Rescuing Armenians During the Genocide

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THE RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS APPROACH

By Harutyun Marutyan


Abstract: The number of Ottoman humanitarians directly involved in rescuing victims of the Armenian Genocide was not very significant. However, in many cases, researchers have focused on individual rescuers who were, more often than not, in positions of power, or were, in one way or another, associated with the Ottoman authorities and power structures. Yet this was not always the case, as there were also ordinary citizens of the Ottoman Empire who participated in these efforts. “Who is a rescuer, and who is not?” are questions that need to be transferred from a more subjective to a more objective plane. In an effort to accomplish this, the author will take into consideration the Jewish experience, drawing upon the principles found in the concept “Righteous Among the Nations” as articulated by Yad Vashem nearly six decades ago. The author will further draw upon the recollections of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide in 1916-1917, thus placing this issue within the realm of experience among other things.
 
Denial of the Armenian Genocide is as old as the Genocide itself, that is – more than a century. As such it has over the years and decades undergone multiple conceptual changes, with varying degrees of sophistication and varying rates of success, and having enjoyed unparalleled state support in Turkey. It was no surprise then, that on the eve of the centenary of the Genocide, the rhetoric emanating from Turkey was mild compared to previous years, and struck many as conciliatory.1   Yet not much has changed below the surface. Perhaps another reason has been the public championing of the twin formulations of “just memory” and “shared pain” by the former Turkish Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu.2
 
 
Cf. Turkey offers condolences to Armenia over WWI killings, <http://www.bbc.com/ news/world-europe-27131543> (here and later in the whole article all links are accessed on August 20, 2017).
2  See for instance, Hayk Demoyan, “Yes, Mr. Davutoğlu, but…,” available at Museum-G
Brief March 12, 2010 <http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/g_brief_11.php>; Taner Akçam:
 
 
It is no surprise therefore that a topic such as the rescue of Armenians during the genocide has grown in importance. One of the latest demonstrations of this “interest” is the project entitled3  “The Turk Who Saved Me,” a compilation of 47 stories, published in Armenian, English4  and Turkish, and carried out under the auspices of the “European Integration” Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and the “Armedia” Information and Analytical Agency with the support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. As mentioned in the introduction to the book, “The project aims to contribute to the development of dialogue and trust-building between the Armenian and Turkish people.” In order to achieve the stated objective the Turkish participant of the Project makes several subtle comments, shifting the issue to the conceptual zone of “just memory”:  “However,  these stories actually talk about how they survived from the genocide without demonizing the Turks. This is a way for Armenians to say that they do not have prejudice against another ethnical identity and express their sorrow. I think that those who perpetrated and remained as bystander to this genocide had as much trauma as those who were subjected to the genocide [emphasis added – H.M.]. This trauma has damaged the peoples of this land so much that we can’t be healed in 100 years.” Moreover, the coordinator of the Armenian side of the project also discusses the notions of “justice” and “memory” within the conceptual framework of “just memory.” The problem of this “ideological” move may not be obvious, but it needs to be pointed out more often than not, that this shift is deliberate and thus the emphasis
 
 
“What Davutoglu Fails to Understand,” available at <http://armenianweekly.com/2010/05/19/ akcam-davutoglu/> (on May 19, 2010). Davutoglu has addressed the issue further in H. E. Ahmet Davutoğlu (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey) “A Just Memory For All”, 4 May
2014. <http://www.mfa.gov.tr/a-just-memory-for-all-article-by-h_e_ahmet-davutoglu-minister-of-foreign-affairs-of-turkey.en.mfa>; Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Turkish-Armenian Relations  in the Process of De-Ottomanization  or ‘Dehistorization’:  is a ‘Just Memory’ Possible?” Turkish Policy Quarterly, Spring 2014, vol. 13, number 1, pp. 21-30. For some responses to this argument the reader may consult Gerard J. Libaridian: “Commentary on FM Davutoglu’s TPQ Article on the Armenian Issue”, available at <http://turkishpolicy.com/ debate-article/1/commentary-on-fm-davutoglus-tpq-article-on-the-armenian-issue>; Ara Khachatourian: “‘Just memory’: Davutoglu Urges Armenians to Deny the Genocide”, available at <http://asbarez.com/124462/just-memory-davutoglu-urges-armenians-to-deny- the-genocide/> (June 26, 2014).
3  See for details: Haluk Kalafat: “Story Project Aims to Face the Genocide Without Prejudice”, available at <http://bianet.org/english/minorities/159489-story-project-aims-to-face- the-genocide-without-prejudice>.
4  1915–2015. 100 years… True Stories. Yerevan, 2014.

