Ellen Sarkisian Chesnut | Deli Sarkis: The Scars He Carried

“Why do you give money and food to these people?’

Katherine Bodil Biorn

Katherine Bodil Biorn

The question posed by Turkish soldiers was asked of Maria Jacobsen and other Danish missionaries in Harpoot, Eastern Turkey during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. Here is the rest of the quotation: …”They are only going out to the mountains to be killed.”

Young women from Scandinavian countries, upon hearing of the state sanctioned atrocities committed against the Armenian population in 1894-1896, 1909, and 1915-1923 went to Turkey to care for the Armenian victims of these awful events.

Maria Jacobsen ( Nov 6, 1882-Apr 6, 1960) was a Danish missionary and a key witness to the Armenian Genocide. See “Diaries of a Danish Missionary, Harpoot 1907-1919”). The Norwegian missionary, Katherine Bodil Biorn (1871-1960) was a missionary nurse in Mezereh, Kharbert (aka) Harpoot province and later in Mush, Western Armenia. Bodil documented the tragic events through her testimonial diary and her photography which is important not only for the high quality of her images but for her notations telling the names of the people and places in the pictures.

For more information about the Armenian Genocide and to see the photographs of Bodil Biorn go to this site: www.genocide-museum.am/eng/museum_info.php. Especially heartbreaking is the photograph of teacher Margarid Nalbanchian surrounded by the children in her class at the day school in Mush who were murdered by the Turks in 1915.

Amid The Ruins

Zabel-Yessayan“I long to see my Cilicia once more and ride the waves of river Arax and gaze at snow capped Mount Alagiaz again…” Sung by Nazareth Spenchian, Rev. Haroutiun Jenanyan and Gabriel Baghdoyan, gazing at the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California in the late 1800s.

A G A I N   A G A I N    A N D   A G A I N.

Another mass killing of Armenians by the Turks. This time, it’s in Adana in 1909, with 30,000 dead. Writer, Zabel Yessayan (b. 1878 Scutari, Constantinople, d. gulag in Siberia, in 1943), visits the city and writes, Amid the Ruins.

She’s already an acclaimed writer, fierce and outspoken and on the hit list of the fascist group, The Committee of Union and Progress aka The Young Turks.

In 1915, Armenian intellectuals and leaders are arrested, sent away, tortured and killed. Zabel escapes to Bulgaria. Constantly on the move, she ends up in Armenia, one of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

She so loves her people and Armenia that she does not heed the warning signs of yet another repressive regime. Her writings are too provocative for the authorities and she is arrested in 1937.

She dies in exile in Siberia in 1943.

Zabel needs to be read by people who appreciate great writing. Her most admired work is the autobiographical, The Gardens of Silihdar. It is now in a new English translation by Jennifer Manoukian.


inscribed-armenian-rugIt wasn’t that long ago that rug experts acknowledged that the “funny writing” on some oriental rugs was Armenian. However most rug experts maintained that those rugs were not made by Armenians but were commissioned pieces.

Now for the first time the Armenian Rugs Society (Est. 1980) has been invited by the ICOC International Conference on Oriental Rugs to Vienna, Austria. (Sep 15-21, 2014).  The exhibit titled “Armenian Rugs and Carpets” is a big change from the previous labeling of “Anatolian or Caucasian” for our work.

Thanks to the ARS and to two very important independent scholars for taking the history of our carpet making out of the shadows.

Volkmar Gantzhorn wrote that the “oriental carpet is neither of nomadic origin nor does its origin lie in Central Asia. It is the product of ancient oriental civilizations in the Armenian uplands.”

Art Historian, Lauren Arnold studied hundreds of Renaissance paintings and has fresh evidence that the depicted carpets (before 1500) were not of Muslim manufacture but of eastern Christian origin.

Exciting work in carpet making is being done in Armenia now under the tutelage of James Tufenkian a designer, entrepreneur and humanitarian. In 1993, Tufenkian established a carpet industry using Armenian wool thus restoring a centuries old craft to a recovering nation.


In America during the years 1894-1896, Fannie a thirteen year old girl, living in a rural community, oftentimes participated in church socials, picnics, parties and civic events of the day.

Fannie, when she wasn’t helping with house or farm chores, would be consumed with flirting with the opposite sex and couldn’t get enough of the subject from books or the popular songs of the day.


Karakin Choroian

Atlas Choroian was a thirteen year old Armenian girl and living in the town of Bitlis in the northeastern region of Turkey. She, on the other hand, was consumed with taking care of what was left of her family. Her mother and father had already been killed in 1895, during the horrendous Hamidian massacres that lasted from 1894-1896. Her beloved uncles had, while trying to protect Atlas and her sister Araxie from the Turks, been shot in the joints of their bodies and died in agony after two weeks. Atlas was determined to look after her four year old sister Araxie and her three year old brother Karakin. But this was not to be.

Her siblings watched in horror as their sister, Atlas was kidnapped after putting up a tremendous struggle. Even though she was a very strong girl, she was no match for the two Kurds who took her. She spent the rest of her days in the Kurdish town of  Bulenik and was never seen by her family again.

Two little women…how different their circumstances.



Dick Gephardt. When he fought for Armenian Genocide recognition!

Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece is a tale of a once incredibly handsome, upstanding and moral young man who begins a deep slide into depravity. A painting done of Dorian when his life was filled with the promise of good works begins to change dramatically with every morally compromised and evil action that he takes. Dick Gephardt is like Dorian Gray. Once fighting mightily for Armenian Genocide recognition, in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, something changed in him in 2005. He resigned from serving the public and instead opened a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. Turkish groups became clients of his lobbying firm paying him incredible sums of money. Where once he had fought so forthrightly for advocacy of genocide recognition, he became an avid supporter of the Turkish denial industry, rewriting history. I shudder to think of what a painting of Dick Gephardt would look like now with every morally compromised and evil action he has taken.

Benjamin Whitaker and the Armenian Genocide


Benjamin Whitaker

My father, Sarkis Deli Sarkisian (aka Deli Sarkis) survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923.

For almost one hundred years, successive governments in Turkey have denied that a genocide took place. Instead, they depict the Turkish population as helpless victims and the Armenians as vicious perpetrators.  They have worked mightily to rewrite their shameful history during the years 1915-1923.

Acknowledgment of the Genocide by a world body did happen in 1985. Praise must be given to Benjamin Whitaker the great humanitarian and staunch supporter of minority rights.

He passed away this year in London.

In August 1985, Mr. Whitaker presented to the UN Sub-Commission the revised and updated report, qualifying the Armenian Genocide as an example of genocide in the 20th century. By a vote of 14 in favor, one against, and four abstentions, the Sub-Commission adopted the report.

Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, albeit posthumously, and all the members of the UN body who confirmed by their votes that the Armenian Genocide met the UN criteria for genocide.