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Names of Lost Armenian Villages Read in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square

It’s April 24, 2013. In Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul. People have gathered in front of the Turkish-Islamic Arts Museum which, in 1915, served as the Central Prison that held Armenian intellectuals kept before they were sent to their deaths. But something very unusual is happening. From a loudspeaker, people hear some Armenian names of places. The names of lost Armenian villages. The voice says: “Vaspuragan province… Avants… Lezk… Shahbaghi… Akhzia… Shoushants… Kouroubash… Gentanants… Pertag… Dzevestan… Ardamed… Tarman… Vosgepag…”

Names of destroyed Armenian villages

Names of destroyed Armenian villages

There are big panels on the wall, showing these names and the provinces or districts they are connected to. People come and take photographs. I recognize some of them; Armenians from abroad with a delegation are visiting Istanbul for the commemoration activities, taking photographs of these names from a certain province. I guess these are the provinces of their ancestors.

Eren Keskin starts to speak as the volume of the sound and voices goes down.

“These names you are hearing now are the names of the Armenian villages in Asia Minor before 1915, together with the provinces and districts they belong to—a total of 2,300 settlements. In fact, they are more in number. The work to compile the names of all the Armenian settlements before the genocide is still under way. Our guest, Historian Ara Sarafian, the director of the Gomidas Institute based in London, will give more details of this work.

“The names you listen to now, constitute the solid proof of the genocide. The Armenian communities living in these villages were annihilated. They changed the names. Some of them were wiped off the map altogether; some became the home of others. “We wanted our ears to hear these names. We wanted them to penetrate deep into our souls. Here, on these panels, you can see them. You can come closer and read them one by one. These are lost Armenian communities. We want the Turkish people to remember and never forget these names.”

Then the volume rises again, and we listen to the names of the lost villages for another five minutes.

Commemoration in Taksim

Commemoration in Taksim

 

When death becomes a salvation

Keskin continues, “The genocide put an end to the social existence of Armenians and other Christian peoples of what is now Turkey by exterminating not only their lives but also their institutions, cultural and social organizations, their historical heritage, their civilizations, even the traces of their mere existence.

“Genocide is not only the massacres. Genocide is also dehumanizing people by putting them in circumstances where death becomes a salvation, something they crave to put an end to their suffering. But genocide is not only condemning people to inhuman conditions. It as also an enormous plunder, a wide-scale robbery of the wealth created by generations through skillful and hard work.

“And the Genocide still goes on. It continues through its denial. It goes on with the audacious, shameless lies told to people’s faces. It continues with the hatred and hostility that targets Armenians and other non-Muslims in Turkey. It continues by terrorizing Armenians in Samatya with brutal attacks on old Armenian women, the children of genocide survivors. It continues through an environment that doesn’t allow Armenians to feel safe in Turkey. This fact was dramatically demonstrated with what happened to Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, who was shot dead in Batman, Turkey, while he was serving the Turkish Armed Forces, on April 24, 2011, the day of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, and the day the court ruled that his death was an accident.

“We, the human rights defenders, repeat one more time: Officially recognize the genocide! This is a call to the government of the Republic of Turkey, as well as the Turkish public. Return the property seized during and after the genocide to the descendants of the owners. Compensate all of the material and immaterial damage done. Recognize the rights of Armenians scattered all around the world—their legitimate right to their homeland.

“Without recognition of the genocide, without confronting the crimes committed, no peace, no real democracy, no justice can ever be attained in this country.

“Refusal to recognize the genocide is a confirmation of the possibility of new genocides.

Therefore we once more demand that the Turkish authorities put an end to the denial of genocide! We want JUSTICE to be served!”

Ara Sarafian then speaks in Armenian, with simultaneous translation to Turkish by a young Armenian, a member of the Nor Zartonk socialist Armenian group. He talks about the futility of denialism in the face of bare facts, about the growth in the number of people joining the genocide commemoration events in Turkey, about his visit to Diyarbakir and his interviews with the local people—how truthful many of them were about the genocide, how one of them talked about his grandfather who participated in the massacres.

 

‘Sayfo’ commemorated publicly for first time

It was the first time that Sayfo, the Assyrian Genocide, was mentioned in the commemorations in Turkey, and that an Assyrian, a representative of the Sweden Assyrian Youth Federation, gave a speech, too. Referring to the ongoing “peace process” in Turkey to put an end to the war between the Turkish Army and the PKK, he said: “To our dismay, these crimes against humanity committed against the ancient peoples of Anatolia have always been denied by all governments to this day. It is clear that the pursuit of peace at the present will be futile without facing the past. A state of peace based on faith and religion will hang like Damocles’ sword on different peoples, just as in the events of the past. Truly establishing peace in these lands will be possible not by the denial of the crimes against humanity committed against the ancient peoples of Anatolia, but by facing them. The establishment of peace will have meaning when it is built not on common faith but on human values.” His speech was translated to the Assyrian language by his colleague. It was the first time the Assyrian language was heard by the people gathered for a commemoration of the genocide.

