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Turkey’s Armenians Rediscover Their Identity

Muslim Armenians throughout Turkey are discovering their families’ pre-1915 roots. (Photo: Anahit Hayrapetyan)

Five years ago, 53-year-old freelance columnist Miran Pirgiç, a resident of the eastern Turkish region of Tunceli, decided to disclose a tightly held secret — his Armenian ethnicity. Increasingly, scores of ethnic Armenians whose ancestors survived the 1915 massacre and were raised as Turks, Kurds or Alevis are choosing to do the same.

For decades, fearing repercussions, many of Turkey’s ethnic Armenians have kept themselves concealed; observing religious rituals and Armenian customs such as coloring eggs for Easter privately, if at all. But the 2007 assassination of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, an outspoken, Istanbul-based advocate for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, proved a catalyst for change.

“Hiding was no longer an option. The sense of injustice was choking me,” said Pirgiç, who traveled to Armenia recently as part of a group from Tunceli, known to Armenians as Dersim.

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Gayane Abrahamyan is a freelance reporter and editor in Yerevan.

Turkey’s Armenians Rediscover Their Identity

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