30- Nov-2013-Examining the 1918 Massacre of Iranian-Armenians from a new perspective
Examining the 1918 Massacre of Iranian-Armenians from a new perspective
A family’s tragedy sheds light on the consequences of mass violencevì
by Rosemary Hartounian Cohen
Published: Saturday September 27, 2008
Some months ago, I was visiting an Iranian friend in Los Angeles.
While we were talking about different subjects, she told me an interesting and true story about one of their close relatives.
It took me a while to understand the depth of the story, and when I was ready to write, I called her in Iran and asked for permission. She did not object, on condition that I did not use real names.
Normally I write about the 1918 Massacre of Iranian-Armenians and its effect on the survivors. However, this story relates the reverse side of the Massacre.
Dr. Ali B. finished his medical school in France and returned to his family, who lived in the ancient northwestern city of Khoy for generations. He opened his practice and soon he became one of the well-known physicians of the city.
After the Massacre, the demography of the city changed dramatically. Almost all the Christian population of the city disappeared - having fallen victim to the carnage perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. The few who survived left the city forever.
When the Turkish army left the Iranian cities, some of the Armenians who were hidden by their Muslim friends came out into the open. Some joined relatives or friends in other cities. Others found refuge at a relief center that Americans had established in the city of Tabriz.
The younger children, who had lost their entire families, mostly remained with their host families. Some were adopted and given new names. The rest worked as servants. In either case, they were converted to Islam and married to Muslims.
After the Massacre, the number of Dr. Ali's patients grew considerably. He began searching for a woman who would help him with the patients, clean his office, and at the same time take care of his house.
One day a friend introduced him to a young Armenian survivor. He told the doctor he knew her family well before the Massacre, and he recommended her highly. He added that she had just come out of hiding, and when she visited her parental house, she found out that all her family members had been massacred. She was the sole survivor.
Other people already were living in their house, and all her family belongings had disappeared. She had no one to turn to and nowhere to live. The doctor was happy to find the person that he was looking for and thanked his friend.
Dr. Ali was surprised to see a very shy but beautiful girl in front of him. She was tall but very thin - an indication of the horrible circumstances she had experienced.
She had a scarf on her head but he could see the two thick, long braids hanging down on each side of her face. She had blue eyes and dark-blond hair. Her face was lovely but sad to look at, and her blue eyes were full of tears.
She was dressed poorly but was very clean. She did not talk much and just shook her head up or down to mean yes or no. The only words that she uttered were to say that her name was Lucine.
But the doctor immediately corrected her, telling her that from then on she would be called Leila. This way his patients would not have difficulty remembering her name. She was hired immediately with a small salary as well as room and board. From that moment on, she cleaned the office while the doctor was busy visiting his patients.
When they went to his house, the doctor showed her a small room where she was going to live. She was grateful that she had found a roof over her head and food to eat, in addition to a small salary that she did not even need.
The doctor was a very kind person. He respected and appreciated Leila's hard work. On her part, she did her best in order to make his life comfortable. She cooked, based on the recipes her mother had taught her. The patients and all the doctor's family and friends loved her.
The doctor's parents, who lived not far away, visited him often. As he was still single, they often introduced him to the best available single girls in the city. They reminded him that it was time for him to get married and have children. But the doctor pushed away their propositions.
All in good time
Dr. Ali was a handsome young man. All the well-known families of the city wished to have him as their son-in-law. But he was so devoted to his profession that marriage was not on his mind yet. Besides, ever since Leila's arrival, his house and life were so organized and comfortable that he did not feel any lack in his life.
Leila never talked much. She did not speak a word about her past experiences and never complained. She simply worked very hard. As she wore better dresses and felt safer and stable in her job, it seemed that her face reflected more of her beauty.
Little by little, Dr. Ali's feelings changed towards Leila. Then he felt deeply in love with her and decided to marry her. Before asking for her hand, he shared his feelings with his parents. They liked Leila very much and gave him their blessing.