 
[here/in this paper] is only on the rescue of Armenians by Turks and the propagation of this phenomenon.
The theme of the rescue of Armenians during the Genocide is not new, having first been analyzed 25 years ago in a landmark article by Richard Hovannisian, who based his study on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from eyewitness survivors of the Genocide.5 Later, other institutions and researchers – mostly Armenian (George Shirinian,6  K. M. Greg Sarkissian,7  Harutyun Marutyan,8  Pietro Kuciukian,9  Hayk Demoyan10) and Turkish11  (Burçin Gerçek, Ömer Türkoglu, and Taner Akcam) – discussed this problem. There are several journalistic publications on the “rescue” issue as well.12
While not discounting the importance or the very fact that Turks and/or
Kurds did indeed rescue Armenians,  I would like, in contrast to already
 
 
1Richard G. Hovannisian: “Intervention and Shades of Altruism during the Armenian Genocide”, in: Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.): The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1992, 173-207.
16 [George Shirinian] “Turks Who Saved Armenians: An Introduction”, available at <http:// www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Turks_Who_Saved_Armenians>; George N. Shirinian: “Turks Who Saved Armenians: Righteous Muslims during the Armenian Genocide”, Genocide Studies International 9, no. 2 (Fall 2015): 208-227.
17  K. M. Greg Sarkissian: “The Centennial Commemoration Is About Truth, Memory and Justice, Not Hatred,” available at <https://massispost.com/2015/01/the-centennial-comme moration-is-about-truth-memory-and-justice-not-hatred/>
1Harutyun Marutyan: “Structural Peculiarities of Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust Memory,” Patmabanasirakan handes [Historical-Philological Journal] 2 (2011): 29-30. (in Armenian). See also: Harutyun Marutyan: “Trauma and Identity: On Structural Particularities of Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust”, International Journal of Armenian Genocide Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 58.
19  Pietro Kuciukian: “Why Armenians Should Honour the ‘Righteous’ of the Armenian
Genocide”, Études arméniennes contemporaines 2 (2013): 117-124.
10  Hayk Demoyan: “Righteous Turks: Who Are They and Why Are They So Important?”,
available at <http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/g_brief_15.php>.
1Turkish Rescuers. Writer and researcher: Ms. Burçin Gerçek; Research supervision: Prof. Taner Akcam; Transcription of Ottoman archives documents; Ömer Türkoglu: Report on Turks who reached-out to Armenians in 1915. Available at <http://www.raoulwallenberg. net/wp-content/files_mf/1435335304ReportTurkishrescuerscomplete.pdf>. The list contains information on various Turkish and Kurdish officials, as well as a further 80 regular citizens. The list overall contains information on 184 individuals, not all of whom are identified by name.
12  See, e.g. Hakob Chakryan: “In 1915 no Turk have Saved Any Armenian Child: He/She
Only ‘Forcibly Transfered Children of the Group to Another Group’”, Dzayn Hamshenakan,
2011, no. 9-10, available at <http://www.dzaynhamshenakan.org/pdf/n8687.pdf>; Ara Papyan: “‘The Turk who Saved Me’ Project or Not Every Armenian, Who is not Slaughtered  is Rescued One,” Andin, 2015, no. 1, <http://qoo.by/2tBc> (both – in Armenian).

 
existing publications, to approach the issue of rescue in a more systematic fashion, using a comparative method, which can provide a key for a deeper understanding of the problem and for seeking ways to resolve it.
It is of crucial importance to define what we mean by “rescue” and what the term entails within the context of the Armenian Genocide. It should be noted that, as with many terms, there is a great amount of definitional variation, and various individuals understand the term “rescue” differently. Thus “rescue” may variously refer to: “ warning about an impending massacre,” “not killing,” “killing some but sparing others,” “escaping death by being forcibly converted to Islam or converted under threat of death,” “staying alive by being subjected to sexual harassment and exploitation,” “getting married to the murderer of your family or his offspring and having children,” “serving  at a perpetrator’s  home and making ends meet,” “working  at a perpetrator’s farm for months and years, providing him economic benefit,” “handing over a child as a ‘gift’ to strangers when facing imminent death,” etc. It should be noted, some of these variations existed in 1915-1916, as well as in later narratives recorded from survivors and have even been encountered in our day.
Thus, clarifying the nature of “rescue” is indeed difficult. So, what are the criteria that enable us to determine a “true” rescue from a “false” one? One need not look far for the answers – as the issue has already been indirectly touched upon in the text of the 1948 Genocide Convention and particularly Article II:
 
[…] genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.13
 
In 2008 the second and fourth items of this article underwent an additional amendment in the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 adopted on June
 
 
13  <http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html>.