The co-chair of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s Istanbul Organization then gave a speech, recognizing the Kurds’ involvement in the genocide. “I, as a Kurd and a Kurdish politician, apologize again and again to Armenians and Assyrians for the role played by the Kurds in the genocide,” he said.

After a speech by another Kurd, the owner of the Peri Publishing House, which published a book about Antranig Pasha, said he condemned those Kurds who cooperated with the central government and took part in the massacres and the plunder of Armenian property.

Nor Zartonk’s press statement was also read aloud by a young Armenian, a member of the group.

An international delegation had also come to Istanbul this year within the framework of the program jointly developed by the Turkish group “Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism” (DurDe), the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement (EGAM), and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). The president of EGAM, Benjamin Abtan gave a short speech expressing the group’s solidarity in the struggle against denialism in Turkey.

Following the commemoration, the delegation and the participants of the event visited the Sisli Armenian Cemetery and the grave of Sevag Şahin Balıkçı.

Before the commemoration at the Sultanahmet Square, Ara Sarafian, accompanied by others, had visited the grave of Ali Faik Bey (Ozansoy), the governor of Kütahya who had refused to obey the central government’s deportation orders and had protected the Armenian community there.

At 6:30 p.m., DurDe’s commemoration took place in Taksim Square. The crowd was bigger in Taksim—numbering about 1,000—as compared to Sultanahment, where there were about 200. Armenian music played throughout the event, excerpts were read from the memoirs of a number of Armenian intellectuals who were arrested on April 24, 1915, and a press release was read out condemning the genocide.

 

Commemoration in Diyarbakir

Diyarbakir is the only city in Turkey that officially and publicly recognizes the Armenian Genocide. “Both the conference hosted by the Diyarbakir Bar Association and the commemoration organized by the municipality under the leadership of Mayor Osman Baydemir were very impressive and fruitful,” said Sarafian. The commemoration took place on the bridge over the Tigris River where the Diyarbakir Armenians were massacred. Participants threw flowers into the river in the memory of the victims. Sarafian was deeply moved not only by the sincere willingness of the municipality, first and foremost Mayor Baydemir, but also by the readiness local Kurds to accept the truth. “We should not take for granted Osman Baydemir’s promise of wide open doors to Armenians, and should develop new ways of strengthening these ties with Diyarbakir and turn this potential into reality,” he said.

32 Comments on Names of Lost Armenian Villages Read in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square

  1. Unless mistaken, we are not seeing or hearing the town of Sirvi Issar as part of the Armenian Genocide.
    Please include it for the memory of grandmother Guliane Sionian who survived then as an orphan.
    Thank you,

  2. avatar Krikor H. Krikorian // April 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm // Reply

    Where can I find the list of lost Armenian Village?
    My Mother was from Shintl.My father was from Parchanj.Provice of Harpoot, Harpet etc. different spellings. The area is called Elizg now?
    Thank’s

    • avatar Lucille Hamparian // April 29, 2013 at 6:57 am //

      I have been to Parchanj. This was the ancestral home of a French family that was part of our group pilgrimage to Historic Armenia. I have a map of the area that they shared with me (hand drawn in 1932). They were able to locate their home. It look like it was located in Kharpert province, not far from my family’s home in Yegheki and the neighbouring villages in Arapkir, etc.

    • avatar Lucille Hamparian // April 29, 2013 at 7:20 am //

      The current Turkish name for Parchanj (Perchents) is AKÇAKİRA.

