As the Armenian genocide began the horrors it would unleash became almost instantly clear to one part of the Armenian population... it's women.
Turkish soldiers were well known for many things amongst the Armenians. Self-control was not one of them. Instead the Turks took everything they wanted without a moment of hesitation. This included the innocence of young Armenian girls.
Rape became a hallmark of deportation in the process The Young Turks called "Turkification". If a child became unable to walk after repeated rapes... the Turks killed them. If a woman tried to resist she would be bludgeoned and then gang raped... then killed.
Yet despite the use of rape as a weapon not all it's victims died. Many were kept alive to serve as sex slaves in Turkish homes. Government officials, officers, and street vendors all approached the caravans of deportees to purchase "desirables". Young girls and boys were purchased from the soldiers all along the death marches.
Some of these slaves would be sent to work on farms. Others were sent to Turkish homes as servants. Many were sent to Turkish villages to be used as forced wives or made to participate in orgies.
For those made to become wives or concubines, rape was a daily threat. "Unrelated girls and boys in the household—regardless of religious or ethnic origin—were sexually available to senior males." Any adult male could use them for his deviant desires.
In all of this a common form of brandishing ownership developed amongst the Turkish masters. Slaves were to be tattooed upon their face and hands. It was a way to demoralize the slave and to show the rest of society that they were "unclean".
Thanks to the League Of Nations (the predecessor to the UN) we have documented cases of this practice. The survivors' families can access the pictures and documents of their grandparents who made it out of captivity. All due to a safe house the League operated in Aleppo, Syria. These images and surveys are housed in Geneva.
For Suzanne Khardalian these documents helped her understand the suffering and deep scars left by the "devilish marks" on her grandmother's hands and face. You can hear her story by watching her film "Grandma's Tattoos".
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