Day 16 of 30 Days of Testimony: Jennifer Dixon on the testimony of Haig Baronian

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

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Suggestions for further reading


Taner Akçam, The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleaning in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012).

Ayşe Gül Altınay, “Gendered silences, gendered memories: New memory work on Islamized Armenians in Turkey,” Eurozine (February 2014)

Ayşe Gül Altınay and Fethiye Çetin, The Grandchildren: The Hidden Legacy of “Lost” Armenians in Turkey, Maureen Freely, trans. (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 2014).

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.

Donald Bloxham, “The Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916: Cumulative Radicalization and the Development of a Destruction Policy,” Past & Present, no. 181 (November 2003), pp. 141-91.

Fethiye Çetin, My Grandmother: A Memoir, Maureen Freely, trans. (London: Verso, 2008).

Katharine Derderian, “Common Fate, Different Experience: Gender-Specific Aspects of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 19, no. 1 (Spring 2005), pp. 1-25.

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.

Raymond Kévorkian, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (London: I.B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., 2011).

Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 111-79.

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.

Vahé Tachjian, “Gender, Nationalism, Exclusion: The Reintegration Process of Female Survivors of the Armenian Genocide,” Nations and Nationalisms, vol. 15, no. 1 (2009), pp. 60-80.

Uğur Ümit Üngör, The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Uğur Ümit Üngör, “Orphans, Converts, and Prostitutes: Social Consequences of War and Persecution in the Ottoman Empire, 1914-1923,” War in History, vol. 19, no. 2 (2012), pp. 173-92.

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.

Keith David Watenpaugh, “‘Are There Any Children For Sale?’: Genocide and the Transfer of Armenian Children (1915-1922),” Journal of Human Rights, vol. 12, no. 3 (2013), pp. 283-95.


Language: English