 
19, which proclaimed that in the context of armed conflict or genocide, rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.14
Additionally, the above-mentioned article by Richard Hovannisian hints at a solution to the problem by directing researchers towards a comparative approach for treating the subject. Writes Hovannisian:
 
Further study may allow some refinement of the categories of motivation and help to broaden our understanding of the subject. It would be useful, for example, to assess the risk, burden, and cost of harboring Armenians. Serious moral issues also need to be addressed. … A comparative approach would undoubtedly be helpful in making these determinations, inasmuch as a significant corpus of relevant materials has already been developed on the Holocaust [emphasis added – H. M.]15
 
It would be helpful to look at the Jewish experience in attempting to deal with this issue not least because of the similarities in the problems the Armenian and Jewish communities have had to confront in the wake of their respective genocides. This is what the present study will try to address.
One of the most important institutions in charge of preserving the memory of the victims of the Jewish Holocaust is the Yad Vashem. Supplementing this task, one of the principal duties of the museum is to convey the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people towards non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. According to the Yad Vashem’s official site “This mission was defined by the law establishing Yad Vashem, and in 1963 the Remembrance Authority embarked upon a worldwide project to grant the title of Righteous among the Nations to the few who helped Jews in the darkest time in their history.”16
 
 
14  “United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1820 (2008), Adopted by the Security Council at its 5916th  meeting, on 19 June 2008”, in Security Council Demands Immediate and Complete Halt to Acts of Sexual Violence Against Civilians in Conflict Zones, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1820 (2008) available at <http://qoo.by/2tEr>. See also “Rape: Weapon of War”, available at <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/RapeWeaponWar.aspx>.
15  Richard Hovannisian: op. cit. 197-198.
16  “The Righteous Among the Nations: About the Program”, available at <http://www. yadvashem.org/righteous/about-the-program>.

The basic conditions for granting the title are:
 
1. Active involvement of the rescuer in saving one or several Jews from the threat of death or deportation to death camps;
2. Risk to the rescuer’s life, liberty or position;
3. The initial motivation being the intention to help persecuted Jews: i.e. not for payment or any other reward such as religious conversion of the saved person, adoption of a child, etc;
4. The existence of testimony of those who were helped or at least unequivocal documentation establishing the nature of the rescue and its circumstances. [emphasis added – H. M.]
 
Does Yad Vashem then recognize all those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust? The answer is again no. “The Righteous among the Nations are non-Jewish individuals who risked their lives or liberty to save Jews during the Holocaust. The title is not attributed if the motivation is other than the rescue of persecuted Jews. Such other motivations can be: (1) financial gain; (2) the wish to religiously convert the rescued persons, or the protection of converted Jews because they are viewed as Christians and the rescuers feel that they shouldn’t be treated as Jews; (3) the wish to take in a Jewish child for the purpose of adoption; (4) rescue as a result of resistance activity that was not aimed at saving Jews. Another reason for not attributing the title may be that while saving one or several Jews, the very same rescuer was involved in murder, war crimes or causing harm to others” [emphasis added – H. M.].
At this point, everything seems to be more or less clear for granting the relevant title. As there is a distinct methodology that has been in operation for more than half a century it is possible to filter stories connected to the rescue of members of the Jewish community during the Holocaust like through a sieve using the established set of criteria to distinguish genuine cases of rescuer from tall-tales or fabrications. Since the establishment of the title, more than 25,000 individuals have been honored for their efforts. It is a system that has been acknowledged by many Jews and non-Jews alike. The features and the criteria it contains are universal and acceptable, in my opinion, not only for events which took place 50 or 100 years ago, but for humanity in general.
If these provisions are effective for the Jewish community, it is safe to assume that these same provisions (perhaps with certain modifications to better fit the Armenian experience), could also work in the case of Armenia.
 
