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“Your Religion is Worn and Outdated”

Orphans, Orphanages and Halide Edib during the Armenian Genocide: The Case of Antoura
“Votre religion est usée et dépassée”
Halide Edib et les orphelins arméniens pendant le génocide : le cas de l’orphelinat d’Antoura
Selim Deringil
p. 33-65

Résumés

L’assimilation des enfants arméniens orphelins pendant la Grande Guerre a fait partie intégrante de la mise en œuvre du génocide qui fit des Arméniens une « nation orpheline » (Ronald Grigor Suny), au sens propre comme au sens figuré. L’orphelinat créé par Cemal Pacha au Liban, à Antoura, dans le but d’islamiser et de turquifier les orphelins arméniens, offre un exemple particulièrement révélateur de cette politique de turquification et d’islamisation, portée notamment par Halide Edib, célèbre écrivain nationaliste et féministe turque, même si celle-ci l’a nié a posteriori. Ses mémoires sont ici relus à la lumière de ceux laissés par trois anciens pensionnaires arméniens de l’orphelinat d’Antoura.

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Notes de l’auteur

I would like to thank Nigol Bezjian for inspiring me to write this article while filming the documentary After this Day about Antoura.

Texte intégral

The Setting: The Antoura Orphanage as Cemal Pasha’s pilot project

  • 1 The orphanage also housed Kurdish and Turkish orphans; the reason for this may have been to be able (...)

1The College St. Joseph sits on the hills overlooking the Mediterranean in Antoura, in the district of Kisrawan, Lebanon, some thirty kilometers northeast of Beirut. It consists of an imposing complex of buildings in the late Ottoman style. The college served as an orphanage set up by Cemal Pasha with the purpose of Turkifying and Islamizing Armenian orphans whose parents and family had been murdered during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.1

  • 2 Robert Fisk, “Living proof of the Armenian Genocide”, The Independent, October 22, 2011.

2In 1993 when the Lazarist fathers demolished an old building and began digging the foundations for a new one they discovered a small mass grave containing the remains of some three hundred children. Robert Fisk, who visited the site in 2011, commented: “It’s only a small grave, a rectangle of cheap concrete marking it out, blessed by a flourish of wild yellow lilies. […] What was left of the remains were moved respectfully to the little cemetery where the college’s priests lie buried and put in a single, deep grave.”2

  • 3 T. Çiçek, 2014, p. 180.
  • 4 Cemal Paşa, 2016, p. 340. “Cebel-I Lübnan’ın Ayin Tura Manastırında bin Ermeni çocuğunu alabilecek (...)
  • 5 H. Kaiser, 2015, p. 226-242.
  • 6 F.R. Atay, 2014, p. 91-92 the word he uses is “Visrua” which is actually not a Turkish word. A Germ (...)

3Cemal Pasha had confiscated the college premises from the French Lazarist fathers who were deported during the war as enemy aliens. The Antoura Orphanage as it came to be known, (Ayn Tura eytamhanesi) had been set up by the Ottoman generalissimo in 1916 as a pilot project, which was part of a broader scheme to set up modern schools in Syria and Lebanon on the model of the French and American institutions established in the area.3 In its heyday it would harbor some two thousand orphans, mostly Armenian, although the sources also indicate a number of Kurds and Turks. Antoura is actually referred to in Cemal Pasha’s memoirs: “I ordered the opening of an orphanage at the monastery of Antoura in Jabal Lubnan capable of housing one thousand Armenian orphans”.4 It is also important to note that Antoura was actually beyond the control of the central command of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and their policy of orphanages because it was considered as being under the personal protection of Cemal Pasha.5 One of the Young Turk triumvirate, together with Enver and Talat, Cemal Pasha had been appointed the Commander of the Fourth Army District (essentially Syria, Palestine and Lebanon) with dictatorial powers. One of his close aids, would ironically refer to him as “Viceroy of Syria” although the Ottoman high command had no such official rank.6

  • 7 BOA. DH. ŞFR 559/43, 9 July 1917, İsmail Hakkı mutasarrıf of Lebanon to Ministry of Interior. Until (...)
  • 8 BOA DH. ŞFR 88/163, July 1, 1918, Minister of War Enver Pasha to the Vilayet of Syria; DH. ŞFR 88/1 (...)
  • 9 BOA DH. ŞFR 89/164, July 20, 1918, Ministry of Interior to Governor Damascus.

4It seems clear that Antoura had a relatively privileged status among the other orphanages in Lebanon. On July 9, 1917, the mutasarrıf İsmail Hakkı Bey was to write that after the previous mutasarrıf Ali Münif left, the vali (governor) of Beirut Azmi Bey had “closed down nineteen orphanages in the Mountain that had been opened by Ali Münif Bey” because of a lack of funds.7 Thus even at times of dire stress and mass starvation Antoura was kept supplied. On July 1, 1918 Enver Pasha himself was to send cipher telegrams to the provinces of Syria and Beirut, stating that 2,550 liras had been sent for the provisioning of the “orphanage of Ayn Tura”.8 Even as late as July 1918, a few months before the surrender of the Ottoman forces on October 30th, Ottoman documents mention money being sent to provision “the orphanage at Ayn Toura”.9 An encyclopedic multi-author work, Lubnan, published in 1918 just months before the Allied occupation, included a short paragraph on Antoura , by Ismail Hakki Bey:

  • 10 Lubnan. Mubahis Ilmiyya wa Ijtimaiyya [Lebanon. Scientific and Social Research], published in Augus (...)

This orphanage founded by His Excellency Cemal Pasha, Commander of the Fourth Army, is one of the best charitable institutions that exist in the Mountain. The orphans, boys and girls, educated here, are brought from Anatolia. The number of orphans is over eight hundred and they learn various trades. All the expenses are met by the budget of the Imperial Army.10

General Ottoman policy on orphans and orphanages

  • 11 A. Sarafian, 2001, p. 209-217.

5One of the salient features of the Armenian Genocide was the forcible transfer of children and women from an Armenian to a Muslim/Turkish identity. Ara Sarafian was one of the first researchers on the genocide to show that orphan transfer “was a major element in the genocidal designs of the Ottoman state.”11 This was based on the belief of the Young Turks that a child was a blank slate who could be molded and trained in keeping with their ideals of social engineering. Vahé Tachjian has pointed out that the Young Turks had an “idée fixe of changing the national identity” of the most vulnerable victims of the genocide, women and children:

  • 12 V. Tachjian, 2009, p. 60-80.

This explains why, during the war years, Turkish authorities collected thousands of children on the roads of exile and placed them in newly opened establishments where they received an education characterized by strict disciplinary codes that aimed at ‘turkifying’ them and converting them to Islam.12

  • 13 L. Ekmekcioglu, 2013, p. 522-553. Emphasis in quote.
  • 14 BOA DH. ŞFR 58/34, November 16, 1915, Minister of Interior Talat to the provinces of Syria, Aleppo, (...)
  • 15 BOA DH. ŞFR. 63/265, 9 June 1916, Ministry of Education to the mutasarrıf of Ankara. There are many (...)

6Lerna Ekmekçioğlu has drawn attention to the fact that regarding the Armenian women and children, “following a metamorphosis, these groups could be made into proper Muslims and cease to threaten the Young Turks’ final solution: population homogeneity”.13 There was indeed an empire wide policy dating from the earlier days of the war that orphans were to be taken into state orphanages. On November 16 Talat Pasha was to send a circular telegram to the provinces of Syria, Aleppo and Medina ordering that, “if there are any orphaned children in your province they are to be sent to Istanbul in order to be placed in various orphanages”.14 The Ministry of Education wrote to the mutasarrıf of Ankara that after the closing down of the orphanage run by American missionaries in the district of Kayseri, two hundred and nineteen orphans had been transferred to orphanages in Kayseri, “in order to be raised in keeping with national morals”. A further sixty-seven had been left without a place to go and the mutasarrıf was asked if they could be placed in the orphanage of Niğde. The emphasis that the aim was to train orphans in orphanages according to “national morals” is key here.15

7Province after province was asked to provide precise numbers and locations of orphans in their districts. On August 2, 1917, the Ministry of Interior was to send a circular cipher to all provinces asking the following two questions:

  • 16 BOA DH. ŞFR 78/204, 2 August 1917, Minister of Interior Talat to all provinces.

1- How many refugees and immigrants are there in your province/district and how many Armenian and Greek orphans are located in the district? What are the numbers of males and females, Muslims and non-Muslims?
2- How many of these are actually in orphanages, how many are left out and how are they being provided for?16

  • 17 I use the term “assimilation” here in the negative sense of cultural destruction as distinct from t (...)
  • 18 BOA DH. ŞFR 54/150 as cited in T. Akçam, 2014, p. 200.
  • 19 T. Akçam, 2014, p. 201. In Trabzon, the deportation order was announced on June 26: “It was authori (...)
  • 20 T. Akçam, 2014, p. 201. The Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Refugees, İskanı Aşair ve (...)

