The turn of the 20th century was a period of significant social and political transformation in the Ottoman geography, which involved individual and mass experiences of religious conversion. In this period, a large number of Armenians (were) Islamized, most significantly during the years 1915-1916. An unknown number of young Armenians survived the massacres and death marches of 1915 as adopted daughters and sons of Muslim families. Fewer others became wives and husbands. In exceptional cases, whole families or villages survived by “passing” as Muslims. While some of these survivors (particularly young men) re-united with their families or relatives in later years, or were taken into orphanages by missionaries and relief workers, many others lived the rest of their lives as “Muslims,” taking on Turkish, Kurdish, or Arabic names. Until recently, the stories of these survivors were silenced or ignored in all historiographies. There is now a growing body of literature on Islamized Armenians in the form of fiction, memoir, testimonials and historical research. This conference seeks to address, the experiences of Islamized Armenians and the social consequences of their experiences; the long silence on Islamized Armenians; as well as the recent forms of unsilencing.
What have Islamized Armenians been through? How did they deal with the gravity of their experiences? With whom and how were they able to share these experiences? How do their experiences reflect on the lives of their children and grandchildren? How have they impacted the different localities where they have lived? How are their stories remembered and recited in these different localities?
How do the “grandchildren” of these survivors make sense of the stories of their Islamized Armenian grandparents? How do they articulate their identities and sense of belonging? How are they affected by the various political developments and tensions around this issue? How is this process reflected on different localities?
How can one account for the decades of silence on Islamized Armenians in all historiographies? Why has it taken so long for us to be aware of the stories of Islamized Armenians, and why is our knowledge of their predicament so limited? In what ways is this form of survival and its silencing gendered? How does it relate to predominant notions of women, men and procreation? Why is there growing interest on this particular category of survivors today?
How do the stories of Islamized Armenians contribute to or complicate the existing scholarship on genocides in general and the Armenian genocide in particular? What do they suggest regarding the category of “the survivor” in genocide scholarship? What can we learn from a study of similar forms of survival in other cases of genocide and political violence (such as the Holocaust, the case of Aboriginal children in Australia, or the “lost children” of Chile)? What can we learn from exploring the connections and differences between experiences of (forced) Islamization in previous centuries and those in the first part of the 20th century?
Addressing such questions, among others, this conference seeks to contribute to both the historical debates on 1915 and its aftermath, as well as to contemporary questions of ethnic/national identification, gender, responsibility, and justice. The conference also seeks to discuss the role of research and scholarship in the difficult processes of facing historical and present forms of violence, discrimination, and injustice.
Conference which is organized by Hrant Dink Foundation with the cooperation of Boğaziçi University History Deparment and contribution of Malatya HAYDer-The Benevolent Malatya Armenians, Culture and Cooperation Association will take place at Boğaziçi University's Albert Long Hall. The forums will be held at Kırmızı Salon (Özger Arnas) and Psychology-Sociology Building's PSB 101 Seminar Room. The movie screenings will be at Demir Demirgil Room.