 
Genocide victims and rescuers. Let us not forget the fact that the persecution of the Jewish community and its subsequent destruction in Germany and across Europe began only a decade or so after the end of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), sharing with the latter many common ideological motifs, economic motivations, and mechanisms of destruction.
In Armenia efforts to collect and publish original documents as well as survivor  testimonies  are not as systematized  as in Israel with Holocaust documentation.17   There are some exceptions of course, the most important of which are the volumes of eyewitness testimony recorded by Verjine Svazlian, which she began collecting after 1955.18  It was only five years ago that other volumes containing around 600 documented testimonies of Armenian refugees from 1916-1917 were published.19  The latter are especially important (and the cases discussed in this article are taken solely from this publication), since these were recorded immediately after the large scale massacres and deportations of 1915 and the survivors’ stories describe many events which, over the passage of time, have been deprived of their importance, and sometimes seem trivial and have not been properly conveyed to factfinders.
The aforementioned collection of documents may quite effectively lead to the solution of the issue in question. Why? Because the stories collected in these volumes have not been selected by a strict guiding principle. The books have been compiled without any thematic guidance unlike, for ex-
 
17  An incomplete bibliography is available in the following edition, still in publication: Harutʻyun Iskahatian: Vkayaran Hayotsʻ Tsʻeghaspanutyan [Testimony of the Armenian Genocide], vol. 1-5, Beirut, 2010-1013. It should be mentioned that the 183 selected stories out of 527 on which Richard Hovannisian’s research is based, also remain unpublished. See: Richard Hovannisian: op. cit. 175-176, 196-197.
18  See: Verjine Svazlian: Metsʻ Yeghern. Arevmtahayotsʻ banavor vkayutʻyunner [Medz Yeghern: The oral tradition of the Western Armenians]. Gitutyun, Yerevan, 1995; Verjine Svazlian: The Armenian  Genocide:  Testimonies  of the Eyewitness  Survivors.  Gitutyun, Yerevan, 20112 [First edition was published in 2000]. The latest book comprises 315 stories of eyewitness-survivors, two of which were recorded between 1915-1922, and another two in 1940 and 1947 respectively.
19  Amatuni Virabyan (ed.): Hayotsʻ tsʻeghaspanutyune osmanyan Tʻurkʻiayum. Verap- ratsʻneri vkayutʻyunner. Pʻastatʻghtʻeri zhoghovatsu [The Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Testimonies of Survivors. Collection of Documents]. National Archives of Armenia, vol. 1-3, Yerevan, 2012 (in Armenian). A small part of these documents was published in
2005: Vshtapatum: Hayotsʻ Metsʻ Yegherně akanatesneri achʻkʻerov [Stories of the Mourning: The Armenian Genocide Viewed by Eyewitnesses]. In 2013 a selected collection of 141 stories from these documents was published in English: Amatuni Virabyan (ed.): The Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey. 1915. Testimonies  of Survivors. Collection of Documents. “Zangak” Publishing House, Yerevan, 2013.

ample, the project “The Turk that Saved Me”, and are thus open to a sustained and systematic analysis.
Obviously, the survivors’ stories are not written in such a way as to provide straightforward answers for researchers interested in a certain classification of material one hundred years after the events in question.20  It is very difficult to precisely indicate the overall number of interventions recorded in the stories as some stories feature more than one intervention; which could be both consecutive and diverse. I have adhered to the “rescue” motivation categories listed by Prof. Hovannisian, namely sexual, economic exploitation, religious, humanitarian (with respective subgroups), with limited editorial clarifications. Examples involving the abovementioned considerations are many, but while discussing each group-subgroup, I will present only one or two incidents.
 
The issue of rescue and advance information about an impending massacre. In my research among the 600 eyewitness testimonies, I have come across around 30 cases of humanitarian interventions, when people were saved owing to advance information about an impending massacre. The source of such advance information varied from case to case, ranging from a kaymakam (a regional head) to a concerned neighbor. But what is most important in the context of the questions raised in the present article is that none of the interventions seem to have contained risk factors for the informants, i.e. substantive threats to their well-being and liberty should their intentions be become manifest. In addition, there are no indications that this information (even told secretly or indirectly) could endanger the informant’s official position or community standing. Hence, such information, important as it may have been for the survival of the Armenians, is not considered “rescue” in the strictest sense of the word and by the criteria set by the Institute of the “Rightеous.”
There are several cases in which because of advance warnings of impending massacres Armenian males were indeed saved (including men armed and ready to defend themselves), with the brunt of the massacres then falling on
 
