WATERTOWN — For more than a hundred years, Armenians talk about the murdered victims of the Genocide. It is time to talk about the living victims of the Genocide, the descendants of assimilated survivors remaining in Turkey today. On Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m., Raffi Bedrosyan will be in Watertown to address these largely overlooked people who managed to preserve aspects of their identity under extremely challenging circumstances. The Tekeyan Cultural Association and St. James Armenian Church are proud to present this illustrated talk, titled “Islamized Hidden Armenians of Turkey: Hidden Victims of a Genocide,” followed by a question and answer session open to the public.
Bedrosyan will also be the keynote speaker at the Massachusetts State House commemoration the same morning, where he will speak briefly on related issues.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenian orphans were left behind in Turkey after the 1915 Genocide, who were forcefully assimilated, Islamized, Turkified and Kurdified in state orphanages, military schools or Turkish and Kurdish homes. But these orphans did not forget their Armenian identity and secretly passed it on to the next generations.
Now, a hundred years after the Genocide, hidden Armenians started emerging in different regions of Turkey, openly revealing, their original roots and identity. The most significant trigger for this new phenomenon was the reconstruction of the Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir/Dikranagerd, which acted like a magnet helping the hidden Armenians come together, support one another and return to Armenian culture, language and Christianity. Several trips to Armenia, organized by Project Rebirth, in cooperation with the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora, further encouraged the hidden Armenians to come out.
There is now a vast network and support mechanism connecting the hidden Armenians together through Project Rebirth. They need all the support they can get, as there have been many difficulties, dangers and threats against them from a hostile government, neighbors, employers, sometimes their own families, but surprisingly, even the Armenian Church. The clashes between the repressive Turkish government and Kurdish militants for the past two years have made the situation even worse, with the expropriation and closure of the Surp Giragos Church, but the hidden Armenians keep on surviving.
Bedrosyan’s speech will lead to discussion of many issues raised by the new reality of the hidden Armenians, such as ‘Who is an Armenian?’