Arabized Armenian orphans in Iraq

Arabized Armenian orphans in Iraq

 In June 1915, a Committee on the Deportations of Armenians was set up in Aleppo with the purpose of eliminating the Armenians in the deserts. In the summer and fall, masses of Armenian migrants were driven from Constantinople and Rodostoy, Nicomedia, Partizak, Adabazar, Ankara, Sebastia, Malatia, Mush, Sasun, Cilicia and other places and gathered in Aleppo, Bab, Maskene, Ras ul Ayn, Rakka, other residential areas of the state of Aleppo and nearby areas.

 On 9 September 1915, the governor of Aleppo was ordered to drive all Armenian men, women, children and the elderly to the deserts of Deir ez-Zor. Similar orders were issued in the next five to six months, and they became the reason for the deaths of thousands of Armenians every time. The order was to confiscate the food from the migrants, making them artificially hungry. People had to eat whatever they had kept.

 The Turkish officials tried to make the Arabs go against the Armenians, but the Arabs of Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor helped the Armenians and provided them with shelter, especially the children, saving them from inevitable death.

 The expression save children from inevitable death obviously   meant  adopting  them  and  taking  care of them in an Arab environment. As a result, the Armenian children started speaking in Arabic and following the Arab lifestyle. Some of those children were Arabized, while others managed to restore their Armenian identity.

 There were 1,500 children saved from Mesopotamia alone. We can bring up examples…

 -One of the famous people among the Armenians of Baghdad was Ohannes Semerjian from Zeytun. When the deportations of Zeytun begin, 6-year-old Ohannes loses his parents. Later, he starts working for the Shammar tribe of Mesopotamia as a cameleer. Years later, Ohannes meets Gyulizar, who was a 15-year-old Armenian orphan girl. The two decided to leave the desert and escape to Mosul where Ohannes manages to find his uncle, Mavi Karapet. Ohannes and Gyulizar get married and move to Baghdad. Ohannes starts selling lemonade. Later, he becomes a food supplier for the British air forces. Ohannes Semerjian establishes the Camp Sarah District, which was mainly populated by families from Zeytun and Hatchn.

 -Libarit Azatian had just settled in Jezira when one day he went to the depths of the desert, towards Jebel Sinjar. He stayed with the Arabs called Shammars. Two boys approach him and engage in a conversation with him. Libarit Azatian didn’t know Arabic very well. The boys immediately notice that he’s a foreigner and ask him “ente ermen?”, meaning “are you Armenian? Surprised, Libarit says yes. The boys invite him to their house. The elder of the brothers, whose name was Khalif, calls his mother ��?ya ummi (hey mother), come, our uncle has come’. The woman, in whose eyes one could see the doubt, fear, cries and horrible images of the genocide, approaches the man without saying anything. The two hug each other and start crying. Unfortunately, the woman couldn’t speak Armenian. She only remembered the names of her parents and the city and some words from prayers. She was from Kyuryun.

 “Even after a thousand years, I won’t forget our city,” the woman says in Arabic and continues: “Wherever you go, you won’t find apple trees and fountains like the apple trees and fountains in our city. I remember how my grandmother would hug me, love me and tell me I was the daughter of a true resident of Kyuryunts and that my cheeks were as red as the red apples of Kyuryun. I can see my poor grandmother flashing in front of my eyes. She couldn’t walk with us and would often kneel to rest, or perhaps pray. One day, an askyar horseman approached her with the horse and destroyed her under the hooves of the horse. The Turks didn’t let us pour some sand on her so that we could bury her. They lashed us and pushed us away, and we walked on the deserts, hungry and thirsty. An Arab soldier kidnapped me. I was 10 years old. After keeping me for five years, that 50-year-old man married me. I had five sons. If I had known that there were Armenians in the world, I would have done everything I could to escape and restore my identity. I have told my children everything, and they view the Armenians as their brothers.”

 -Alice Kebebjian and her three sisters were born in Adana. In 1915, their father dies, and 4-year-old Alice, her mother and sisters join the caravans. In Mesopotamia, the Arab Bedouins place some children (one of them was Alice) on horses and disappear into the desert. The mother screamed, ��?Oh! It’s great, now I’m in peace, my Alice was saved and will live’. Mother Kebabjian reaches Mosul with her three daughters. One day, Varduhi (Alice’s sister) accidentally meets two Armenian girls, one of which was Alice who was now Khalida. Alice’s Arab parents were rich. They refuse to return Alice to her real mother, saying that they are migrants and have a hard time finding food to eat. In 1917, the British army seizes Mesopotamia, and the situation begins to change. Alice’s mother is able to raise her daughter. The kind and honest Arab woman has a hard time bidding Alice farewell. Mother Kebabjian expresses deep gratitude. After a couple of months, the Kebabjians move to Baghdad. After living in Baghdad for many years, they move to the USA.

 -Dikran Khojaian and Harutioun Mardirosian had several stores not far from the Felluja town of Iraq. One day, an Arab woman enters the store and hears a conversation in Armenian. The Armenian sounds familiar to her. It turns out that she was from Zeytun, her name was Lusik and had been detached from Armenians for many years. Listening to the Armenian, Lusik, who had lost her husband and was a mother of one, expressed willingness to restore her Armenian identity. She joins Dikran and Harutioun on their trip to Baghdad. She learns Armenian and starts an Armenian family.

 Aig Bedrosian-Hagopian

Scroll Up