8Taner Akçam has convincingly demonstrated that the assimilation of Armenian children through Islamization and Turkification was an integral part of the genocidal process.17 A telegram dated June 26, 1915 sent from the Ministry of Education to the provinces of Trabzon, Sıvas, Harput and others clearly stated: “As it has been decided that the children aged less than ten years, of those Armenians who are being deported should be placed in orphanages to be opened for this purpose or in existing orphanages for the purposes of training and education (talim ve terbiye) […]”.18 The most striking thing about this telegram is that it was sent to provinces from which the deportations had not yet begun, therefore the Ottoman authorities fully expected the deportations to produce orphans.19 Some two weeks later, the Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Refugees of the Ministry of Interior sent another telegram to the provinces mentioning, “Armenian children who will most likely become parentless during the displacement and transfer of their parents”.20 The orphanage of Antoura was to be the final destination for what amounted to a handful of these thousands of orphans. A few orphans of Antoura did write their memoirs later in life and talked about their ordeal there. In this article I refer to three such texts, which have been wholly or partly translated from Armenian. All three boys were at Antoura circa 1915 to 1918.

9Another point that should be emphasized is the stark contrast between the accounts of the orphans at Antoura and Halide Edip’s account of her experience in her memoirs. For example, there is no mention in her memoirs of the use of elder Armenian boys who had converted to Islam and were used as prefects wielding whips. As shall be seen below, by the time she wrote her memoirs, Edip had developed a marked prejudice against the Armenians and had moved much closer to the official denialist position.

10It should be noted also that the aim of the official orphanages such as Antoura was Turkification and Islamization. One may legitimately wonder why these two went together, particularly as the orphans at Antoura included Kurds and Turks. As will be seen below, the aim of all the official orphanages was to instill a “national character”. Even the Young Turk regime, despite its belief that the Turks constituted the backbone of the empire, was loath to give up Islam as a vital social cement. Hence, any “reprogramming” of Armenian orphans had to include an Islamic dimension.

Some comments on the use of memoirs and the concept of “collective memory”

  • 21 D. Middleton and D. Edwards, 2012; J.W. Pennebaker et al., 1997; P. Connerton, 2008, p. 59-71; R. O (...)

11There is an extensive literature on autobiography, how it impacts on what constitutes collective memory, and how it contributes to the formation of collective identity.21 It would be beyond the scope of this study to attempt an exhaustive theoretical treatment of the subject. I will limit myself to a few very brief observations that will have a direct bearing on the memoirs discussed here. In the words of the pioneering doyen of collective memory studies Maurice Halbwachs:

  • 22 M. Halbwachs, 2011, p. 139-155.

Collective memory differs from history in at least two respects. It is a current of continuous thought whose continuity is not at all artificial for it retains from the past only what still lives or is capable of living in the consciousness of the groups keeping the memory alive […]. It provides the group a self-portrait that unfolds through time, since it is an image of the past, and allows the group to recognize itself through the total succession of images.22

  • 23 P. Lejeune, 1975.
  • 24 K. von Greyerz, 2010, p. 273-282.
  • 25 B. Rimé and V. Christophe, 1997.
  • 26 W. Hirst et al., 2012, p. 141-159.

12The memoirs referred to in this article form a part of the “self-portrait that unfolds through time”. Memoirs as a historical source for the role of orphanages in the genocidal process are indeed indispensable with the proviso that they be used without any illusions as to their “objectivity”. Memoirs are by their very nature subjective, and demand, in the words of one of the major thinkers of the subject, some form of “autobiographical pact” between the author and the reader whereby the reader will be free to “look for differences (errors, deformations etc.)” with the historical record.23 We must also acknowledge that, “personal narratives, both in reproducing and creating discourse, are deeply embedded in the collective context”.24 However, one can surmise that memoirs of surviving orphans, alongside other genocide survivors, will constitute what is called, “social sharing of emotions”.25 Thus, memoirs and first person narratives constitute “[…] these shared memories [which] are critically important for people because they can serve as collective memories – that is shared memories that bear on collective identity”.26

The Memoirs of Melkon Bedrossian, Harutyun Alboyajian and Karnig Panian

  • 27 M. Bedrossian, nd (family archive of Jacques Bedrossian). Bedrossian’s memoirs were translated from (...)
  • 28 M. Bedrossian, p. 2-3, 23.

13Melkon Bedrossian was born in the village of Sarilar in the Amanos mountains close to the city of Marash in 1905.27 He was actually officially converted to Islam not once but twice. First in his home village in 1908 when “a shaikh came to our village and told us that if we did not convert we would all be massacred. My parents, after much thought, decided to accept, in appearance”. When the family was deported in 1915 he was separated from them in Homs in Syria and sent to Antoura where he was forcibly converted again. He was ten years old when he came to Antoura. He escaped from Antoura in May 1918 and made his way to Damascus where he was reunited with some of his family. He ended up in Paris where he wrote his memoirs.28

  • 29 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 426-428. Harutyun Alboyajian’s Testimony. Testimony no. 247. Testimonies tran (...)

14Harutyun Alboyajian was born in 1904 in the village of Fendedjak, an Armenian village south west of the city of Marash. His testimony in the volume compiled by Verjiné Svazlian actually begins with the account of how he was separated from his family, many of whom were killed, and sent to Antoura. He was also ten years old. He was interviewed in Yerevan at the age of 81.29

  • 30 K. Panian, 2015, p. xviii. In his introduction to Panian’s memoirs Keith David Watenpaugh mentions (...)
  • 31 This information is provided by Keith Watenpaugh’s afterword to Panian’s memoirs.

15Karnig Panian’s account is the only Armenian memoir about Antoura that has been entirely translated into English.30 Panian went on to become a prominent member of the thriving Armenian community in Lebanon in the 1960’s where he became famous as an educator and community activist. In 1970 he received the Mesrob Mashdots Medal, “the highest honour given to intellectuals and educators by the Holy See of Cilicia” from the Armenian Patriarch Khoren I.31

Attempted erasure of Armenian Identity

  • 32 P. Injarabian, 2015; N. Maksudyan, 2014.

16The three sources cited here are part of a genre that seems to be emerging in genocide studies, a genre that focuses on orphans and orphanages.32 All three of the texts refer extensively to what was the primary function of the Antoura orphanage, the effacing of Armenian identity, language, religion and their replacement with an Islamic Turkish identity. Yet, in Melkon Bedrossian’s memoir there is a curious aspect to this effacement process:

  • 33 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 16.

After the meal we were taken into the impressive room of the director and our names and family names were recorded. We were each given a number, mine was 8, we had to memorize this number because it was by this number that we were to be addressed. Then they told us about the rules and regulations of the school.33

17If the family names were recorded, this suggests that the authorities actually wanted a record of the previous identity of the children. Yet the aim of the institution became very clear when the Director, Fevzi Bey, as Melkonian recounts, made the following speech to the newly arrived orphans:

  • 34 Ibid., p. 17.

“My dear children in olden times, you were Turks, children of Turks, the Christians converted your great grandparents by force to Christianity. Now it is indispensable that you return to your mother religion, the Islamic faith. Your religion is old and outdated, like that of fire worshippers. Your Jesus is also worn out, and like a worn out old shirt we throw it away and take another.” Those of us who could understand his speech were very moved and disturbed because, like me and my sisters we could not forget the burning of our homes and the horrible massacre of 18 of our 20 men before our very eyes. Fevzi Bey continued his speech saying that the religion of the Prophet Mohammad was the only true religion and you must accept this faith. Hearing this all the children started to cry, Fevzi Bey seemed about to reprimand us, but instead he interrupted his speech.34

18When some of the children still resisted conversion the administration resorted to force declaring one morning that the fifteen children still holding out would have to convert and take Turkish names by the evening:

  • 35 Ibid., p. 18-19.

Crying, each of us chose a Turkish name, when we hesitated the secretary would assign a name to us, I took the name of the carpenter of our village, I became Negib, number 8, my sisters became Ayşe and Lütfiye. It was very humiliating for us to be called by Turkish names, above all having to memorize them.35

19Harutyun Alboyadjian stated:

  • 36 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 426.

Nothing had changed the only difference was that the boys were now called effendi and the girls hanum. Every morning and night we had to salute the Turkish flag and cry out “Padişahım Çok Yaşa! [Long Live the Sultan!]” […]. Djemal Pasha had ordered that we should be given proper care and attention, since he appreciated the Armenians’ brains and graces and hoped that, in case of victory, thousands of Turkified Armenian children would, in the coming years, ennoble his nation and we would become his future support. Towards that aim Djemal Pasha had teachers brought from Constantinople.36

20Harutyun Alboyajian also stressed Turkification and the ban on speaking Armenian:

  • 37 Ibid.