  3. I read AW regularly, and this is the first time that I was simply overcome with tears in reading an article. I cannot thank you enough, Ayse, for writing this, and for AW in publishing it. Please tell us if there is anyone we can contact in order to ensure that our own village name is included for all future readings. I want to make sure that my village of Kalan, also known as Gelan, now renamed Gecitli by the Turks, latitude 39.250, longitude 41.05 is included. The caravans from the villages of this area ended on exactly that bridge over the Tigris at Diyarbakir. I too have gone there and cast bags full of flower seeds in their memory. There were 250 women and children from the village of Kalan in the caravan that ended there. I know many of their names.
    As for the promise of “wide open doors for Armenians,” this may be true in Diyarbakir, but it is not common in the rest of Turkey. I do not feel safe standing on the soil that is soaked with the blood of my family. If Kurds are repentant, they must allow us to simply look and prayerfully walk in remembrance in our villages without any evidence of hostility. Why am I not free to walk the fields my grandfather ploughed and sowed? Why can’t I pick apples from the trees my grandmother picked? Why can’t I look at my father’s little house and run my hands over the stones in marvel that it still somehow stands? I want to go freely into the remains of the barn where my father and grandmother hid in a pile of manure when the Kurds came into their village. I want to linger on the bridge where my father’s cousin threw herself into the river rather than be raped. What is there for anyone to fear from a pilgrim who stands with flowing tears and prayerful heart on land that will always belong to her with a love that no Kurd can ever bestow on it. Who would ever think that we have come to harm the soil that we reverently scoop into little bags to take to graves of survivors in far–away lands? Let us come in peace. It’s the very least you can do for us now.
    I know I am followed. I have been ordered by Turks to leave the banks of the Aradzani River, where, with a Kurd, I was prayerfully casting flower seeds in memory. We were told to immediately leave by following police cars; we were told that the area was not a tourist destination.
    Thank you, Ayse. Please ask if my village name of Kalan is on that list.

  4. avatar Shant Harootunian // April 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm // Reply

    Krikor- You are correct. Kharpet is now called Elizag.

    Why can’t the Weekly’s correspondent take a picture of the panels displaying the names of the Armenian villages ? This could then be published in the newspaper.

  5. “…the pursuit of peace at the present will be futile without facing the past.” Words of wisdom.

  6. Do they have the list published online?

  7. I think few years ago we could not imagine something like this. It is true,and happening right there.I am more confidence that good things are coming for the sake of peace and harmony between us.Thank you human rights advocates for doing this by showing your ultimate humanity.

  8. KRIKOR

    Harpoot is the English version of the Armenian Khaberd.
    From the 12th to 7th century before Christ it was
    Urartian.
    In 1234 the Seljuks arrived there. Afterwards the area was
    ruled by the Mongols, later by the Turkmen. Only in 1516
    it came under Ottoman rule.
    In 1834 Sultan Abdul Aziz postponed the city from the hill
    down in the valley, now called Mamuret ul Aziz. In 1937 this
    city in the plain got the name Elazig. Now its a town and a
    province of the same name. The province has 10 counties in
    which live 550 000 inhabitants. Some decades ago there were
    still 7 ruins of Armenian churches up there in Khaberd as
    well as several old Armenian houses.
    Our most famous Armenian of this area was Nerses Schnorhali.

  9. avatar Bedros Zerdelian // April 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    Dear Ara, God bless your family and your mission.
    My father is from Seghert Roupen Sarkis Zerdelian (Siirt) located South East of Bitlis.
    The Armenians in Van they defend themselfes bravely and the Turks lost the battle, as a revenge they attacked and killed the Armenians in Seghert.
    My mom is from Mounjousoun (Gesaria) small town near Talas where until now the American hospital is located. My mom’s maiden name is Garabed Garabedian Vartouhi.

  10. “We should not take for granted Osman Baydemir’s promise of wide open doors to Armenians, and should develop new ways of strengthening these ties with Diyarbakir and turn this potential into reality,”
    As it appears, Diarbakir/Tigranakert is going to play an important role in the future revival of the Armenian presence in Turkey and/or Kurdistan. The Kurdst in this region are manifestly conducting a pro-Armenian policy. It is up to the Armenians not to miss this opportunity and seriously consider the possibilities for revival of Armenian physical, cultural and economic presence in the region.

  11. Dear Ayse,

    You are a courageous Turkish woman. I admire you. Is it possible to post the names of the villages in AW? My parental family were from a village in Moush, Bitlis province. They fled during Hamidian Massacres and then again in 1915. Many of them were murdered during the escape.

    I’d love to see if the name of the village is mentioned. Thank you in advance.

    Berj

  12. avatar Diana Papazian // April 26, 2013 at 12:08 am // Reply

    I have been looking for such a list for a long time. I salute whoever was responsible for the research on this project. It is amazing that it was allowed to be publicly displayed. Very proud of all involved.
    Is there any way we can have a copy of this list?

