At the first the voices that were accompanied by silent screams have been silenced, then the houses were evacuated, the furniture threw away, and was sold on the public auction or remained in the hands of the thieves. Churches and schools were evacuated. The voices of Krikor, Hovanness, Santukh, Dikran and Anush stopped. Those who were forced to leave had to leave behind not only their homes, possessions and belongings, but also a whole memory .And Anteb lost its memory.
The process of deportation of Antep Armenians starts at a much later than the Armenians in other Anatolian provinces: 30 July-1 August 1915. However, Antep has been a kind of transit zone for Armenians who were exiled from regions such as Zeytun, Marash, Sivas, Elbistan, Gurun and Furnuz until this date. Armenians are sent to Aleppo from Akçakoyun and Katma train stations. Therefore, the Armenians of Anteb are aware of what will happen. On May 3, 1915, an Armenian exile convoy of 300 people arrived in Anteb. These exiles, which were all women and children, coming from Zeytun, are kept in an area known as Kavaklik within 15 minutes from Anteb.
It is necessary to pay bribes to the gendarmes to help the exiles or to allow them to approach the city. When night falls, the exiles which kept here were got attacked and their possessions got plundered and robbed. The attacks against these convoys, which continued to come to the city until the last week of July, were organized by Ali Bey, one of the guarded, high-ranking members of Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, who came to the city at the end of April 1915.
Anteb Governor Mr. Şükrü and the military commander of Kaza Mr. Hilmi have a share in the fact that Anteb is not included in the areas to be deported until the end of July. As a matter of fact, This picture clearly shows us that there is no absolute harmony between the center and local administrators during the genocide process. Despite this attitude of the administrators, especially Mr. Ali Cenani and Mr. Fadıl, who are the notables of the city, have made great efforts to work against the Armenians and to persuade them about central exile since March 1915.
By sending telegrams to Istanbul, they send telegrams to the government saying that “Armenians are making preparations to attack mosques here, attending to kill Turks, rape women and to destroy and plunder Turkish houses”. Thereupon, the Minister of the Navy, Jemal Pasha, sends his deputy Fahri Pasha to the region to examine the situation on the spot. Fahri Pasha reports that no evidence was found to confirm the events that have written in the telegrams.
Towards the end of July, the Aleppo Clerk of the Committee of Union and Progress, Responsible Cemal Bey comes to Anteb. The purpose of sending him to Anteb is to request from the well-known and respected people of Antep to convince the Armenians in Antep to exile due to the decision of Istanbul. These efforts yield results and on July 29, Istanbul receives the deportation order. The Unionists gathered in the city immediately prepare the list of the first Armenians to be sent from Anteb. Meanwhile, governor Mr. Şükrü and military commander Hilmi Mr. resigned, resisting the deportation of Anteb Armenians.
On July 30, the exile order is announced by the bearer of ominous tidings. On 1, 4, 8, 11, 13 August 1915, a total of 6 convoys, mainly Gregorian Armenians from Anteb, were exiled. These were followed by the deportation of Catholic Armenians in September 1915 and the deportation of Protestant Armenians in December 1915. And the city is “cleansed” of its Armenians and Turkishness-Islam is made victorious.
Anteb was one of the places where the official Turkish historical narrative was embodied on a micro scale. We are talking about the story of a city that evolved from Ayntap to Anteb and finally to Gaziantep as the official Turkish historiography sees fit. While the identity of Antebian and Anteb was transformed into Gaziantep, it also gained the qualification of being a Turkish and Sunni city. Actually, it was an identity creation and construction process. Both the city itself and the historical factors that make up the material and spiritual face of this city were also affected by this construction process.
Essentially, national history or the official narrative of history puts aside some events that need to be forgotten while creating its own history, creates new factors and makes some people forget and trivialize in order to create a new vision of society for a new regime. This narrative, constructed at the national level, also has its manifestations and receptors at the local level. Turkish national historiography is also an identity creation process, and these processes go hand in hand.