When they killed my parents, they took me and the other under age children to Djemal Pasha’s Turkish orphanage and Turkified us. My surname was “535” and my name was Shukri. My Armenian friend also became Enver. They circumcised us.37

21This is the only clear mention of circumcision in Alboyajian’s memoir. It seems that the most important aspect of the Turkification process was language:

  • 38 Ibid.

There were many others who did not know Turkish; they did not speak for weeks, with a view to hiding their Armenian origin. If the gendarmes knew about it, they would beat them with “falakhas.” The punishment consisted of twenty, thirty or fifty strokes on the soles of the feet, or being forced to look directly at the sun for hours. They made us pray according to the Islamic custom, after which we were compelled to say three times “Padişahım çok yaşa!”38

  • 39 K. Panian, 2015, p. 79.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 80-81.

22Karnig Panian gives further details on this issue. He was brought to Antoura at the age of five, after having witnessed the annihilation of his family on the death marches. His initial impression was cautiously positive. He mentioned that the children were given bread and olives. However, the purpose of the orphanage gradually dawned on them: “[…] A few women approached us with smiles. They began speaking to the older boys in Turkish. They apparently said that we would always have to speak Turkish in this orphanage, that their job was to teach us the language […]”. When they spoke Armenian among themselves the women would “kindly but insistently exhort us: Türkçe konuşun güzelim! Speak Turkish my dear!”39 Little Karnig and other boys were subsequently severely beaten by the Director Fevzi Bey who screamed at one boy: “Forget your old name! Forget it! From now on your name will be Ahmet and your number will be 549!” Karnig was so severely beaten that he ended up in the orphanage hospital: “My ribs throbbed with pain. There were no doctors and no medication. Every few days a kindly old lady would come by, stroke my hair and say some things in Turkish, then move on to the next patient […]”.40 The Fevzi Bey we meet in Panian’s memoir is obviously the same Fevzi Bey who appears in Melkon Bedrossian’s memoire. In these accounts an important element in the change of identity, alongside religion and language, seems to have been the symbolic declaration of allegiance to the state.

Bribery through food

  • 41 L. Fawaz, 2014, p. 88-92.

23Food, or the lack of it, is a recurrent theme running through the three sources. It must be borne in mind that in the year that the orphans were brought to Antoura, a severe famine held sway in Lebanon. Thousands died in the streets and the death toll for the famine years ranges from 100,000 to 200,000.41 The fact that there was any food at all at Antoura is an indication of how important the institution was for Cemal Pasha.

  • 42 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 20.

[…] At noon we went down to the main refectory. The tables were clean with drawers, before each chair there was a saucer full of onion soup and a loaf of bread of some 25-30 grams. The bathrooms, dormitories and refectory were magnificent and impeccable.42

24The scene described above in Melkon Bedrossian’s memoirs was indeed a case of too good to be true. The next day the student supervisors, who were older Armenian boys called çavuş (“sergeant”) told them that those who chose to convert would be given extra food with meat, those who refused would continue to be given a thin gruel made of flour and water. At each mealtime they were encouraged to take Turkish names and convert:

  • 43 Ibid.
  • 44 Ibid.

We had become like skeletons, eating nothing but that thin gruel. When we could smell the aroma of meat in the refectory some converted and were given meat, whereas we and others from our villages would wait in the corner of the refectory as the converts were fed first. They would then emerge from the refectory regaling us with how well they had eaten.43
[…] We were given little food at our Turkish orphanage. Our gharavanadjis [cauldron bearers] were on duty in the dining-room. One day one of the gharavanadjis, an Armenian boy from Gyurin, saw me while entering the dining-room, held me by the arm and said in Turkish: “Shukri, will you make a belt for me?” I thought: he was a gharavanadji; he might help me in return and give me some more dinner.44

  • 45 K. Panian, 2015, p. 120-131.

25It seems Harutyun was quite a resourceful and talented boy. He managed to forage for materials which enabled him to make leather articles such as belts, which he then used to barter for food. In Karnig Panian’s account food is again a major theme. One of the methods of resistance and survival were food raids organized by the older boys. Teams of boys would escape from the orphanage at night to scavenge the surrounding countryside for anything edible.45 Thus, politics of food at the orphanage was used for disciplining the Armenian children as well as for the latter it allowed them to resist and survive.

Co-option of peers

26One of the cruelest aspects of life at the orphanage was the use of Turkified Armenian orphans as prefects enforcing the process of Turkification and Islamization. They are usually referred to as older Armenian boys who collaborated with the authorities. Bedrossian lamented the cruelty of the prefects called çavuş:

  • 46 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 24.

[They] did not hesitate to use their whips for some extra soup. They all had Turkish names like Cemal, Şakir, İzzet. The most severe of them was Toros, converted to Enver, who had only one arm whom we called çolak [“he with one arm”]. He had volunteered to become circumcised.46

  • 47 K. Panian, 2015, p. 85. Küçük means “little” in Turkish. Evidently these senior boys were being nam (...)

27This is the only mention of circumcision in Bedrossian’s narrative and it is noteworthy that Toros/Enver’s circumcision was voluntary. Panian, like Alboyajian and Bedrossian, makes mention of “a few older Armenian boys” among whom “[…] Turkishness had begun to take hold. They became the overseers in the classrooms. They carried whips to help keep order […]. They had names like Küçük Enver, Küçük Talat, Küçük Hasan. We were obliged to salute these privileged orphans, just as we were to salute Fevzi Bey. If we failed to salute, we were struck with the whips for our ‘disrespect’.”47

Cemal Pasha’s visits to Antoura

28Cemal Pasha paid two visits to Antoura. They are recorded as momentous events in the memoirs: most memorable because of the treats of extra food. Bedrossian stated that “we belonged to Cemal Pasha”. The occasion of Cemal’s visit to Antoura as told by Bedrossian is worth quoting in full:

[…] We were told that Cemal Pasha was coming on a visit of inspection and we were also told that it was on his orders that the orphanage was opened, so that was why we were here, we belonged to Cemal Pasha. Everywhere was decked out with Turkish flags, the refectory scrubbed and made pretty and all the classrooms were impeccably clean. Finally, Cemal Pasha arrived with a large retinue. Guided by the Director and Fevzi Bey, he inspected all the classrooms, when he came to our class, at a sign from the supervisor we all sprang to our feet. The Pasha was very impressed by our discipline, he then asked the name of the supervisor who replied, “My name is Cemal my Pasha”.

29The Pasha smiled and said aferim oğlum [“bravo my son”] and they left. The boys then gave an impressive sporting display followed by a paramilitary parade. The Pasha expressed his satisfaction to the Director.

  • 48 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 23.

Afterwards we entered the refectory for a copious meal, roast lamb with pilav rice, as much bread as we could eat and sweet halwa for desert. All of this was clearly exceptional we wished the Pasha would come every day.48

30Cemal Pasha’s visits are also featured in Alboyajian’s memoir:

  • 49 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 427.

One day, Djemal Pasha came to the orphanage to see the state of his Armenian boys, who had become Turks. It was one of the Muslim religious holidays. I do not remember – it was either Ghurban Bayram or Ramadan. On those days, they gave us good food with meat. Once, when Djemal Pasha came, they called me:
— 535. Are you Shukri?
Cemal then asked him to show some of the items he had made. When he found out that Harutyun had made his belts with scavenged materials he complimented him, calling him “a gifted child”.49

31Panian’s account of Cemal Pasha’s visit to the orphanage is very different from the accounts of Bedrossian or Alboyajian. Bedrossian and Alboyajian spoke of the visit in much more neutral terms, even under a somewhat positive light, mentioning that they were given a feast in the Pasha’s honor, etc. However, Panian tells a different story. The visit starts out quite normally with the orphans lined up for inspection, their shouting “Yaşasın Cemal Pasha!” [“Long live Cemal Pasha!”] in unison, with Fevzi Bey proud of their appropriately respectful behavior. Then abruptly, things changed:

Something unexpected happened: four or five of the older orphans came forward, saluted the Pasha respectfully and bowed. Then one of them spoke in a shaky voice: “Pasha! You are our father! You have saved us from the jaws of death. We will never forget what you have done for us. We were starving to death, and you rescued us. But Pasha, we are still starving! They give us only two tiny buns of bread per day. We are hungry as we were before we came here, and soon we will die if you do not help us!”

  • 50 K. Panian, 2015, p. 86-87.

