The Islamization of Armenian children at the period of the Armenian Genocide
After the intrusion of the Turkish tribes into the Asia Minor and the Armenian Highland the population inhabited in those territories was continuously forcefully Islamized. Children have always been considered the best targets for the conversion of religion as at such an early age it is easy to wipe away their still forming religious and national self-consciousness. By this very logic was working the wide spread institute in the Ottoman Empire called devshirme (gathering baby boys) also called “tribute for blood,” which had been applied for many centuries. The baby boys gathered from the non-Muslim population of the Empire were given military and religious education and formed the regiments of Yenichies.
Being one of the main non-Muslim nations of the Ottoman Empire the Armenians were continuously Islamized, which at different periods embraced different quantities. It is known that the last wide ranging action of the Islamization of Armenians was implemented at the period of the Armenian Genocide. There were also cases when the Armenians were saved from exile and massacre through converting their religion, however, it didn’t have a general character as the main objective of 1915 was to wipe away the Armenian Ethnos and not to assimilate it with the Turkish one. We should also mention that not always the government approved Armenian’s “voluntary” readiness to convert their religion and in this sense special attention deserves the cryptographic documents of the Ministry of Home Affairs directed to the provinces inhabited with Armenians on June 30, 1915 which are still preserved in the Ottoman archive of the government (President’s apparatus). According to it, the apostasy of the Armenians would hinder their being exiled. It was also added that under the threat of danger the Armenians often turned to such a method, but later on went on behaving like Muslims.
However, there were some exceptions as well, as Iislamization, nevertheless, saved them from being exiled and massacred, and the crypto Armenians living in Turkey at present have come to prove it.
According to some sources as well as the Turkish ones, a big number of Armenian children were kidnapped by the Turks and Kurds at the period of the Armenian Genocide. Very seldom Armenians themselves voluntarily left their children with the neighbor Muslims, feeling the coming disaster on their way to the places of exile (in Turkish sources these children are called “contributed children”). By the order of the Ottoman Empire the Armenian orphans were gathered in Turkish orphanages and Islamized. The Information preserved in the Ottoman archives has come to prove it. In the book of the Turkish scientist Ibrahim Ethem Atnur called “The problems of the Armenian children and women in Turkey in 1915-1923” published in 2005 are used a lot of archive materials relating to the problems of orphan children and widows of those years, some materials are even taken from the cryptogram section of the Ottoman archive attached to the Prime Minister’s administration. It goes without saying that continuing Turkey’s “scientific” traditions the author falsifies the facts or represents his not objective or illogical estimations on the very problem: however, the archive factual materials represented in the book are more important to us. Combining these facts with the ones of other sources one may come to a conclusion that forceful Islamization and assimilation of the Armenian children was carried out on different levels, by the government and different strata of society. These facts are not even rejected by the Turks, however, an attempt is made to put these facts in more favorable light for them and use them for the purpose of propagation.
1. The Armenian children saved from massacre and remaining orphans and homeless were Islamized and were adopted by Muslim families. According to the document preserved in the Ottoman archive dating back to July 10, 1915 the Islamized Armenian orphan children were given to well-to-do Muslim families especially inhabited in the villages and towns free of Armenians. If the number of the children was big they were given to poor Muslim families which were paid 30 qurush a month instead. There is a need to gather information about the number and place of inhabitance of those children and send it to the center. There is a special mentioning that these children were given to those families on condition that they must be given Muslim education. One can come across suchlike documents in the future as well directed to the governors of different provinces. Special attention should be paid to the fact that in all the documents it is mentioned that the children should be delivered to families living in the placed with no Armenian inhabitance. It pursued the objective of depriving those children of the opportunity to get in touch with their relations and make the process of assimilation and Islamization easier.
In parallel with it, in spite of the wartime, the Ottoman Empire was initiating the opening of the orphanages for the Armenian children to be gathered. It goes without saying that the children gathered in those orphanages were Islamized and got Muslim education under the supreme governmental control. In the archives are also preserved some documents made by the head of Young Turks, Envir, directed to the Minister of Internal Affairs Talat, where he expressed a wish and demanded that the Armenian children must be send to Turkish orphanages (at that period there were also European, American and Missionary orphanages in the territory of the Ottoman Empire). On May 9, 1916 in the document directed to the Ministry of Home Affairs Enver writes: “If apostatized and not apostatized Armenian orphans are sent to our orphanages I’m ready to bear the expenses necessary for it from the military budget.” As the orphanages were under the control of the Ministry of Education, after getting the consent of the Minister of Education, on May16, 1916 Talat informed Envir that Islamized and not-Islamized Armenian children would be taken to Turkish orphanages and the expenses would be bared by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Already on June 1, 1916 in the cryptographic telegram sent to Mardin’s provincial administration was mentioned that that only Islamized Armenian orphans would be taken to Mardin’s orphanage. Earlier, on April 30, 1916 in the third article of the decree relating to the Armenian women and children was mentioned: “to take the children up to the age of 12 to our orphanages.”
Another senior official interested in the issue of Islamization and assimilation of the Armenian orphans was a well known leader of Young Turks Jemal Pasha, who was engaged in the problem of the Armenian orphans in Syria and Lebanon. He established an orphanage the monastery Aintoura belonging to French Jesuit mission, which was gathering Armenian children to Turkify. Especially for this purpose Jemal invited the Panturkist woman writer Halide Edib who was well known for her efforts to Islamize and Turkify Armenian orphans. The very halide Edib later on writes that all the Islamized Armenian children in Aintoura were given Turkish of Muslim names.
2. Wide circles of the Turkish society also spared no efforts to Islamize and Turkify the Armenian children. As we have already mentioned at the period of the Armenian Genocide the Turks and Kurds kidnapped many Armenian children and Islamized them. The Turkish party, being unable to deny that irrefutable fact, has at the same time introduced the hypothesis that the kind hearted Turks have “saved” the exiled Armenian children only to render humanitarian help. Of course, one can accept that there were suchlike cases as well, although very seldom, but in most of the cases the children were taken and Islamized by force and by doing this they were not led by humanitarian, but mere personal, economic consideration. To understand the motivation of Turks and Kurds to “save” and Islamize the Armenian children one should just consider some nuances of Islamic-Turkish reality. Kidnapping and assimilating the Armenian children the Turkish and Kurdish villagers from the one hand got free labor, and from the other hand especially the Armenian girls were becoming the victims of their harems. There is one more important nuance as well connected with Islamic-Turkish customs, according to which the man bought his wife paying a certain sum of money for her. As a number of pacts have shown, acquiring the Armenian girls the Turkish families were marrying them to their sons in that way avoiding to pay marital “tribute.” Besides, the kidnapped and Islamized Armenian children were sold and it was a wide spread source of income for the kidnappers. All these completely coincide with the definition of slave selling, especially if we take into consideration the experience of the Ottoman Empire in that field. At present as well in the discussions relating to “ethnic crisis” held in Turkey more and more facts come to surface in connection with the kidnapped Armenian children, especially girls, at the period of genocide who at present make a dance group of metis in Turkey as a result of getting married with Muslims and have some percentage of Armenian blood.
Thus, as a result of comparing the above mentioned facts one can notice falsifications so peculiar to Turkish “scientific” circles and propaganda represented in such a simple and not logical way. The facts also have come to prove that forcefully Islamizing the Armenian orphans at the period of the Armenian Genocide, the Ottoman government and different strata of society went on implementing the policy of assimilating non-Muslim nations in that way making their mixed ethnic characteristic more complicated.
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]