There are two distinctive qualities that define this created identity. One of them is to be a Turk, that is to be Turkish, and the other is to belong to a Sunni Islamic belief, that is, a Sunni Muslim community. This history and identity construction has also found its counterpart locally. The history of Anteb was actually written by the creators of this identity and its local literature [literate], depending on the great historical narrative mentioned above and the identity built by this narrative.
According to this literature, Anteb, “… it was a typical ‘Turkish’ city both in terms of its economic and ethnic structure … It renewed the Turkish traditions and customs and kept the minorities under cultural pressure without being under Arab influence.” However, there are extremely important social actors missing from this narrative. These factors have contributed significantly to the historical texture, color and climate of Anteb in a long historical period. In fact, it was once a symbol of the city’s richness of identity and played a dominant and progressive role in the formation of all historical layers of the city, especially the political, economic, religious and sociocultural infrastructure.
One of these factors, and perhaps the most important one, is Anteb’s memories of Armenians and the memories they had to leave behind, forgotten and suppressed, and the places where this memory was turned into flesh and bone. These places are living spaces that are deeply rooted in the fabric of Anteb, full of experiences, and have made serious contributions to its historical depth. These are the places that are the most important subject of the collective memory of the city of Anteb.
The project “The City That Lost its Memory: Anteb”, which was implemented with the support of Space for Culture, was launched to end the oppressive silence of these places for years and to inform and transmit the story, history and memory of this city in their own language. This project came to life thanks to four people who wanted to share their knowledge and experience about the city: Mustafa Çirkin, Deniz Özgür Özdemir, Murad Uçaner and Ümit Kurt. Looking back on its history, hundreds of stories can be heard about this city, which has a multicultural structure with its buildings, settlements, public and communal areas, and its people. At the same time, the places where these stories take place can be seen when walking its streets. When all these possibilities combined and a little curiosity and a passion for sharing, this project emerged.
Our goal here is to revive and share these stories, places, and places that the city and its people have forgotten. As a result of our field research, I deeply influenced the history of the city; To enrich old and new images of ancient places that added richness / value to his soul and identity with space stories.
In what we have chosen, you will find the serenity of their personal stories, experiences, and memories of more than twenty historic places in the city. By uncovering the stories of these spaces of memory, which are an indispensable part of the city’s history that have not been told or abstained from for various reasons, we also reveal the repertoire of social relationships that have been experienced in these spaces. In this way, we aim to present an alternative approach to the city’s history as well as to have current residents of Gaziantep gain more information about the city’s identity, character and historical location. At this point, we are trying to take advantage of all the possibilities of the art of photography that allow us to capture the moment, historical episodes, and pass through the prism of that moment and not watch it.
While visiting these places, you can see that Mr. Adel and shoe maker Sadiq were once playing backgammon in the market square in Arasa Square; Nigogos Agha, who threw his chair in front of Khan Kara Nazar Agha, was promoting his tobacco; You would see Muslims and Armenians passing by Ataturk Avenue many times; Those who shop at the fish market bazaar; Those who left the Boyaji Mosque and prayed Friday prayers; For two dirhams, beautifully dressed Armenian families leave Sunday rituals at Kinderley Church and head towards the Kirk Ayak garden; You would see Alex Bezekian riding on the back of his donkey trying to catch up with his class at the Turkish Central College, passing in front of the American Hospital; Arminj Kamisian, who folds the back of his donkey, passes in front of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and from the balcony of the College of Cilicia, heading towards the hill of Mardin; You can imagine the ablution areas at the Sheikh Fathallah Mosque while descending from Soburgo. To imagine something, a place in advance for remembering and memorizing it; It is necessary to portray it in your imagination.
The memory spaces in this identification tell you and remind you of their own story in spoken and spontaneous sentences. Because the past is indelible and unchanging. We would be pleased if we were able to make a small contribution in transforming remembering and remembrance and keeping the memory alive into a daily practice of life in this land where forgetfulness and forgetfulness have become a habit.
Dr. Ümit Kurt