32Things then rapidly got out of hand with boys climbing trees, eating the wild fruit, as “a huge wave of orphans rushed forward, emboldened, crying out, ‘We’re hungry! We’re hungry!’” As the tumult increased, “Finally the Pasha understood that the longer he stayed, the more likely that he would be exposed to a truly compromising situation. He turned and gestured to his followers to retreat. They practically tumbled down the stairs leading out of the gate […]. Jemal Pasha had been chased out of the orphanage, beating an abominable retreat. He had been repelled by a bunch of starving boys whose only crime was that they no longer wanted to go hungry”.50

  • 51 W. Hirst et al., 2012, p. 142.

33This account is greatly at variance with description of Cemal’s visit in the other two sources, which make no mention of such “orphan resistance”. On the contrary, the visits are mentioned as relatively bright episodes in a grim existence when extra food was issued and Cemal seemed to take a personal interest in his “charges”. Despite the importance of the visit for the orphans, it was remembered and retold in different ways by the orphans. This may well be an example of what William Hirst, Alexandra Cuc and Dana Wohl refer to as the “unreliability and malleability of memory”.51

“Beginning from this day all of you are Armenians again”

34The most critical part of Alboyajian’s memoir is the section where he gives an account of the evacuation of the orphanage by the Turks:

  • 52 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 427.

One day, we woke up without the bell ringing; the doors were not opened. When we opened the doors and went down, we saw there were no Turkish guards or soldiers, no officers, inspectors or teachers; there was no one. There was no one to ring the bell for us to go to the dining-room. Our big boys who had become Turks: our chiefs, had attacked the Kurd Silo and were beating him, and Silo was bellowing like a buffalo. He could hardly free himself from the boys and found refuge in the forest nearby. This was that same Silo, who had said to Khoren over and over: “I have killed ninety-nine Armenians. If I kill you too, that will be one hundred.” This was that scoundrel Silo, whom the Armenian orphans had taught a good lesson, feeling free to do so, because not a Turkish officer was left, for they had heard that Beirut would be liberated.
As our orphanage was a military orphanage, we had special rules. Each class had to stand around its table, but there was neither chief, nor corporal or sergeant. All of us were standing and waiting, and there was no bread on the table. Our Erza Bey, the pharmacist, came. He had the military rank of major, and three Armenian orphans helped him. That doctor of ours came. He was walking between the tables up and down. He gave the order, “Sit down.” We all sat down. He continued going and coming up and down, in deep thought. He came up to our corporal Enver, who was Armenian but he was circumcised and said: “Oğlum Enver, senin Ermeni ismin ne idi?” [“My son, Enver, what was your Armenian name?”]
— Toros idi, Efendim [“It was Toros, Sir”], said the boy saluting.
Then he went to the corporal of the next class: “My son, Djemal, what was your Armenian name?”
Vardan idi, Efendim [“It was Vardan, Sir”].
Then he came to the others. All the corporals were on foot and said their names. One minute of silence reigned. All of us were waiting […]. He said: “Bu günden sonra hepiniz de gene Ermenisiniz” [“Beginning from this day all of you are Armenians again”]. And continued in a sorrowful mood: “As you see there’s no one today of our officers; they are absent. Had I wanted, I might be absent, too. I could go with them, but I decided not to go, not to leave you. It may so happen that they come in a few minutes, put handcuff on my hands and take me prisoner. But I remained, I didn’t leave you. I beg you don’t give trouble to the Kurds around you. Continue to live in peace as you have done so. If I were not here; you would not be here either […]”. He did not continue, but later we learned that they had asked the pharmacist to poison our last supper, but he had refused to obey their order.
And really, soon they came with the Arab Sheriff, put handcuffs on his hands and took him away. We all were sad and silent. When they were taking him out, he said:
“It’s a pity that God did not return to me all the kindness I have done. God blinded my only son, Nedjatli, and I treated you as my own son”.52

  • 53 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 22.
  • 54 H. Morley, 1967, p. 22-23. My thanks to Hilmar Kaiser for this reference. It is also interesting th (...)
  • 55 R. Kévorkian, 2011, p. 470-471, “The Poisonings at the Red Crescent’s Trebizond Hospital and the Dr (...)

35The issue of the poisoning of the orphans is something of a grey area. The mysterious pharmacist Riza (or Erza) Bey appears in both Bedrossian and Alboyajian. He is mentioned by Bedrossian as the, “Pharmacist – Riza Bey. He was a very severe man he always held a riding crop behind his back”.53 Harriet Morley mentions that Bertha Morley, the first American missionary to reach Antoura, also spoke of “The Turk who had been in charge of the pharmacy, a very fine man, was in charge of the orphanage a little while before Aunt Bertha and Professor Crawford came, and was the last Turk to leave Antoura”.54 Not that the Young Turk regime would not be capable of such a fiendish deed as poisoning defenseless children or sick people, after all, they had done just that with the children and old folk who had been admitted to the Red Crescent hospital in Trabzon in 1915.55 Yet here in Antoura, the situation is not very clear, and some practical questions come to mind. We know that there were Kurdish and Turkish children at Antoura. How was Riza Bey or any other Turkish official to differentiate between them in the process of poisoning? What of the Armenians who had actually, even if only nominally, converted to Islam? What would be the point of poisoning a group of orphans just as the Turks were retreating anyway? Could it have been sheer spite?

The Antoura Album

  • 56 American University of Beirut Library Archives. Bayard Dodge Collection. (Amerikan külliyesi Reis-i (...)

36While carrying out my research for this article I came across a curious document in the archives of the American University of Beirut; this is a photograph album featuring thirty-one images of life at Antoura. The cover bears the legend in Turkish, “To the Honourable Dr. Bliss the President of the American College. Presented as a memento of Antoura.” Signed by “Director of the Antoura Orphanage Mehmed Muhtar”.56 An unsigned text in the album (in English) states:

  • 57 Antoura album; unsigned memo probably written by Bayard Dodge.

In 1915 the Turks started to massacre and transport the Armenians of Asia Minor. Although Ahmad Jamal Pasha […] was chiefly responsible for the starvation in Lebanon, he was less cruel than his associates were in his treatment of the Armenians. Accordingly, instead of allowing a large group of Armenian boys and girls to die of exposure he had them gathered together and placed in a government orphanage […]. The famous feminist leader Halidah [sic] Edib Hanum was given overall supervision of the orphanage […]. Although the children had their Christian names changed to Muslim ones and the atmosphere of the institution was of a military and unsympathetic nature it was far from all bad.57

  • 58 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 400, “Carpentry class in Antoura”; p. 416, “Montessori class in Antoura”; p.  (...)

37The photographs themselves are of scenes depicting daily life, workshops, classrooms, orphan boys doing calisthenics, the big clean kitchens, spotlessly clean and orderly classrooms, refectory etc. There are also included the well-known photographs of Cemal Pasha and Halide Edib posing in front of the building with the staff. Several of the images feature workshops where the orphans are being taught trades such as shoemaking and carpentry for boys and weaving for girls. None of these are mentioned in the memoirs cited here. Indeed, both Melkon Bedrossian and Harutyun Alboyajian mention that they had to scavenge tools to make belts, spoons etc. Given the fact that some of the photographs in the album are copies of photographs that appear in Edib’s Memoirs, it is probable that the album was compiled by her and given to her American friends before she left. The aim of the album may have been to counter postwar accusations of Turkish war crimes against Armenians, and to serve as evidence of humane treatment.58

Enter Halide Edib

  • 59 For two recent biographies of Halide Edib see, İ. Çalışlar, 2010, and H. Adak, 2016.
  • 60 T. Çiçek, 2014, p. 184-185.

38Halide Edib , variously known as “the first Turkish feminist”, “militant Turkish nationalist”, a “traitor” who was “pro-American Mandate”, one of the few who could dare to criticize Mustafa Kemal to his face, became intimately linked to the fate of Antoura in 1917.59 Eventually asked by Cemal Pasha to become the general overseer of schools in the Fourth Army district, she made three trips to Syria, the first in 1916 when she and her sister Nigar established a primary school there, the second in the same year for a few weeks when she accepted to write a report for Cemal Pasha on educational reform in Syria, and third when she accepted the post of Director of Cemal Pasha’s educational establishments in January 1917. She arrived with an entourage of fifty women teachers. Edib was fully in agreement with Cemal Pasha on the role of education to counter foreign (primarily French) influence in Lebanon.60

  • 61 Aghavnie Yeghenian, “The Turkish Jeanne d’Arc. An Armenian Picture of Remarkable Halide Edib Hanoum (...)

39She has left an indelible mark on the history of Antoura. According to her own and a few other accounts, she did her best for the children, making sure that they were fed and cared for and did not pursue a rigorous policy of Islamization. According to other observers she was the main force behind the Turkification and Islamization process mercilessly applied at the orphanage. Protesting against the fact that Halide Edib was being feted as “The Turkish Jeanne d’Arc” in the American press in 1922, Aghavnie Yeghenian was to write to the New York Times that she had been a classmate of Halide in Istanbul: “So this little woman who so often boasts of her American ideals of womanhood and of which her Western friends make so much, after calmly planning with her associate [Cemal Pasha] forms of human tortures of Armenian mothers and young women, undertook the task of making Turks of their orphaned children”.61

  • 62 E.F. Thompson, 2013, p. 104.

