Armenians in Purgatory

 Review by Osin Elagoz, Istanbul, 9 August 2015
Vercihan Ziflioglu’s recent book on Islamized Armenians of Turkey

"The Story of Armenians in Purgatory" (Iletism Publishing) by Vercihan Ziflioglu, one of the most prominent Armenian journalists in Turkey, can be summarized by these words uttered by one of the countless Islamized Armenians of Turkey: “We do not curry favour with Jesus or Prophet Mohammad” (“Ne Hz Isa’ya, nede Hz Muhammede yaranabildik.”

The book is a documentary about Islamized/crypto Armenians who still live in the eastern part of Turkey. Ziflioglu researched, for more than 12 years, the story of the forgotten grandchildren of the Armenian Genocide victims. She listened to their family histories, to their problems and to their prolonged heartbreak. She says that almost in every Kurdish family in Eastern Anatolia there is a story of an Armenian grandmother.

 Review by Osin Elagoz, Istanbul, 9 August 2015
Vercihan Ziflioglu’s recent book on Islamized Armenians of Turkey

"The Story of Armenians in Purgatory" (Iletism Publishing) by Vercihan Ziflioglu, one of the most prominent Armenian journalists in Turkey, can be summarized by these words uttered by one of the countless Islamized Armenians of Turkey: “We do not curry favour with Jesus or Prophet Mohammad” (“Ne Hz Isa’ya, nede Hz Muhammede yaranabildik.”

The book is a documentary about Islamized/crypto Armenians who still live in the eastern part of Turkey. Ziflioglu researched, for more than 12 years, the story of the forgotten grandchildren of the Armenian Genocide victims. She listened to their family histories, to their problems and to their prolonged heartbreak. She says that almost in every Kurdish family in Eastern Anatolia there is a story of an Armenian grandmother.

Ziflioglu discovered that the biggest complaint of Islamized/crypto Armenians is that they’re not accepted by the Kurdish community because they are considered donmeh (converted) nor by the Armenian community of Istanbul. Diaspora Armenians are interested about their family story just for political purposes. They complain that nobody is sincerely interested in their problems.

The Islamized Armenians want to be integrated into the Armenian community and make “Armenianess” a part of the identity that was stolen from their grandparents. Some came to know of their Armenian identity only when one of their parents died. Others learned of their identity during military coups when they were arrested for being of Armenian origin.                                

Some, who were active members of the Kurdish political movement for as many as ten years, left the Kurdish movement after discovering their Armenian identity and moved to Armenia. They studied Armenian and “now live a quiet life in Yerevan.”                                          

The situation for women is more dramatic, says the author. They were forcibly detached from their families during 1915 when they were children and were obliged to hide their identity for the rest of their lives. Some confessed their secret to their children, shortly before dying. Some want to reconvert to their Armenian Christian identity but claim that no one will help them. Some still fear that when their identity is revealed they would not be able to get married. Some ask themselves "Who am I?" since society doesn’t consider them Turkish, Kurdish or Armenian or Christian or Muslim. That's why they feel they are in "purgatory".

The biggest dream of Islamized Armenians is to visit Armenia at least once in their lives. Few of them have had the opportunity to realize the dream; most of them are desperate and helpless. The author confessed that she lived highly emotional moments while conducting the interviews. Many readers will probably read the book with tears in their eyes. Through the book Ziflioglu has launched a new point of view about the question of Islamised/crypto Armenians.  

Ziflioglu writes: “This important book deals with aspects of the history of the Armenian people and the turmoil and suffering they have endured over the past centuries. The book was published by the biggest Turkish publishing house.”

In this remarkable account readers will, for the first time, have access to personal accounts of Armenians who have in the past joined the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK or Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê). Readers will also learn about the Kurds who 130 years ago joined the Turkish Hamidiye corps ("belonging to Hamid". Their official name being Hamidiye hafif süvari alayları, Hamidiye light cavalry regiments). In addition, the book aims to identify and discuss important data regarding Armenians who live in Istanbul and their social and personal evolutionary journeys after 1997. In addition, the book provides important sociological data about Christian and Islamized Armenians before and after 1915.

Who is Verichan Ziflioglu? In the past decade many Armenians have become aware of her valuable contribution to the Armenian and Turkish media and watched her rise to prominence.

She is a graduate of the Istanbul and Anadolu Universities. She began her journalism career in 1995 at the Armenian-language Marmara Daily. That same year she worked with a team which produced Nor San (New Student) cultural magazine, a milestone in modern Istanbul Armenian literature. She then worked with Jamanag (Time), the oldest newspaper in Turkey. Her next stop was at Agos, the Turkish-Armenian bi-lingual newspaper edited by the late Hrant Dink. During this period she was also Turkey’s correspondent for Şirag Armenian magazine of Beirut. In 1998 Ziflioglu joined the Hurriyet daily where she worked until 2007. She then began working with Hurriyet’s sister newspaper– English-language Hurriyet Daily News–untill 2014. Ziflioglu has also contributed to Referans and Radikal publications and to Aljazeera TV.

In 2008 she won Sweden Institute’s Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Award for her  The Dialogue Between Cultures and in 2009 Turkish Contemporary Journalist Association’s Best Reportage prize. That same year she was awarded a research grant by the Frederich Naumann Stiftung which permitted her to travel to Armenia to collaborate with Armenian journalists to foster dialogue between Armenian and Turkish media and society. She received her third journalism prize from the Turkish Contemporary Journalist Association 2012 in the Best News 2011 category. In 2014 she won an American Embassy bursary to research minorities and human rights in the US. Ziflioglu has publilshed three books on Western Armenian poetry.

 

 

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