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Varoujan: Blood Never Forgets – Part III: Deathwish

Varoujan and Lutuf left the small hut by the riverside at midnight and carefully went on their way back to the village, checking every corner carefully for traitors. They made it safely back to Lutuf’s house, had a nice meal a wash and then went to sleep. Lutuf’s father was ready to conduct circumcision in the safest possible manner. He got a small knife which he very carefully disinfected with soe alcohol and then heated in the fireplace until it was glowing in an orange-redish color. Varoujan got eager to lay out every detail: “He then poured me a glass of brandy, then a second glass of brandy, and I felt a cut, a terrible pain, and I saw blood dripping down on the floor. A clean cloth was provided from Lutuf’s mother, and my penis was wrapped and closed. I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach and had to throw up. I fully understood the reason for them to conduct this terrible “operation”, and that it might save my life so I was thankful they did it, but the way I felt right then was almost as dying. It took me a couple of days before I was on my feet again, and I needed to stay hidden in the attic of their house, because they knew of Turks in the village who would instantly report them for concealing an Armenian. They of course knew I was Armenian. Lutuf’s father gave me all the information he had about the hatred towards the Armenians instituted by some people who called themselves The Young Turks and a very dangerous psychopath called Mehmed Talat Pasha who obviously wanted all Christians within Turkey to disappear. He could not give me any clue as to how my family was doing, neither did he know anything about the rest of the Armenians in our village. He had found the dead bodies of some of our neighbors, but none of them were in my family. He tried to comfort me and reassured me that my family was all right. That is what I wanted so hard to believe, so I chose to live my own truth, even if I deep down inside was convinced I would never see them again.

During the next couple of weeks we planned my escape. Lutuf’s father did not take any chances. He knew that sooner or later somebody would find out about his family hiding a so-called enemy, and that all of  our lives would be at risk. He had already managed to save the 6 Armenians who Esmet had hidden in their basement, and he thought it would be wise to follow the same plan with me.

Next week the tool vendor from Gaziantep was going to come by. He came to our village three times a year, and was a relative of Lutuf’s mother  and of  Kurdish decent. They were convinced he would help get me into safety, and so we all made up the most fantastic cover story concerning my life and my upbringing. We practiced my new identity for days, playing roles, interrogating me, asking me to show them the proof that I was not a Christian in all kinds of weird an unimaginable situations I could possibly get into.

Marcharmenians

The new me, Mehmet Mustafa Yilmaz, 16 years old, born by the married couple Latife and Ergin Kirpasbas in Diyarbakir, orphaned 12 years ago. Up until today European missionaries had taken care of me, letting me stay in their home, but because of the war they had left the country. They had wanted to take me along, but they were scared of being killed, so they had left in a hurry to get  the next ship out of Mersin, so I was left behind. Since then I had begged for food and a place to sleep and had managed on my own. Names were repeated until I remembered them, different situations were acted out, and when finally the day came when the vendor came, there were whispers in the kitchen, discussions back and forth until at last I was called in and everything had been settled. The vendor had a covered horse-drawn carriage with lots of merchandise. He was going to leave at dusk and from our village go straight to Birecik. There, he would let me stay for a while and see how he could get me out of the country and to some safe haven that accepted refugees from what he called the worst slaughterhouse the world had ever experienced. Ergin, the vendor, had seen a lot, and he knew what was going on. That was actually the first time I heard the equivalent of the word genocide. He told us about thousands of people being massacred, of people being burned, starved to death, yes even bots filled to the brim with Armenians sent out to sea, cut open far away from the seashore so that hundreds of people had drowned. He had picked up orphaned children that he had managed to send to the Missionary Stations in Aleppo, and he had been threatened by Turks who suspected him of aiding Armenians. His life might be in danger, but he didn’t care. He would take his chances if it meant saving lives. And so he had decided to save mine.

Lutuf insisted on coming along. He did not want me to leave on my own. Of course he couldn’t, there was no way. His father had to tie him up in his bedroom, because Lutuf insisted on being with me- his blood brother. Ergin covered me up in the back of the carriage, and off we went. It was an indescribable feeling, a mixture of relief and excruciating pain in every joint of my body. I was 15 years old, and I had to get out in the world and fend for myself. I had never seen anything except for my village and the Euphrates River, and now I was going on a journey in order to save myself from being slaughtered by the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Of course I was scared. I even thought of just handling myself over to the Turks, asking them to please just get it over with. The more I thought about the stories Ergin had told me, the less courage I had to move on. In the back of the carriage, I planned my surrender upon arrival in Birecik.

crowsNestKids

The journey took 2 days and 2 nights. Ergin rushed along the carriage road, just stopping to get some food and water. At every stop I saw dead bodies gathered in heaps just distributed around the roadside. Close to the river I saw the torn off head of an old woman, her body missing. Ergin couldn’t stand the sight of it, so he went down to free her from the branches and let her head fall into the river. There were hardly any people to be seen, and then when Ergin felt save he Asked me to ride with up front, just as long as I remembered my cover if they were asked by anyone on the way. We agreed that he needed someone to help him with the tools and the orders from the villagers around his route, so he had picked me up and taken care of me. Approximately three hours from Birecik we were pulled over by armed men. They forced us down on the ground and started interrogating us. I was sure my wish had been fulfilled. This was going to be my last hour in my now so miserable life.

To be continued…………