40Indeed, a recent work by Elizabeth Thompson also refers to her as “Turkey’s Joan of Arc”, although Thompson does point out that, “she rejected accusations that she had forcibly converted Armenian orphans to Islam”.62 Genocide survivors also remember Halide Edib’s role as being actively involved in Turkification, and they would later witness and resent her star billing in American liberal circles:

  • 63 Stepan Dardooni, Seminarian, Deportee, and Legionnaire” in Paren Kazanjian, The Cilician Armenian (...)

My younger brother had been taken to Lebanon and placed in a Turkish orphanage opened by the infamous and lecherous favorite of Kemal Ataturk, Halide Hanum Edib Adivar, who wrote a couple of pious, unctuous books all but venerated in Western “liberal intellectual” circles […]. But these orphanages were not opened out of humanitarian reasons but were meant to turkify [sic] the Armenian children who had been orphaned precisely by this Halide Edib’s monstrous Young Turks.63

41As a graduate of the American College for Girls in Istanbul, it is perhaps natural that one of her early contacts in Beirut was the son-in-law of the President of Syria Protestant College Howard Bliss, Bayard Dodge. Dodge clearly states that the conditions of the orphans greatly improved after Halide Edib’s arrival:

  • 64 American University of Beirut Archive. Howard Bliss Collection 1902-1922, Box 18, File 3. About Ame (...)

The lady whom Djemal Pasha chose to manage the hospice was probably the most capable and enlightened lady in Turkey. Her name is Haldeh [sic] Hanum and she is a graduate of the American College at Constantinople and a leader in modern movements among the Turkish women. When she came the situation changed. Every attempt was made to make the children comfortable. The old religious prejudices were winked at and a good man was engaged as director. For over a year the children were well cared for and a very fine staff of teachers was employed to take care of them.64

42This account is in stark contrast to the memoirs of at least one of the Antoura survivors. Karnig Panian gives a very different account of how during the daily flag ceremonies carried out by the Director Fevzi Bey, which turned into daily torture sessions, with boys being given the bastinado for various offences, Halide Edib would be present but would not interfere in any way:

  • 65 K. Panian, 2015, p. 93, 95.

Many of the punished boys couldn’t walk for weeks. Some lost their teeth and broke their noses. Most fainted while crying for mercy or pathetically screaming for their mothers […]. This was a daily event for two years […]. I saw Halide Edib […]. She would often lean against the sundial and watch us play. She seemed carefree. Sometimes she journeyed to Beirut and returned a few days later with stacks of books under her arms. She said she was writing a book about the orphans; others claimed that at night, she sucked the blood out of the necks of the older boys. We did not know what to believe. Did she think of our suffering? Did she think about our terrible pasts or our bleak futures? Did she have any motherly instincts that allowed her to sympathize with us? Whenever the bell rang to rush us into our classrooms, she would go into her quarters and stay there until evening, when she reappeared at the flag lowering ceremony and the beatings that followed.65

43Panian makes no mention of her trying to stop the tortures. In her own account Halide Edib is somewhat ambivalent regarding her attitude to the Turkification and Islamization policies. In one of her early conversations with Cemal Pasha, Halide Edib was openly critical of his policies regarding the orphanage:

  • 66 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 428, 429.

I said, “you have been as good to the Armenians as it is possible to be in these hard days. Why do you allow Armenian children to be called by Moslem names? It looks like turning Armenians into Moslems and history someday will revenge it on the coming generation of Turks”.
“You are an idealist” he answered gravely, “and like all idealists [you] lack a sense of reality. Do you believe that by turning a few hundred Armenian boys and girls Moslem I think I benefit my race? You have seen the Armenian orphanage. This is a Moslem orphanage, and only Moslem orphans are allowed […]. I cannot bear to see them die in the streets”. He also declared that ultimately after the war, they would be free to return to their “race”.66

  • 67 H.E. Adıvar, 1968, p. 196, 281. These memoirs were the translation of her Memoirs of Halide Edib. Y (...)

44In the Turkish translation of her memoirs (which she wrote herself) the tone of the conversation with Cemal Pasha is somewhat different. She claims that the only reason Cemal gave the Armenian orphans Turkish names was because, “Antoura was for Muslim children only. They still had space. In order to admit the orphaned and vagrant [kimsesiz avare] Armenian children to Antoura it was obligatory to give them Turkish and Muslim names. There was no religious instruction. Therefore, there was no aim to forcibly convert Armenian children to Islam”. Edib also claimed that “I had made it known that if the mothers or fathers of the children at the orphanage could produce identification and claim their children I would hand them over. Quite a few Armenian women came and took their children”.67 This last claim in particular is hardly credible, even if, in the unlikely event of such parents turning up, it is highly improbable that they would be given back their children. Moreover, on January 20, 1918, Edib wrote to the mutasarrıf of Lebanon, İsmail Hakkı Bey, stating:

  • 68 BOA DH. ŞFR 576-47, Halide Edib to the mutasarrıf of Lebanon, Ismail Hakkı Bey. Forwarded to Cemal (...)

In the eventuality of the situation [of the war] going against us, it would be a political and humanitarian error to abandon such a large group, whose parents were killed by Turks, [ebeveyni Türkler tarafından őldürülmüş] to the foreigners. To abandon the orphanage would be an error enabling them to use it as political and humanitarian evidence against us. For this reason, I am in favor, for now, of immediately transferring Antoura to Istanbul […]. The children can be moved to Istanbul in relative safety only if you provide transport for the staff. If Antoura is indeed to be abandoned I request that you leave Mount Lebanon.68

  • 69 BOA DH. ŞFR 591/35, August 4, 1918, from the mutasarrıf of Lebanon Ismail Hakkı to Abdülhalik [Rend (...)

45It is possible to discern from the tone of the telegram that Halide Edib was worried that Antoura could be used as evidence against Ismail Hakkı as the Ottoman representative in Lebanon. Edib remained in Antoura to the bitter end, despite the alarm of her husband Adnan Bey who sent repeated telegrams to Lebanon asking when she was returning. Even after the collapse of the Ottoman front in Palestine, she was still in Antoura in August 1918. Ismail Hakkı Bey was to write on August 4 : “Halide Edib Hanım in Antoura has been relatively spared from difficulties [bil-nisbe sıkındı görmedi] and her future security seems to be assured for now. The army has undertaken her provisioning. In the coming days I will personally go to see the school […]”.69

  • 70 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 69-71.
  • 71 Ibid., p. 98 n. 143.

46As can be seen from the Turkish text published in 1955, Edib refers to Cemal Pasha very respectfully as Rahmetli (“taken into God’s grace”), and the children that were taken in are presented as “vagrants” (avare), errant children of the streets, who seem somehow to be randomly selected. Recent important research done by Hilmar Kaiser shows that particular groups of orphans were selected for the Antoura orphanage. In February 1916, Cemal Pasha had ordered that seventy orphans be sent from Aleppo to Antoura. Beatrice Rohner, the Swiss German relief worker, was ordered to close down her orphanage: “Djemal Pasha ordered that seventy boys should be taken from Aleppo to a new government orphanage in Lebanon. The Turkish nationalist Halideh Edib was in charge of this new institution. The government orphanage’s main object was to assimilate the Armenian children”. Kaiser points out that although the Ottoman authorities initially allowed German relief work among Armenian deportees, “the Ottoman government did not, however, cease to pursue its extermination program. Rohner’s temporary permit for the running of her orphanage in no way contradicted the government’s policy. In fact, she kept alive a large number of children who were later integrated into the authorities’ assimilation program. Thus, Ottoman officials were willing to allow Rohner to do her part for this work”.70 Kaiser also points out that, “Edib took only those orphans under her control that were anyhow cared for”; Cemal and his regime therefore manipulated Rohner and her relief support system into keeping alive Armenian orphans until they could be transferred to Antoura. The German sources Kaiser cites indicate quite clearly that Cemal sought out these orphans to bring to Antoura.71

  • 72 Antoura Album, plate 8, “Montessori Class” showing student seated at desks in an orderly fashion. T (...)
  • 73 J.L. Barton, 1998, p. 164-165.

