‘Wealthy Armenians had to stay in Turkey to survive, deportation would result in death’

It was necessary for wealthy families to remain in Anatolia during the Armenian genocide of 1915 as deportation would have resulted in death, Armenian-American professor Armen Marsoobian said during a conference held by the Hrant Dink Foundation in İstanbul on Saturday.

[ad id=”1838″]Professor Marsoobian was sharing his presentation on his project “The Struggle for Survival of the Armenians of Marsovan (Merzifon), 1915-1921” during the Conscience and Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide: New Research on Survivors conference in İstanbul.

“Little is written about those who avoided deportation,” shared Marsoobian. He explained that those Armenian families who were able to stay in the crumbling Ottoman Empire were most often the ones who belonged to higher economic classes. Those wealthy families that were able to stay were the ones that had good relations with the local district governor.

“Merzifon stands out because of its extensive documentation done by American missionaries,” Marsoobian also noted. The Anatolia College in Merzifon, established and directed by American missionaries between 1886 and 1924, played a large role in Marsoobian’s research for he uses their accounts as well as the photographs that Marsoobian’s own grandfather, a photographer, took to weave his understanding of the Armenians who survived 1915.

When asked why wealthy Armenian families would want to continue living under the Ottoman Empire when their Turkish neighbors were slaughtering Armenians and there were few Armenian families left, the scholar explained how deportation was almost equal to death.
Marsoobian also shared how his own family converted from Christianity to Islam on Aug. 10, 1915 in an act of assimilation for survival.

Boom in Kurdish literature

In another presentation given during the conference, Özlem Galip gave a talk on her research on Kurdish literature in a project titled “The Politics of Remembering.” The faculty associate in Kurdish and Armenian studies at the University of Oxford explained how there is a new wave for Kurdish literature that gained momentum after 2000 as there was a large void and Kurds felt a need to preserve their stories.
“It is always with the same intention to preserve the collective memory,” shared Galip. “If we don’t write this, the stories will be forgotten,” she added.

This is a particularly important milestone considering Turkey’s record of banning the use of Kurdish in the public sphere, similar to the Turkification of minorities in which Armenians were not able to practice their faith or speak their language.

Furthermore, when explaining her project, Dr. Galip also described the structure of the stories that are being written. “It is always with phrases such as ‘When my grandmother told me’,” she shared, highlighting that the stories are not only still alive but also belong to a collective history. [blog_list style=”def” display=”specific” category=”null” specific=”1870″]

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