 
20  As was noted by Prof. Hovannisian, “In the search for altruism during the Armenian genocide there are, in contrast with Holocaust research, some insurmountable barriers. Since most of those who intervened on behalf of Armenians in 1915 were at the time already mature adults, usually between forty and sixty years of age, none of them is still alive. There is no way, therefore, to question them about their motivations…  Hence, we must rely almost entirely on information provided by the survivors themselves, most of whom were children in 1915.” Richard Hovannisian: op. cit. 174.

the unarmed population of the villages during the subsequent armed assault. This means that the previously provided information about the impending massacre, intentionally or not, may in some cases have been aimed at neutralizing the possible self-defense of the Armenians, thus ensuring the relative ease of the massacre for the executioners.
 
Promises of rescue and subsequent developments. Analysis of the stories indicates that the “promise of rescue” becomes an important motif. In these stories the following developments stand out from others in their relative importance:  a) a promise of rescue with the promise being kept for only a brief period, followed then by the promise then being broken, followed still later by subsequent violence (plunder, rape, murder); b) a promise of rescue with the promise being kept for only a brief period, with the promise being broken as soon as there was a distinct possibility of risk to the promiser’s well-being, followed by subsequent violence (plunder, rape, murder); c) a “rescue” deal on mutually agreed principles (“we save you on condition that you later save us”) with the the deal falling through due to unforeseen circumstances; d) a promise of rescue for financial gain, followed by murder
– usually after the promisee has met his end of the bargain; e) a promise of rescue for financial gain, followed by an actual rescue which, however, is not considered a rescue according to the criteria of the Institute of “Righteous”. All of this points to the fact that the promise of rescue was often just another sequential component, that is, a preliminary step, on the path to massacre. In many cases when the promises were indeed kept and the promisees indeed rescued, it was done so for monetary gain rather than humanitarian reasons.
 
Economic exploitation of the “rescued”. Economic exploitation stories involving “rescued” persons differ from one another likely only in the degree of clarity of the narration with said exploitation mentioned in some stories in a rather direct way, without any equivocation, whereas in other cases, the reader is furnished with allusions that these “rescues” involved anything other than good will. In a third set of cases we come across instances where rescued persons were exploited by turning them into “household servants” or “captive labourers” without any monetary compensation or simply put
– slavery by another name. This exploitation  was often accompanied  by sexual exploitation (rape), attempts at Turkification and/or religious conversion.
 
It bears reminding that many of these “rescued” persons were subject to constantly shifting fortunes, passing from one situation to another with such rapidity that it becomes almost impossible to categorise their experiences in any meaningful fashion – “Are we witnessing a rescue? An exploitation? A murder?” These persons may go from being rescued to being murdered within days – if not hours, thus rendering the entire experience as an exercise in futility for researchers. Nevertheless, among 600 eyewitness testimonies I was able to count about 50 instances of intervention, which could be safely categorized as instances where “rescued” persons were subject to economic exploitation.
Instances of “rescue” for economic exploitation accompanied by captivity of the rescued persons are numerous and vary from one instance to another. Even in cases where “rescuers” had promised to release “rescued” Armenians at the sight of advancing Russian troops according to negotiated agreements for mutual protection, the reality was much different. In almost all cases, the retreating “rescuers” took the “rescued” Armenians with them, since these Armenians were, in fact, captives, who continued working for their “rescuers”, herding the latter’s sheep, performing duties in their households and so on. These occurrences lead us to believe that the real reasons for “rescuing” the lives of Armenians from attempted killings at the hands of their “neighbours, friends or relatives” were more economic and pragmatic in nature than humanitarian. To put it more formulaically – if Armenians were to be spared, it was for crude economic reasons, since it guaranteed a certain economic benefit either through slave labour or through plunder.
Other similar typologies of “rescue” were when fellow Turkish or Kurdish villagers or inhabitants of neighboring villages directly or indirectly appropriated the property of Armenians providing the following justifications: “It is most likely you will be plundered or massacred; it would be better if we took or confiscated your cattle beforehand – why leave them to others? Wouldn’t it be better if you left them to your neighbours?” What this means is that talk of joint efforts for mutual protection were often merely hollow formulations lacking the concrete will for their implementation.  In many instances, the profiteers would turn against each other in their attempt to divide the spoils.
Even more villainous were those instances when Armenians, who had kept their promises to protect their Kurdish and Circassian neighbours from the advancing Russian army, were robbed by the very people they had protected.

