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Latest update : 2015-04-24

Turkey’s hidden Armenians search for stolen identity

© France 24 screengrab

In 1915, during World War I, the Ottoman Empire ordered the extermination of the Armenian people. One and a half million were killed in the first genocide of the 20th century. But up to 200,000 women and children survived, forced to convert to Islam and assimilated into the Kurdish and Turkish communities. Today, their descendants are discovering their Armenian roots that had lain hidden for generations. Our reporters followed them on their difficult search for identity.

We meet Armenak and his friends, who thought they were Turkish or even Kurdish until a few years ago. After discovering their Armenian roots, they decided to learn more about their heritage in their ancestral homeland in eastern Turkey.

We also meet Armen, who discovered his origins while rummaging through some old family photos. Raised as a Muslim, he now plans to convert to Christianity. It’s a decision that his wife, a devout Muslim, has difficulty accepting.

Their stories are typical of descendants of Armenians who survived the genocide. Many of those who managed to escape were forced to erase all traces of their identity, adopting Turkish or Kurdish names. A century later, their descendants have opened a Pandora’s box that was locked by previous generations.

By Achren VERDIAN , Johan BODIN

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