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Day 6 – Armen a.k.a. Abdurrahim

 
 

 

14 Days in Diyarbakir - 14 Photos of Amed - 14 Pieces on Tigranakert.

"Repair's" special correspondant MJM, a french-armenian journalist, has recently spent two weeks in the current capital of the South Eastearn Anatolia to meet with the past, present and future of the thousands of Armenians who used to live in this city before the 1915 genocide. During his travels, MJM shares with us his many encounters with places, women and men whose story is undeniably related to the Armenians.

This photo essay was done in May 2013, some situations described in these articles have evolved since then.


Day 6 – Armen a.k.a. Abdurrahim
 

I had heard about Armen, a.k.a. Abdurrahim through the indispensable book by Guillaume Perrier and Laure Marchand, La Turquie et le fantôme arménien (Turkey and the Armenian Ghost),[1] and was curious about meeting in flesh and blood  this “ wiry little man” who was fascinated by everything Armenian. This former driver from Liçe, now 52, only learned about his Armenian origins at 25, upon his father’s death. A Kurdish uncle told him the truth. “I was very surprised, it came as a shock to me. I had grown up as a Kurd, and at 25 they tell me I am Armenian… I was overwhelmed,” confesses the man who, since then, has struggled to locate relatives, scattered around the world from Holland to the United States.

“As an Armenian, I want to learn everything that has to do with Armenianess. That’s why I’ve been going to Armenian courses in the last two years. I want to learn my culture and my language,” exclaims Armen, who subscribed to five Armenian TV channels and keeps up regularly with Armenian news, even from Hayastan. For five months, he has been doing voluntary work in Surp Giregos, “our ancestors’ legacy,” for the Armenian foundation that administrates the place. In the last five years, he has also been selling the Agos newspaper in Diyarbakir. “I managed to get a hundred or so people to subscribe here!” he says proudly.

When asked how he manages to handle this double Kurdish and Armenian identity, he explains serenely that the two parts coexist at once but that, in the future, he would like to see the word “Armenian” mentioned on his identity card. “Within me, the Armenian identity is dominant,” he stresses, and in the course of the conversation we learn that his father has started a procedure to become officially Christian again… only to change his mind at the last moment, feeling that it would be a betrayal of the Kurdish family who had rescued and raised him. “I tell everyone I’m Armenian, I’m not afraid to say it. I’m tranquil,” assures Abdurrahim who nevertheless has himself called Armen only among Armenian or Armenian-friendly circles. According to him, “there’s around a family in five in Diyarbakir with Armenians in it.” And at lease fifteen families with who he shares precious times: “We go to weddings together, to the cemetery, we go picnicking, we call each other…” listsArmen, to whom these families have somewhat become another set of siblings.


[1] Actes Sud, 2013

 

The 30-year-old freelancer and photographer, MJM, has worked for various newspapers and magazines. His recent work with the Yerkir NGO has permitted him to further develop his views and understanding through photos and documentaries in Armenia and Turkey. An overview of his work is available on his website www.mjm-wordsandpics.com.

 

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