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The Hidden Armenians of Western Armenia

The following was adapted from ‘Historic Armenia After 100 Years’ (Stone Garden Press, $39.95, Pub. Feb. 2015) by Matthew Karanian. Pre-order now for $35 postpaid in the U.S. from Stone Garden Productions, PO Box 7758, Northridge, CA 91327, or pay with credit card by requesting an invoice from Bedros@StoneGardenProductions.com.

 

The village of Chunkush was home to about 10,000 Armenians, and hardly anyone else, until 1915.

Asiya, 95, is the daughter of a genocide survivor from Chunkush, and is one of the hidden Armenians of Western Armenia. (Photo © 2014 Matthew Karanian; reprinted with Permission)

Asiya, 95, is the daughter of a genocide survivor from Chunkush, and is one of the hidden Armenians of Western Armenia. (Photo © 2014 Matthew Karanian; reprinted with Permission)

That’s when the Armenians were driven out, and were marched for two hours to a ravine known as the Dudan Gorge. Once they arrived at the ravine, they were herded by the force of batons and bayonets into its depths. Here they died, if they hadn’t already perished before entering the abyss.

One young Armenian girl, not more than 10 years of age, stood at the edge of death. She was part of a group that had been marched to the ravine on one of the killing days—the day on which her Chunkush neighborhood had been selected for this “deportation.”

This girl was pretty, and she must have captured the attention of one of the Turkish soldiers who was herding the Armenians to their deaths. Her life was spared. At the age of 10, she became the soldier’s bride.

Five years later, in 1920, a baby was born from their union. This baby, named Asiya, was raised in Chunkush by her mother, a genocide survivor who had been able to remain in the home of her husband as one of the village’s “hidden Armenians.”

When I met Asiya in 2014, she was the oldest surviving Armenian, and indeed, the only Armenian, of Chunkush. Speaking through a translator, Asiya told me her story.

Her father, the Turkish soldier, had died when Asiya was three or four years old. While Asiya was growing up, Asiya’s mother had taught her that she was an Armenian child. Her mother also taught her that her identity as an Armenian was information that they could not share with the neighbors. Their identity had to remain hidden.

Asiya was married off to a much older man when she was 11 years old. There was no right to pick your own husband, she told me. “They gave me to whoever they thought was appropriate.” She and her husband stayed in Chunkush, and raised two daughters and a son.

I asked Asiya about the massacres of 1915. Her mother must have explained to her what had happened. But Asiya refused to talk about it. She did talk a bit about the old days.

“Chunkush was once very beautiful. The churches were so beautiful in the past,” she told me. But now “nothing remains from the old times. They even destroyed all the [Armenian] cemeteries.”

Asiya must have been about 95 years old when I met her in 2014. Her life has been swept along in a torrent of sadness. I asked her how she feels when, as the only Armenian of Chunkush, she meets Armenian visitors from the fiaspora.

“I get happy as much as a mountain,” she told me.

6 Comments on The Hidden Armenians of Western Armenia

  1. I would not call the Armenian woman who was kidnapped by a Turkish soldier at age 10 a “bride”. This was rape.

    Also, the author calls it a “union”.
    Excuse me, a rape is now called a “union”?

    A Turkish “soldier” raping an 10 year old Armenian girl is a “union”?

  2. Turkey cannot escape it’s past.

  3. While I understand this recent fascination with “hidden Armenians”, what about the descendants of Genocide survivors living of present-day Turkey. Aren’t they the true “hidden Armenians”. You won’t find them there anymore.

  4. avatar lisa swinton // February 3, 2015 at 9:16 am // Reply

    Thank you to both you and Asiya for revealing her part in history. We must always seek to peel back the skin of the past as best we can.

  5. I agree whole heartedly. GOD bless her memory. Movses Movsesian, U.S.A.

  6. Religion was changed, the Armenian language was forgotten, however, the Armenian soul resisted. These heroines deserve our respect and devotion, were years of suffering. How many can understand this kind of heroism.

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