21.5.18

3659) Recovering Hidden History Along the Armenian-Turkish Border

Recovering Hidden History Along the Armenian-Turkish Border
Two female photographers — one Armenian, one Turkish — worked together to document life on both sides of the border, focusing on Armenians living in hiding. . . .

By James Estrin

May 18, 2018
An engagement between cousins in a Muslim-Armenian family. Some Armenians in Turkey prefer to marry relatives in order to preserve their heritage, culture and traditions

In a handful of villages along the Turkish side of the border with Armenia, neighbors reported a strange occurrence in 2015. Like an apparition, an unlikely pair of women — Anahit Hayrapetyan, an Armenian Christian, and Serra Akcan, a Muslim from Turkey, traveled through the region without men but with cameras, dredging up uncomfortable century-old secrets.



The women were searching for “hidden Armenians,” whose Christian ancestors survived what historians consider to be a genocide by the Ottoman Empire, starting in 1915, in which nearly 1.5 million Armenians died. The Turkish government rejects the term genocide.

These hidden Armenians whom the photographers sought are descendants of survivors, who were mostly women and children taken in by local Kurdish, Turkish and Arab families, and converted to Islam. In some of the more remote villages in Turkey that Ms. Hayrapetyan and Ms. Akcan visited, the ethnic and religious background of these Armenians were concealed out of fear of reprisal from their neighbors. Parents rarely informed children of their Armenian heritage, with many even avoiding the spoken language so children would not pick it up and discover their ancestry.



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