47Throughout her memoirs in English and Turkish, Halide Edib makes no mention of the ban on speaking Armenian, the Dickensian conditions at the orphanage, or any form of corporal punishment. Quite the contrary, she takes pride in the modern Montessori pedagogical techniques used in the institution.72 Nor is there any mention of the Turkified Armenian overseers, the so called çavuş, referred to in the memoirs above. Halide would tell the American missionary Harriet Fisher: “I never agreed with Cemal Pasha on the Islamization and Turkification of the children. But we were at least able to feed and clothe them […]. Their names are changed to Moslem names, but they are children; they do not know what religion means. Now they must be fed and clothed and kept safe”.73 Therefore she implicitly admitted that Islamization and Turkification had taken place.

48The memoirs cited above make ample mention of Islamization and Turkification, although it seems that circumcision was indeed exceptional. It seems that in her early days in Syria, Edib did have genuine sympathy for the plight of the Armenians, as shown in a letter she wrote to Cavid Bey in which she expressed her despair:

  • 74 M. Bardakçı, 2014, p. 23. Letter from Halide Edib to Cavid Bey, 1 March 1917. Cavid Bey was one of (...)

There are many Armenians here who have managed to stay alive here and only here and who swear by God and the sacred head of Cemal Pasha. They say, “in the whole world we love only you and Cemal Pasha […]”. They have distended bellies after eating grass in the desert. Many have lost their mothers, fathers, or children […]. Cemal Pasha had brought them here, they are given some food by the municipality […]. Cannot the new Cabinet at least alleviate some of the results of this unprecedented oppression and murder?74

  • 75 M. Bardakçı, 2014, p. 132.
  • 76 H. Adak, 2016.
  • 77 Ibid., p. 36.
  • 78 Ibid., p. 40.

49Yet three years later, in Britain, she had become actively involved in anti-Armenian propaganda. In 1920 she was to write to Cavid Bey in Ankara: “Dear Cavid Bey, I am sending you documents regarding Armenian atrocities that should be disseminated regularly through the Islamic Society or any other propaganda service we may have”.75 A recent and competent biography of Halide Edib by Hülya Adak traces her intellectual evolution from the pre-war days to her time as a voluntary exile in Britain and America in the 1920’s.76 Adak shows that Edib evolved from an independent minded intellectual who had the courage to openly oppose the policies of the Young Turks, particularly regarding the practices that would lead to the Armenian Genocide, to a defensive position very close to the present day denialist policies of the Turkish state. In 1909, after the Adana Massacres, Edib was to pen a long letter of apology “to my poor Armenian fellow citizens” in Tanin, the official journal of the Young Turks. In the article she openly declared her “shame and despair for being a member of the murdering group”.77 Adak points out that in her Turkish memoirs, Edib declares that it was as a reaction to all the political violence that she saw around her and “as a duty towards humanity” that she accepted the post at Antoura, “for me the area where I could be of service was the area of education. The Arab lands of Syria and Lebanon opened up that area for me […] when Cemal Pasha repeated his offer, I accepted without hesitation”.78

  • 79 Ibid., p. 56.
  • 80 Ibid., p. 58-59.

50However by the time she wrote her Memoirs, and later The Turkish Ordeal, we see a different Edib; one who had adopted what Adak aptly defines as the “defensive Republican narrative”.79 In this style she is entirely in the mode of nationalist justification for what happened in 1915, referring to it as “reciprocal killings”, and actually somehow justified by what the Balkan Muslims had suffered at the hands of the Christians.80 In her intense reaction to the book by André Mandelstam, where he uses racist language against the Turks, claiming that the Ottoman state has lost the right to exist, Edib waxes lyrical in her condemnation of this position as typical of the anti-Turkish position of the West:

  • 81 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 379. The book in question was André Mandelstam’s, Le sort de l’Empire ottoman(...)

The spirit of the argument is that the Ottoman Empire must be torn to pieces, and the Turks must not be considered ordinary human beings, and the Young Turks are ordinary criminals, having massacred the Armenians […]. There is a detailed account of the Armenian massacres […]. I do not however, find a word about the great massacre of the Turks by the Bulgarians nor its accompaniment of atrocities in 1912, not a word about the great massacre of the Turks by the Armenians who entered Oriental Turkey in 1915 […]. The book […] made me see for the first time the incurable narrowness and one sidedness of the European mind of these days concerning my country and its people, and for the first time I saw clearly that the argument of the Young Turks had real force.81

51This is almost identical to the denialist position of modern Turkey today. Therefore, this mindset has to be taken into consideration when evaluating her accounts of what she did in Antoura.

  • 82 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 469.
  • 83 AUB Library Archives. Howard Bliss Collection 1902-1920. Box 18, File 3. Report from Bayard Dodge ( (...)

52The Ottoman forces evacuated Lebanon in the first week of October 1918. Halide Edib claims in her memoirs that she tried to make all possible arrangements for the survival of the orphans after her departure, “begging” Dr. Bliss and Bayard Dodge of Syria Protestant College to, “take Antoura under the protection of the Red Cross as soon as fighting began in Beirut […]. This was my last service to Antoura”.82 Nonetheless when the first Red Cross workers arrived in Antoura they found the orphans in deplorable conditions. They had not been fed for days and there was fighting between the Kurdish and Armenian boys. Evidently none of the children had forgotten their Armenian or Kurdish origins. Halide Edib could not have been more wrong when she told Harriet Fischer that, “they do not know what religion means”. The first Red Cross teams to arrive on the scene described how, “as the Turks had been driven away […] immediately the Armenian children asserted their rights. They refused to use their Turkish names and they brought out Armenian books, which they had hidden away in secret places during the Turkish regime. Many of the children threatened to seek revenge upon their associates who were Kurds. In fact, Prof. Crawford spent a great deal of time trying to prevent any fighting between the Armenian and Kurdish children at the institution”.83

  • 84 The Treaty of Sèvres, article 142 (“Protection of Minorities”) was to declare: “Whereas in view of (...)
  • 85 N.N. Nercessian, 2016, p. xiv.

53The war ended for the Ottoman Empire with the signature of the Armistice of Mondros on October 30, 1918. This was to be followed by the punitive Treaty of Sevres of August 10, 1920.84 Yet the saga of the orphans was to continue. Literally tens of thousands of orphans had to be cared for in institutions all over the world. In Russian Armenia literally a “city of orphans” was created in Alexandropol where 20,000 Armenian orphans were cared for in 1921.85

  • 86 L. Ekmekcioglu, 2013.
  • 87 L. Ekmekçioglu, 2016, p. 34; L. Yotnakhparian, 2012, p. 109-113. Yotnanakhparian recounts the story (...)

54Reciprocal accusations of Turkification and “Christianization” continued in the immediate aftermath of the Genocide.86 With the protection of the Allied occupation forces in Istanbul, after 1918, the Armenian Patriarchate initiated a program of orphan rescue called vorpahavak whereby orphans would be forcibly removed from Muslim households. This would often lead to clashes because the Muslim families claimed that Muslim children were being forcibly “Armenianized”. In order to determine the ethnicity of such disputed orphans, “Neutral Houses” were set up where Turkish and Armenian women, sometimes under the supervision of foreign missionary women, would “determine” the ethnicity of the orphan.87

  • 88 H.E. Adıvar, 1928, p. 17.
  • 89 Başbakanlık Cumhuriyet Arşivi Ankara (Prime Ministry Republican Archives) 272 14 75 21 10 Ministry (...)

55Edib used particularly vituperative language regarding the Armenian women in the Neutral Houses: “These Armenian women either through persuasion or threats or hypnotism, forced Turkish children to learn by heart the name of an Armenian woman for their mother and the name of an Armenian man as their father”.88 The glaring contradiction of course, is that Edib appeared to be totally impervious to the fact that she had been party at Antoura to exactly what she was now accusing the Armenian women of doing at the Neutral Houses in Istanbul. On July 14, 1919 the Ottoman Ministry of the Interior recorded that “It is rumoured that at the orphanage of Ayn Turan in Lebanon, seventy-two girls and eighty-five boys making a total of one hundred and fifty-nine Kurdish orphans are being Christianized.” Subsequent investigation and enquiry with the British High Commissioner in Istanbul had revealed that “there was no substance to this rumour”. It was deemed necessary to remove these children to Istanbul as “their future there is unforeseeable”.89

*

56Antoura had a privileged status among the other orphanages. The fact that a personage as illustrious as Halide Edib was appointed director is an indication of this status. We have seen that other orphanages were emptied of their orphans in order to provide orphans for Antoura. Halide Edip may have disagreed with some of the methods of her contemporaries, but she was fully in agreement with Cemal on his policy of replacing missionary education with Turkish education. There are interesting divergences and similarities in the three sources cited above and the memoirs of Halide Edib. All three Armenian accounts agree that a brutal process of conversion and Turkification was carried out at Antoura. They are also in agreement that Antoura had special importance for Cemal Pasha as shown by his two visits when they were proudly displayed to him as successful cases of assimilation. Yet Panian’s account of the event of “orphan resistance” is not mentioned in the other two accounts. Nor are the visits mentioned in either version (English or Turkish) of Halide Edib’s memoirs.

