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Turkey’s Islamized Armenians Grapple With Tragic Roots

The descendants of Islamized Armenians who survived the Ottoman massacres during World War I have begun to “come out” in Turkey, braving century-old prejudices and fears to embrace their Armenian roots, reports Sibel Utku Bila from Diyarbakir.
Armenian Bishop Datev Hagopian attends a wreath laying ceremony after a special prayer marking the anniversary of mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire in 1915, outside the Armenian Church in Bucharest April 24, 2012. Armenia, backed by many historians and parliaments, says that about 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government. Successive Turkish governments and the vast majority o

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Abdurrahim Zorarslan’s world turned upside down at age 25 when his Kurdish clan revealed to him he was Armenian. His father, a survivor of the Ottoman massacres, saved and Islamized by a Kurdish couple, had already died — without uttering a word about his real self. After much soul-searching, Zorarslan “listened to something inside” and “secretly” embraced his Armenian identity. Aged 53 today, he boldly speaks out and introduces himself with the typical Armenian name, Armen.

The self-rediscovery, however, has come with a cost. The retired driver is now at odds with his children and Kurdish wife, a devout Muslim wearing the black chador, but still believes that “one can reach nowhere with fear of his roots.”

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