  13. avatar Susan Schuurman // April 26, 2013 at 10:55 am // Reply

    This is such a moving article, it brought me to tears. Thank you everyone who has the bravery to challenge Turkish authorities to recognize the genocide. I learned about 10 years ago that I am half Kurdish. My research on the Kurds revealed their shameful role in the Armenian genocide. I too apologize for my ancestors’ role in that calamatiy and I salute the Kurds in Diyarbakir who recognize and apologize for it as well. As my friend Armen says, there is a wave of change in the air…

  14. I would like to thank Ms Gunaysu for another hearwarming article and to all progressive Turks who were gathered at Sultanahmet and at Taksim commemorating our Armenian martyrs. I thank you from the bottom off my heart.
    To all the people who were asking about names of towns and villages, I wanted to mention Dr Raymond Kevorkian’s book, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. This is very thorough in terms of all the locations and the populations that were deported and of course later massacred.
    All the best

  15. The Kevorkian book is excellent; however, it definitely does not list all the villages. It lists administrative units. So, when I try to look up Krikor’s village of Panchanj in Harput, I will see that there are 57 localities, 39,788 Armenians, 67 churches, 9 monasteries, and 92 schools in the Administrative Unit of Harput. Krikor’s village is one of the 57 localities, but these localities are not individually named. Kevorkian’s intent was to establish the total number of Armenians prior to Genocide. He states that the “official figures were falsified.” He maintains that the numbers of Armenians living in Turkey was much higher than the Turkish government wants to acknowledge. His work is not intended as a numerical break-down of individual named villages, nor is it an indication of the location of any village.
    I believe that those who responded with comments to this article want more than just their village name in a book. We want our village name on that wall. We want our families to be remembered. We want what was done to our people to be acknowledged by the descendants of the murderers. We want our erased village names restored on a map, so we can show our children where our roots are. And we want the perpetrators held accountable. We want justice.

  16. avatar Random Armenian // April 30, 2013 at 12:22 am // Reply

    I think naming of villages and photos and names of the April 24th intellectuals is something we should adopt. It’s beautiful and so appropriate.

  17. avatar G Jundanian // April 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm // Reply

    My father’s family was from Parchanj (Perchents). I believe I have a book written about the village which may have been written by my great-great uncle. If interested, please let me know and I will dig it out and let you know more specifically the title, author… Greg

  18. avatar syrian deir zor // May 2, 2013 at 7:22 am // Reply

    its a picture under the self-interets for show europe its not their real face if you go there they ready to kill you

  19. It was great to see the Names of Lost Armenian Villages in Istanbul. I was looking at the sign to see if my father & mothers villages would be seen but only a portion of the sign could be seen. My father’s village was called Sis in the Provence of Shabin Karahissar which is now renamed Chatal Olukh. and my mothers village is in the Provence of Erzerum whereby her Village name was Goteh and now renamed Keutur which is close to Mamakhatoun. If a better or complete view can be seen to make a copy, it would be greatly appreciated. Stephan Dulgarian

  20. avatar Dick Boranian // October 9, 2013 at 1:45 am // Reply

    Was there a village in Armenia or Turkey called Ducekan I may be spelling it incorrectly ?

  21. avatar elizabeth marks // July 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm // Reply

    Is there an old Armenian town called Bakcha?

  22. I am searching for any information on a small village(35 families?) near Van, called Gindrantz…any info would be greatly appreciated. My grandfather’s name was hapet tomassian( parents garaged Toomasian and rehan) I am going to Armenia and am planning to look for this village in turkey. Thank you!

  23. avatar Denise A Espinosa // October 28, 2016 at 5:26 pm // Reply

    Any Kludjian family relatives out there? From Dertyol ?

  24. avatar Sandra Williamson // April 3, 2017 at 6:53 am // Reply

    My husband’s grandfather came from Monjosan Turkey and said he was Armein. His last name was Talasleian. He ended up in Boston around the time of the massacre of 1915. How does one find Monjosan?

  25. avatar Vicki Pearson // April 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm // Reply

    I was adopted out in 1954 at birth. My nationality was given as, French, Scot, Irish German and English. My heart knew better. I found my birth family 5yrs ago. I learned that my Paternal grandfather was Armenian. Yahoo!!! He and his brothers were born in Harpoot. My grandfather came over in 1898,his brothers followed around 1915. The last name they gave in New York was Martyr. I think is was short for Marderosian. Or something similar. Thank you for this website. I’m learning a lot. Any input on last name would help.

    • Vicki,

      The Armenian name Mardiros (or Martiros in Eastern Armenian) derives from the Greek language and means “great martyr.” It is held that the patron of the name was Mardiros, son of Sarkis the Warrior, a general in the army of Roman Emperor Constantine I in the 4th century. When Constantine died, Julian the Apostate ascended to the throne, and Sarkis, who received baptism and converted to Christianity, fell into disfavor. Together with his son Mardiros he fled and found refuge in Armenia. Upon receiving word of Julian’s advance toward Persia, Armenian king Diran persuaded Sarkis to join the banners of the Persian Shah. The Shah named Sarkis to the post of commander-in-chief, but demanded that he convert to fire worship. Sarkis refused flatly. His son Mardiros became the first to suffer martyrdom at the hands of the Persians. Before long, Sarkis also died together with fourteen soldiers faithful to him.

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