When Dr. Ali asked Leila to marry him, she happily accepted. Of course, first she was converted to Islam before they wed.
Leila became Mrs. Doctor A. She continued her routine of cooking and cleaning, but she added the five official daily prayers to her schedule.
She never shared with anyone her Armenian origin or her past experiences as a survivor of the Massacre.
Nobody knew if Leila prayed in Armenian or Arabic, or if she addressed her prayers to Mohammad or Christ.
But her appearance showed that she had faithfully and fully accepted the Muslim religion and had adapted well to her husband's life and traditions. She continued her life as a good wife, mother, and pious Muslim.
The couple lived a very happy and peaceful existence with their four children.
Leila died ten years before her husband did. He looked tearfully at her pale face for the last time before the burial. Her blue eyes were closed. Yet she looked beautiful and peaceful as always, wrapped in the white cloth.
As Dr. Ali's warm tears fell on his wife's cold face, he gently touched her two snowy braids, which still were hanging down on each side of her face.
Dr. Ali never re-married. He continued to live with the memories of his beloved wife, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
Identifying the true victims of the Massacre
Dr. Ali's two sons followed in their father's footsteps and became physicians.
The older son, Ahmed, married and had two children, a daughter and a son. After the death of his father, they moved to Tehran, where Ahmed opened a clinic. He became well-known and prospered.
Their older daughter, Fatima, graduated from the University of Tehran and continued her studies in Paris. After obtaining her degree, she returned to Tehran and started working at a hospital.
One day she met a handsome young man in the elevator. He caught her attention at first sight. Some days later, they again saw each other, in a meeting, and were officially introduced.
Fatima learned that he was a doctor who practiced at the hospital. She was also informed that he was of Armenian origin. Official meetings turned to personal affections and soon they were deeply in love.
He introduced her to his parents, who received her kindly. Later, he asked their permission to marry her.
They did not object much, although in their hearts they preferred that he had married an Armenian girl.
Fatima talked to her mother first. When she met him for the first time, her mother also admitted that her daughter had found the perfect man. Fatima then asked for her father's permission and blessing.
But Fatima and her mother were very surprised to find out that behind that sweet face of an intellectual father, another fanatic, racist, and unreasonable man had been hidden for all these years.
Fatima was surprised to hear all the unpleasant words coming out of the mouth of her beloved father, especially considering that his mother was of Armenian origin, and he was unofficially half-Armenian.
His mother was loved and respected by her grandfather and by everyone who knew her. Fatima remembered and loved her grandmother, although she never tried to teach her anything about the Armenians.
For months, Fatima, her mother, brother, and close relatives tried to convince Dr. Ahmed to accept the union, but with no success.
He told Fatima that if she talked to the man or dared even to think of marrying him, he would disown her.
Regardless of his harsh treatment, their love conquered the difficulties, and Fatima married the young Armenian doctor. In her heart, she hoped that once they were wed, her father would soften his heart and love and spoil her like usual.
Her in-laws organized the most luxurious wedding party in honor of their only son and his wife, at the Armenian Club. Many Armenian and Muslim friends and family members were present and shared the joy.
The missing list
Only three members of the bride's family were absent: her father, mother, and brother. The father had disowned Fatima. The mother, who wanted so much to see her daughter in her bridal gown, was not able to attend as her husband said if she disobeyed, he would divorce her immediately. The father has also threatened to disown his son if he dared go to the wedding.
Fatima and her husband have a ten-year-old son, handsome and intelligent. Fatima's mother and brother visit her in secret, at her big, beautiful house.
They love their son-in-law and the grandson, but at home they are not permitted to pronounce the name of Fatima. All the relatives and friends have begged the father to forgive and make peace with his daughter. However, the educated father has continued to surprise and disappoint relatives by maintaining such a strong and hard opposition. Nobody is able to understand him.
A visit of hope
The oldest living family member, who is respected by the entire extended family, visited Dr. Ahmed and his family last winter.