  • 90 P. Injarabian, 2015, p. 132. Although it has to be born in mind that Papken Injarabian, with his Ku (...)

57As an institution that was supposed to Turkify and Islamize Armenian orphans, Antoura was not a success. We have seen that the orphans reasserted their Armenian identities once the Turks had left. The cases of orphans in orphanages, no matter how strictly Turkification and Islamization was applied, and boys or girls taken into Muslim homes differ considerably. The latter, immersed as they were isolated in a Muslim environment and had a far smaller chance of keeping their identity. Papken Injarabian stated in his memoirs that some Armenian orphans refused to go back to Christianity: “One has to count by the thousands, the number of Armenian children who had become and remained Muslims […]. They had been so deeply brainwashed into believing the lowness of the giavour that the slightest idea of returning to be one was too humiliating. Hence, they had lost their identities and souls forever”.90

  • 91 C. Mick, 2014, p. 133-171.

58Antoura has to be seen in the context of the overall orphan and orphanage policy of the Young Turk regime in the genocidal process. This in turn is contextually linked as to how they saw the issue of conversion to Islam and the course of the war in general. The Young Turk elite, including Halide Edib, felt that they could actually be on the winning side at the end of the war. We have to shift our gaze to what was happening on the western front. In the spring and early summer of 1918, the German spring offensive seemed likely to succeed.91 At the very least the Young Turk leadership may have thought that they could secure a place at the negotiating table on the winning side for a negotiated peace, which would allow them to keep some of their Arab provinces. In such an eventuality it was highly unlikely that anyone would remember what happened to the Armenians. Thus the orphans in Antoura would have been forgotten, or at the very best receive only passing mention in the peace negotiations. It must be remembered that in her critical telegram dated January 20th, Edib mentions the “eventuality of the war going against us” and she remained in Antoura until September 1918.

Figure 1 Orphans lined up for inspection,
probably on the occasion of Cemal Pasha’s visit
(Antoura Album, AUB archives)

59

Figure 2 Orphans in front of the main building with staff
(Photograph courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library)
Halide Edib is seated next to the director in the center. The boy on the far left holding the two Turkish flags is Melkon Bedrossian

Figure 3 Commemorative plaque in the College St. Joseph cemetery
(author’s archive)

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Bibliographie

Adak Hülya, Halide Edib ve Siyasal Şiddet [Halide Edib and Political Violence], Istanbul: Bilgi University Publications, 2016.

Adivar Halide Edib, Memoirs of Halide Edib, London: J. Murray, 1926.

Adivar Halide Edib, Mor Salkımlı Ev, Istanbul: Atlas Kitabevi, 1968.

Adivar Halide Edib, The Turkish Ordeal: Being the Further Memoirs of Edib, New York: The Century Co., 1928.

Akçam Taner, Ermenilerin Zorla Müslümanlaştırılması: Sessizlik, İnkâr ve Asimilasyon [The Forced Islamization of Armenians: Silence, Denial and Assimilation], Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2014.

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Note de fin

1 The orphanage also housed Kurdish and Turkish orphans; the reason for this may have been to be able to qualify for government funding. My thanks to Hilmar Kaiser for this point.

2 Robert Fisk, “Living proof of the Armenian Genocide”, The Independent, October 22, 2011.

3 T. Çiçek, 2014, p. 180.

4 Cemal Paşa, 2016, p. 340. “Cebel-I Lübnan’ın Ayin Tura Manastırında bin Ermeni çocuğunu alabilecek bir yetimhane açtırdım”. There is no mention of Antoura in his The Memoirs of a Turkish Statesman (1922).

5 H. Kaiser, 2015, p. 226-242.

6 F.R. Atay, 2014, p. 91-92 the word he uses is “Visrua” which is actually not a Turkish word. A German officer was to refer to him as “Vizekönig”, see T. Çiçek, 2014, p. 3.

7 BOA. DH. ŞFR 559/43, 9 July 1917, İsmail Hakkı mutasarrıf of Lebanon to Ministry of Interior. Until 1915 Mount Lebanon was an autonomous administration under the rule of a Christian Ottoman governor, the mutasarrıf. After 1915 Cemal Pasha abrogated the autonomous status of Lebanon and appointed a Muslim mutasarrıf.

8 BOA DH. ŞFR 88/163, July 1, 1918, Minister of War Enver Pasha to the Vilayet of Syria; DH. ŞFR 88/164, July 1, 1918, Minister of War Enver Pasha to the Vilayet of Beirut. It must be born in mind that the sums in question here are in paper money, which was greatly devalued during the war.

9 BOA DH. ŞFR 89/164, July 20, 1918, Ministry of Interior to Governor Damascus.

10 Lubnan. Mubahis Ilmiyya wa Ijtimaiyya [Lebanon. Scientific and Social Research], published in August 1918 and prepared with the protection of the mutasarrıf Ismail Hakki Bey. See, C. Eddé, 2014. Quoted with the permission of the author. The work was in Arabic. It was a multi-authored work and Ismail Hakkı Bey appears as the editor.

11 A. Sarafian, 2001, p. 209-217.

12 V. Tachjian, 2009, p. 60-80.

13 L. Ekmekcioglu, 2013, p. 522-553. Emphasis in quote.

14 BOA DH. ŞFR 58/34, November 16, 1915, Minister of Interior Talat to the provinces of Syria, Aleppo, and Medina.

15 BOA DH. ŞFR. 63/265, 9 June 1916, Ministry of Education to the mutasarrıf of Ankara. There are many more telegrams of this kind in the Ottoman archives that I have left out for the sake of brevity.

16 BOA DH. ŞFR 78/204, 2 August 1917, Minister of Interior Talat to all provinces.

17 I use the term “assimilation” here in the negative sense of cultural destruction as distinct from the more neutral or even positive aspect of the term. Peter Balakian has drawn attention to the distinction between forced conversion and assimilation. P. Balakian, 2013, p. 483-489. Peter Balakian’s comments on Akçam’s book. T. Akçam, 2012. I would like to thank the referees who read the earlier version of this manuscript and provided insightful comments.

18 BOA DH. ŞFR 54/150 as cited in T. Akçam, 2014, p. 200.

19 T. Akçam, 2014, p. 201. In Trabzon, the deportation order was announced on June 26: “It was authorized ‘whenever parents so desire’ to leave the children girls up to the age of fifteen and boys up to the age of ten in homes ‘baptized orphanages by the Turks’”. In Sivas, the official deportation order was promulgated on June 30th. In Harput, the town crier announced the deportation order on June 26. R. Kévorkian, 2011, p. 389, 437, 470.

20 T. Akçam, 2014, p. 201. The Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Refugees, İskanı Aşair ve Muhacirin Müdüriyeti (İAMM), was established in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars (1910-1913) ostensibly to settle the thousands of Muslim refugees who flooded into the empire after the losses of most of the Balkan provinces. It would later become the central agency for the logistical organization of the genocide. Şükrü Bey was appointed director from 1914 to 1916. He went on to become the Minister of the Interior as Şükrü Kaya (1927-1938) in the Kemalist Republic. On him see F. Dündar, 2010, p. 113, 137 n. 249.

21 D. Middleton and D. Edwards, 2012; J.W. Pennebaker et al., 1997; P. Connerton, 2008, p. 59-71; R. Ostle et al., 1998.

22 M. Halbwachs, 2011, p. 139-155.

23 P. Lejeune, 1975.

24 K. von Greyerz, 2010, p. 273-282.

25 B. Rimé and V. Christophe, 1997.

26 W. Hirst et al., 2012, p. 141-159.

27 M. Bedrossian, nd (family archive of Jacques Bedrossian). Bedrossian’s memoirs were translated from Armenian into French by his cousin Wartivar Ohannessian. My thanks to Dr. Tachjian for sharing this source with me. There is also a more extended translation of the Bedrossian memoir by Anna Ohanessian-Charpin, Wartivar Ohannessian’s daughter. The memoirs span two notebooks, the second of which covers his time in Antoura and was translated word for word by Anna Ohannessian-Charpin. Melkon Bedrossian was probably around seventy-three years old when he wrote his memoirs (my thanks to Anna Ohanessian-Charpin for allowing me to cite her translation and for answering my questions; e-mail communication dated May 30, 2017). It is possible that Bedrossian is mistaken in the date here; it is more likely that he converted in 1909 following the Adana massacres (my thanks to the anonymous reviewer of EAC for this point).

28 M. Bedrossian, p. 2-3, 23.

29 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 426-428. Harutyun Alboyajian’s Testimony. Testimony no. 247. Testimonies translated from Armenian. It is worth noting that this source is a testimonial rather than a memoir.

