Haig Baronian’s testimony touches on two important and interrelated dimensions of the Armenian Genocide: the gendered nature of forms and patterns of violence, and the Islamization and incorporation of Armenian women and children into Muslim households and society.
Patterns of violence and persecution in the Armenian Genocide differed according to gender and age. While Ottoman Armenian men were initially conscripted into the Ottoman army, they were disarmed and placed in labor battalions in March 1915. After some time, most of these men were massacred. When the deportations began, Armenian men who had not been conscripted, along with boys older than about age twelve, were typically killed before the remaining Armenian population of a town or village was deported. Consequently, most of the deportees were women and children. Along the deportation routes, many groups of deportees were massacred at specific points, while others died from violence, starvation, and disease. In addition, many girls and women were raped, and perhaps as many as 200,000 Armenian women and children were forcibly Islamized and incorporated into Muslim families. Finally, although several hundred thousand Armenians managed to survive the deportation marches, most of which ended in the Syrian Desert; many subsequently died from starvation, disease, exposure to the elements, and a second wave of organized massacres in 1916.
After the war, international and Armenian efforts attempted to locate Islamized Armenians and orphans, reunite surviving family members, and reconstruct the Armenian nation. In spite of these efforts, the fates of many children who were left behind, given away, or abducted are unknown, and many Islamized Armenian women remained with their Muslim children and families. As a result, it is estimated that in Turkey today, there could be two to three million descendants of these Islamized Armenians. In the past decade, scholars have begun to explore these gendered aspects of the genocide, while the descendants of these Islamized Armenians in Turkey today has become a topic of discussion and research.
Author: Jennifer M. Dixon, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University
Academic website: https://sites.google.com/site/jennifermargaretdixon/
Suggestions for further reading
Matthias Bjørnlund, “‘A Fate Worse than Dying’: Sexual Violence during the Armenian Genocide,” in Dagmar Herzog, ed., Brutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe’s Twentieth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 16-58.
Lerna Ekmekcioglu, “A Climate for Abduction, a Climate for Redemption: The Politics of Inclusion during and after the Armenian Genocide,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 55, no. 3 (2013), pp. 522-53.
Eliz Sanasarian, “Gender Discrimination in the Genocidal Process: A Preliminary Study of the Armenian Genocide,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 4, no. 4 (1989), pp. 449-61.
Ara Sarafian, “The Absorption of Armenian Women and Children into Muslim Households as a Structural Component of the Armenian Genocide,” in Omer Bartov and Phyllis Mack, eds., In God’s Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), pp. 209-21.
Vahram L. Shemmassian, “The Reclamation of Captive Armenian Genocide Survivors in Syria and Lebanon at the End of World War I,” Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies, vol. 15 (2006), pp. 113-40.
Keith David Watenpaugh, “The League of Nations’ Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920-1927,” American Historical Review, vol. 115, no. 5 (December 2010), pp. 1315-39.