After some days, he told Dr. Ahmed that he had a last favor to ask before leaving for Khoy. Dr. Ahmed immediately answered that his uncle knew that he would do anything for him. The old uncle told him that his days are counted in this world and that he always lived in a traditional and united family. It broke his heart to see that his nephew had cut off all his ties with such a wonderful daughter and her family. He told Ahmed that his wish was the best gift that he could offer his old uncle.
Ahmed, in a rage, replied that if he wanted one of his eyeballs he would have offered immediately, but not any request about his daughter. Fatima and her family were dead to him. That was the only request that he could not fulfill.
The uncle asked Ahmed whether he would've reacted the same way had his daughter had fallen in love with a French Catholic man and married him. Would he have reacted the same way?
Ahmed replied that that was different. The old man answered quietly, "What is the difference? Are the Armenians still the poor survivors and victims whereas the French are superior?"
Some months ago, when Fatima walked into her son's room, she found him crying bitterly. She asked if something had hurt him at school. The child shook his head, then said, "All the children at school have two grandfathers. Why do I have only one?"
Fatima hugged her son and broke into tears. "You also have two grandfathers," she said.
The next morning, they left earlier than usual for school. She parked her car not far from her father's office. In a few minutes, Ahmed appeared, walking towards his clinic as usual. But this time he was not aware that a young, loving grandson and his daughter were watching him from their car.
Now it has almost become a routine. Whenever the young boy wishes to see his grandfather, he asks his mother to make their secret visit.
In search of answers
My friend finished the story by saying that whenever she calls Fatima's mother, the deal between them is that she talks about Fatima and the mother replies with yeses or nos, as even her telephone conversations are controlled by her husband.
She asked me if I had an answer as to why Ahmed was so hard and unforgiving towards his daughter when he had a wonderful "Armenian" woman, as good as his mother.
I told her that of course there could be many deep-seated reasons behind Ahmed's bitterness towards the Armenians. Perhaps he was bullied at school by kids who made fun of his mother. Or maybe he resented her for being "weak" and obedient.
I told my friend that the other day, as I was talking to a reporter and wondered who the real victims of the Massacre were, he laughed at me and answered, "It is evident: those who were killed." I asked him if he was so sure of his answer.
Then I added that although sad, dying requires a shorter moment for the victim. But survivors live with their memory and its psychological effects all of their lives.
Unfortunately, they pass their heavy loads, willingly or unconsciously, onto the next generations.
This is the reason that I write and rewrite the stories of the survivors.
Many of these same sad stories are being created in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones in the world right this moment.
New Fatimas and Lucines are being created on both sides of the conflicts every day. Sadly, many more individuals are going to suffer, whichever side they may belong to.
Autrice del Libro, “ Arusyak la Sopravissuta di Khoy” . tradotta in Farsi da Zohre Pavandi, dedicata alla famiglia grandiosa di Eftekhar - vicini di casa - ( salvatori della Nonna di Rosemary , Arusyak.- in armeno sarebbe Sposina- .
La tradutice Zohre Payvand pure lei è una nipote dei nonni come lo è la Rosemary ,
La citta di Khoy,è famosa nella storia per altri massacri del 451 DC nella pianura di "Avarayr" lungo il fiume di Arax oggi marca la confine iraniana dopo alcuni patti storici del 1808 e 1818.
Khoy è anche è il primo centro di osservatorio plnetaria ai tempi dei mongoli;
Armeni dell’Iran – orientali come uso della lingua e la scrittura orografica come gli stessi Armeni della attuale Armenia ;
La storia appartiene a tutti e va raccontata tutta interamente e senza sconti ;
-Il libro è una toccante pagina della storia armena che ci racconta Rosemary,il libro ha trovata nell'archivio dei suoi antenati, ora è uscita anche la versione inglese che non si trovava durante la mia permanenza in Iran.
IN lingua Farsi