Armenian Women of Kharberd in Aleppo

Armenian Women of Kharberd in Aleppo

The girls and children in the photo below were residents and natives of Harput (Kharberd in Eastern Armenian and Kharpert in Western Armenian), now Elazig. That ancient city was founded by Armenians.

At the end of the 19th century, the majority of its population were Armenians. In 1895-96, several thousand local Armenians were massacred and over a thousand were forcibly converted to Islam.

However, by 1915, the Armenians have still made up a large portion of the city’s population. According to various estimates, their number ranged from 6 to 15 thousand people. In the years of Genocide, most of the population was killed during the deportation to the southern regions of the Ottoman Empire, being subjected to murder, violence, and robbery on the way.

The endpoint was the desert of Deir ez-Zor. From all over the country, caravans of death moved southward, leaving countless corpses along the way.

The surviving Armenians concentrated in Aleppo. Here, under the patronage of the Turks, the conditions for the Armenians were the same as in the concentration camps. With the establishment of French control over Syria and the departure of the Turks, however, the Armenians were saved.

But in those years, help could come from nowhere. People built clay dwellings, lived without electricity, medicine, and heat. Anna Hedvig Büll, a missionary from Estonia who had worked with Armenian children before the Genocide, saw Aleppo in such a condition.

She organized a hospital and received aid from the organization Action Chretienne. Thanks to her, it was also decided to establish a weaving factory for the production of carpets, laces, and other household items in Aleppo. More than 500 Armenian women found work here. Their products were sold in Europe and then distributed throughout the world. Work at the factory lasted until 1945 when women were knitting woolen clothes for soldiers.

This photo was taken by photographer Vartan Deronian in the mid-1920s. It was originally printed on postcards to raise funds for a camp. Then, the refugees received tickets for a steamer headed for the US.

Arsen Aleksanyan

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