30 K. Panian, 2015, p. xviii. In his introduction to Panian’s memoirs Keith David Watenpaugh mentions two extant biographical accounts of orphan life in Antoura. We now have to add the Melkon Bedrossian memoirs to this list. Panian’s memoirs are originally published in Armenian (G. Banean, 1992).

31 This information is provided by Keith Watenpaugh’s afterword to Panian’s memoirs.

32 P. Injarabian, 2015; N. Maksudyan, 2014.

33 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 16.

34 Ibid., p. 17.

35 Ibid., p. 18-19.

36 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 426.

37 Ibid.

38 Ibid.

39 K. Panian, 2015, p. 79.

40 Ibid., p. 80-81.

41 L. Fawaz, 2014, p. 88-92.

42 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 20.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid.

45 K. Panian, 2015, p. 120-131.

46 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 24.

47 K. Panian, 2015, p. 85. Küçük means “little” in Turkish. Evidently these senior boys were being named after the leading figures of the CUP regime.

48 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 23.

49 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 427.

50 K. Panian, 2015, p. 86-87.

51 W. Hirst et al., 2012, p. 142.

52 V. Svazlian, 2011, p. 427.

53 M. Bedrossian, nd., p. 22.

54 H. Morley, 1967, p. 22-23. My thanks to Hilmar Kaiser for this reference. It is also interesting that young Harutyun comes up in the source about Bertha Morley: “Haroutune [sic] Alboyajian [won] the prize in conduct. Haroutune was also mentioned in the teachers’ meetings for his neatness, and for his use of his spare time: he designed and made belts which were useful and attractive”. Ibid., p. 24.

55 R. Kévorkian, 2011, p. 470-471, “The Poisonings at the Red Crescent’s Trebizond Hospital and the Drownings at Sea”.

56 American University of Beirut Library Archives. Bayard Dodge Collection. (Amerikan külliyesi Reis-i muhteremi Doktor Bliss Caniblerine, Antoura Hatırası olmak üzere takdim kılındı) Dated March 21, 1918. On the green felt cover in English, “Turkish Orphanage Antoura World War period 1916-1918”. The album is unpublished. I would like to thank Dr. Kaoukab Chebaro and Samar Mikati-Kaissi for their help and particularly for allowing me to use one of the photographs from the album featured in this article.

57 Antoura album; unsigned memo probably written by Bayard Dodge.

58 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 400, “Carpentry class in Antoura”; p. 416, “Montessori class in Antoura”; p. 432, “a group of girls at Antoura”; p. 448, with the legend “The Armenian children were good musicians” featuring the orphans lined up for inspection with a band in the background; p. 464, “Shoemaking class at Antoura”. One of the photographs clearly shows a man in the garb of a religious functionary wearing a turban. My thanks to Levon Nordiguian for the itemized list of the photographs he was kind enough to share with me.

59 For two recent biographies of Halide Edib see, İ. Çalışlar, 2010, and H. Adak, 2016.

60 T. Çiçek, 2014, p. 184-185.

61 Aghavnie Yeghenian, “The Turkish Jeanne d’Arc. An Armenian Picture of Remarkable Halide Edib Hanoum”, The New York Times, September 17, 1922.

62 E.F. Thompson, 2013, p. 104.

63 Stepan Dardooni, Seminarian, Deportee, and Legionnaire” in Paren Kazanjian, The Cilician Armenian Ordeal (Boston: HYE Intentions, 1989), cited in H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 99.

64 American University of Beirut Archive. Howard Bliss Collection 1902-1922, Box 18, File 3. About American Relief Work in Syria. From Bayard Dodge (Beirut) to Mr. C.H. Dodge, 99 John Str. NYC.

65 K. Panian, 2015, p. 93, 95.

66 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 428, 429.

67 H.E. Adıvar, 1968, p. 196, 281. These memoirs were the translation of her Memoirs of Halide Edib. Yet there are important discrepancies between the two texts. In another passage in the same book she declares: “In Syria Cemal Pasha had behaved towards the exiled Armenians in a manner becoming an Ottoman statesman”. Ibid., p. 174.

68 BOA DH. ŞFR 576-47, Halide Edib to the mutasarrıf of Lebanon, Ismail Hakkı Bey. Forwarded to Cemal Pasha. 20 Kanun-u Sani 334 (20 January 1918); H. Kaiser, 2015, p. 236. My thanks to Hilmar Kaiser for bringing this document to my attention. I have consulted and quoted the original.

69 BOA DH. ŞFR 591/35, August 4, 1918, from the mutasarrıf of Lebanon Ismail Hakkı to Abdülhalik [Renda]. Adnan Bey sent several cables in 1918: DH. ŞFR 84/156, March 28, 1918, Adnan Bey to mutasarrıf of Lebanon Ismail Hakkı Bey; DH. ŞFR 85/86, March 21,1918, Adnan Bey to Medical Director (Sıhhiye Müdürü) Subhi Bey in Adana asking to be notified “when the Teacher Training personel of Beirut arrive in Adana”; DH. ŞFR 83/77, January 23, 1918, Adnan Bey to mutasarrıf of Lebanon praying him to forward the telegram to Halide Edip, by which he asked her to “please notify as to the time of your return by way of the Mutasarrıf Efendi”.

70 H. Kaiser, 2002, p. 69-71.

71 Ibid., p. 98 n. 143.

72 Antoura Album, plate 8, “Montessori Class” showing student seated at desks in an orderly fashion. The same photograph appears in Halide Edib’s Memoirs. The “Montessori Method” was founded by the Italian pedagogue Dr. Maria Montessori at the end of the 19th century.

73 J.L. Barton, 1998, p. 164-165.

74 M. Bardakçı, 2014, p. 23. Letter from Halide Edib to Cavid Bey, 1 March 1917. Cavid Bey was one of the leading Ittihadists and Minister of Finance.

75 M. Bardakçı, 2014, p. 132.

76 H. Adak, 2016.

77 Ibid., p. 36.

78 Ibid., p. 40.

79 Ibid., p. 56.

80 Ibid., p. 58-59.

81 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 379. The book in question was André Mandelstam’s, Le sort de l’Empire ottoman (Paris, 1917). Mandelstam had been the last Dragoman of the Imperial Russian Embassy in Istanbul before the war and the Russian Revolution. He referred to the Ottoman Empire as “l’État vampire”. A. Mandelstam, 1917, p. 577.

82 H.E. Adıvar, 1926, p. 469.

83 AUB Library Archives. Howard Bliss Collection 1902-1920. Box 18, File 3. Report from Bayard Dodge (Beirut) to C.H. Dodge (N.Y.C) concerning the relief work in Syria during the period of war.

84 The Treaty of Sèvres, article 142 (“Protection of Minorities”) was to declare: “Whereas in view of the terrorist regime that had existed in Turkey since 1914, conversion to Islam could not take place under normal conditions, no conversions since that date are recognized and all persons who were non-Moslems before November 1, 1914 will be considered remaining such, unless after regaining their liberty, they voluntarily perform the necessary formalities for embracing the Islamic faith [...]”.

85 N.N. Nercessian, 2016, p. xiv.

86 L. Ekmekcioglu, 2013.

87 L. Ekmekçioglu, 2016, p. 34; L. Yotnakhparian, 2012, p. 109-113. Yotnanakhparian recounts the story of the forcible recovery of an orphan girl who insisted she was Muslim.

88 H.E. Adıvar, 1928, p. 17.

89 Başbakanlık Cumhuriyet Arşivi Ankara (Prime Ministry Republican Archives) 272 14 75 21 10 Ministry of the Interior no. 39709. My thanks to Sait Çetinoğlu for this reference.

90 P. Injarabian, 2015, p. 132. Although it has to be born in mind that Papken Injarabian, with his Kurdish name of Azo and ostensibly a Muslim, even as he was “owned” by eight successive Kurdish “masters” was always referred to by them as a giavour, or infidel.

91 C. Mick, 2014, p. 133-171.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1 Orphans lined up for inspection,probably on the occasion of Cemal Pasha’s visit(Antoura Album, AUB archives)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/2090/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/, 248k
Légende Figure 2 Orphans in front of the main building with staff(Photograph courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library)Halide Edib is seated next to the director in the center. The boy on the far left holding the two Turkish flags is Melkon Bedrossian
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/2090/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/, 504k
Légende Figure 3 Commemorative plaque in the College St. Joseph cemetery(author’s archive)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/2090/img-3.jpg
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Selim Deringil, « “Your Religion is Worn and Outdated” », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 12 | 2019, 33-65.

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Selim Deringil, « “Your Religion is Worn and Outdated” », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 12 | 2019, mis en ligne le 28 février 2019, consulté le 19 octobre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/2090 ; DOI : 10.4000/eac.2090

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Selim Deringil

Lebanese American University, Beirut

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