Rescue and religious conversion. Another means by which an Armenian could be saved was through religious conversion or – more specifically – the compulsory and forced adoption of Islam under threat of impending danger. The phenomenon of forced religious conversion, with its ability to afflict “serious mental harm” on individuals undergoing it, falls under Article 2 of the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” in order words, it constitutes an important component of the act of genocide. As such, forced conversion, by definition, is excluded from consideration according to the boundaries set by the Institute of the “Righteous” The results of religious conversion under such conditions were of at least two kinds: a) the converts were saved and eventually either Islamised and Turkified or, due to a radically favourable turn of events, returned to the Christian faith, or b) the converts were slaughtered nonetheless. Those who opposed religious conversion were, as a rule, either a) slaughtered outright, or b) subjected to more radical actions following a waiting period – which
meant any number of things, with death being the usual outcome.
 
Rescue and sexual exploitation.  Sexual exploitation, namely, the rape of Armenian women and children, became widespread. The issue is discussed in professional literature and I will not focus on it. In many instances rape was never a singular act, but usually comprised part of a wider repertoire of physical violence against victim lasting days, weeks or months. It was not unusual for victims to be forced into concubinage or prostitution, resulting in lasting psychological damage and what may be diagnosed today as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Sexual exploitation was sometimes followed by being forced and compelled to marry a Muslim man. In this way, a woman’s – or girl’s – physical life would be saved. Rape, however, inflicted “serious bodily or mental harm” upon the members of the group subjected to it, which corresponds to point (b) of Article 2 of the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Moreover, mass rape led to huge numbers of children conceived by non-Armenian fathers, thus jeopardizing the reproduction and continuation of a group of people (in this case – Western Armenians), namely, their physical existence, which complies with point (d) of the same Convention: “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
Accordingly, in the case of Armenian “rescues” accompanied by rape were not true rescues, but incidents of genocidal acts. In other words, persons capable of committing such acts cannot be considered rescuers and, moreover, could not be listed among the “Righteous”. Therefore, I have not considered interventions accompanied by rape, of which there a great number, among the rescue stories.
 
Genuine rescues. There are, however, instances of genuine rescues, which in some cases had clearly distinguishable charitable motives, while in others the motives were much more complex. The important thing to keep in mind in this context is that these rescues involved a risk factor for the rescuers and, moreover, were not accompanied (at least there is no evidence of this in the narratives and thus no means to verify it) by sexual and economic exploitation or incidents of forced religious conversion. Hence, the persons involved in such stories may be considered as “righteous”. These persons were neighbours, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers. The primary motivation for rescue was humanitarianism, likewise pity, sympathy, morality, and perhaps other similar factors. One of the characteristics of genuine rescues is that the majority of the subjects were women and children; only a small number of the 600 relevant stories involve cases of men or entire families being rescued. One other nuance should be noted however: in many cases the number of persons rescued or having escaped death due to the righteous was so small that those survivors easily remembered their surviving numbers, and in some cases, even the names of the survivors to the tiniest detail. The rescuers themselves were of various nationalities: Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Circassians and Yezidis.
The narratives containing the characteristics of “righteous” deeds have been classified into several groups, based on survivor testimony. The “righteous” thus involve the following sorts of individuals:  a) neighbours; b) fellow villagers; c) acquaintances; and d) officials, soldiers. It was not uncommon to have instances where an individual or family was rescued or saved by a neighbour only to be victimized by fellow villagers soon after. There are also several cases in the narratives documenting instances of the “righteous” rescuing Armenians at the cost of their own lives.
 
 

CONCLUSION

This article has attempted to extract the contemporary discussion of incidents documented during the Armenian Genocide and often interpreted as “rescues” from the domain of a priori denialist and propagandistic “just memory” formulations and place it in another realm, aligning it with the principles set forth by the Institute of the “Righteous among the Nations”. In doing so, it has attempted to clarify the issue, thereby precluding it from being manipulated for political purposes while helping to distinguish true rescues based on humanitarian impulses from rescues that only superficially appear so. I am convinced that this kind of clarification of “rescue” and “rescuers” stories will facilitate the evaluation of fragments of history for the Armenian as well as the Turkish people.

 

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