from the “crisis of identity.”
According to Aris Nalji, the spreading of the program abroad was not that difficult. “After all, there are Armenians in all the corners of the world” – he says and adds that in the beginning they were on their guard that under these notices some people would see other intends, however, in the future they overcame this apprehension. Nalji mentions that from the one hand their main objective is to help people in their search of relatives, from the other hand, to present this very phenomenon. “Independent of the number of ads pasted by us in streets, the hope to find relatives with their help is equal to 1%; however this very hope is the moving force inducing us to this activity.”
Nalji also mentions that thanks to this program many people have already found their relatives, and their stories are published in the newspaper “Agos.” A video plot about all these was made by the authoritative TV channel, one of the collaborators of which became the main hero of the plot.
Up till now there is a stream of people who come to the editorial office of “Agos” and tell that their grandmas are Armenians. However, all these don’t suppose that the Armenian community of Istanbul is that brave and under the present conditions they may make such risky steps. On the contrary, according to Nalji, the Armenian community, which is very careful and reserved, appears against publication of such stories fearing of possible consequences and doesn’t want to make a sensation of it.
In conclusion, we suppose that it is appropriate to cite the translation of one of the numerous notes inserted in the site of ads, at the same time mentioning that their quantity increases by time. In their turn these ads may become the subject of separate study with a big number of documentary and ethnographic elements.
“I was born in the Maden region of Elyaziz. I know that my mother is an Armenian and that the black days of 1915 she was forced to leave her family. My mother used to say that her relatives who survived were in Marseilles and the USA. I know that she comes from the village of Tadim, Elyaziz and she was called Eghisaper Tumasyan. No more information. My mother died in 1987 keeping in her heart yearning for her parents and brothers. I want to find my relatives from my mother’s side. I ask for your help. Ekrem U. ”
1The number of people who confess to their Armenian origin is increasing in Turkey. In this process it is quite obvious the fact that percentage wise among these people show that a big number make Armenian grandmothers who were abducted still at the time of the Armenian Genocide and forcedly Islamized Armenian girls and women. Their confessions are of great value and interest and are put under the perception “verbal stories.” One should take into special consideration that most of the representatives of that Generation have passed away and any memory written down about the Genocide and forcedly Islamized Armenians told by them is of great value.
Another materials of author
- ABOUT THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS OF TURKEY’S ARMENIANCY[12.07.2012]
- ON MANIFESTATIONS OF SELF-ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMENIANS IN TURKEY[29.05.2012]
- THE ISSUE OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE AND MODERN TENDENCIES OF TURKEY’S POLICY[14.05.2012]
- THE STUDY OF THE ISSUE OF ISLAMIZED ARMENIANS IN TURKEY: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS[12.04.2012]
- THE ISSUE OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IN THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT [08.12.2011]
- ON SOME TENDENCIES OF CONTEMPORARY TURKISH HISTORIOGRAPHY[17.11.2011]