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#1 Arpa



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Posted 11 November 2011 - 10:13 AM

Grandma’s Tattoos
A Riveting Film About the Forgotten Women of Genocide



Grandma Khanoum

Posted Image

Also see this;
And this;

(BTW, Khanoum means Lady in the Persian خانم One Pers-Eng dictionary says it is of Mongolian origin.. The word is usually used in association with “khartoum” as in “khanoum - khartoum” , which also means “noble, lady”.)


Armenian Weekly - http://www.armenianweekly.com -
‘Grandma’s Tattoos’: A Riveting Film About the Forgotten Women of Genocide (Trailers)
Posted By Weekly Staff On September 7, 2011 @ 7:55 am In Books & Art,News | 16 Comments
Director: Suzanne Khardalian
Producer: HB PeA Holmquist Film
Length: 58 min., Sweden
Date of release: September 2011
STOCKHOLM, Sweden—“Grandma Khanoum was not like everyone else. As a child I remember her as a wicked woman. She despised physical contact. This was a grandma who never hugged, gave no kisses. And she wore those gloves, which hid her hands and the tattoos. They hid her secret.” This is how Suzanne Khardalian describes her grandmother.

Grandma Khanoum
Khardalian is the director and producer of riveting new film called “Grandma’s Tattoos” that lifts the veil of thousands of forgotten women—survivors of the Armenian Genocide—who were forced into prostitution and tattooed to distinguish them from the locals.
“As a child I thought these were devilish signs that came from a dark world. They stirred fear in me. What were these tattoos? Who had done them, and why? But the tattoos on grandma’s hands and face were a taboo. They never spoke about it,” explains Khardalian.
“Grandma’s Tattoos” is a journey into the secrets of the family. Eventually, the secret behind Grandma Khanoum’s blue marks are revealed.
“Grandma was abducted and kept in slavery for many years somewhere in Turkey. She was also forcibly marked—tattooed—as property, the same way you mark cattle. The discovery of the story has shaken me. I share the shame, the guilt, and anger that infected my grandma’s life. Grandma Khanoum’s fate was not an aberration. On the contrary, tens of thousands of Armenian children and teenagers were raped and abducted, kept in slavery,” she explains.
In 1919, just at the end of World War I, the Allied forces reclaimed 90,819 Armenian young girls and children who, during the war years, were forced to become prostitutes to survive, or had given birth to children after forced or arranged marriages or rape. Many of these women were tattooed as a sign that they belonged to abductor. European and American missionaries organized help and saved thousands of refugees who were later scattered all over the world to places like Beirut, Marseille, and Fresno.
The story of “Grandma’s Tattoos” is a personal film about what happened to many Armenian women during the genocide. It is a ghost story—with the ghosts of the tattooed women haunting us—and a mystery film, where many taboos are broken. As no one wants to tell the reel and whole story, and in order to bring the pieces of the puzzle together, the director makes us move between different times and space, from today’s Sweden to Khardalian’s childhood in Beirut.
In the film we meet Grandma Khantoum’s sister, 98-year-old Lucia, who lives in Hollywood. Lucia, too, has those odd tattoos. She is willing to tell us only a part of the story. We also meet with Aunt Marie, Grandma’s only still-living child in Beirut. But Aunt Marie doesn’t know the whole story either. Grandma has never told it to her. It was forbidden to talk about the “unspeakable.” Aunt Marie has the same unpleasant memories as the rest of the family.
It’s finally Khardalian’s mother who tells the story about Grandma Khanoum, and about the Kurdish man who was supposed to her grandma escape the killings but instead decided to abduct her and keep her as his concubine. Grandma was only a child then. She had just turned 12 The words “Mummy, mummy help me” is the sentence that haunts Suzanne and her family.
About the Director
Suzanne Khardalian is an independent filmmaker and writer. She studied journalism in Beirut and Paris and worked as a journalist in Paris until 1985, when she started to work on films. She also holds a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and contributes articles to different journals. She has directed more than 20 films that have been shown both in Europe and the U.S. They include “Back to Ararat” (1988), “Unsafe Ground” (1993), “The Lion from Gaza” (1996), “Her Armenian Prince” (1997), “From Opium to Chrysanthemums” (2000), “Where Lies My Victory” (2002), “I Hate Dogs” (2005), “Bullshit” (2006), and “Young Freud in Gaza” (2009).
Article printed from Armenian Weekly: http://www.armenianweekly.com
URL to article: http://www.armenianw...ocide-trailers/

Copyright © 2010 Armenian Weekly. All rights reserved.

Edited by Arpa, 11 November 2011 - 10:14 AM.

#2 Zartonk



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Posted 11 November 2011 - 11:49 AM

(BTW, Khanoum means Lady in the Persian خانم One Pers-Eng dictionary says it is of Mongolian origin.. The word is usually used in association with “khartoum” as in “khanoum - khartoum” , which also means “noble, lady”.)

I assume the etymology is based on 'Khan', which is certainly Indo-Iranian. Khan-oum is most likely the feminine counterpart.

#3 Arpa



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Posted 11 November 2011 - 12:00 PM

I assume the etymology is based on 'Khan', which is certainly Indo-Iranian. Khan-oum is most likely the feminine counterpart.

Excellent find Zartonk. It never occurred to me that "khanoum" may be from "khan/house" i.e , "lady of the house".
I am so gratified that our fearless leaders who use terms like գաղթօճախ/gaght-ojakh, կրթօճախ /krt-ojakh at every turn have not yet graduated to calling the ՀայՏուն/Armenian House ermeni-khan.

Edited by Arpa, 11 November 2011 - 04:31 PM.

#4 Azat



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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:12 PM

This made me cry this morning. Excellent documentary

#5 Arpa



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Posted 14 January 2012 - 03:33 PM

Thank you Azat,
It made me cry also.

Too bad that you chose to air it under one of my least favorite categories of the Big G.
Could you be so kind to air the video here as well.


Or here;

Edited by Arpa, 15 January 2012 - 12:04 PM.

#6 Sip


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Posted 14 January 2012 - 08:11 PM

Azat hope you don't mind me merging the two threads. It is a very well put-together video. Thanks for sharing.

#7 Yervant1


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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:54 AM


March 30, 2012 - 11:49 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - The film Grandma's Tattoos will screen on April 18,
2012 in the Glendale Public Library Auditorium,

The documentary chronicles filmmaker Suzanne Khardalian's quest to
expose the extreme abuse suffered by her grandmother, a survivor of
the Armenian Genocide.

"Grandma was abducted and held in slavery for many years somewhere
in Turkey. She was also forcibly marked, - tattooed - as property,
the same way you mark cattle. I share the shame, the guilt and anger
that infected my grandma's life", states Khardalian. Grandma's Tattoos
sheds light on the story of thousands of forgotten female survivors
of the Armenian Genocide, many of them children and teenagers, who
were raped, abducted, and forced into prostitution.

After the film a discussion will take place with Ara Khachatourian,
the English editor of Asbarez daily newspaper, and Paula Devine,
Chair of the City of Glendale's Commission on the Status of Women. The
program is sponsored by the Glendale Public Library and the Associates
of Brand Library & Art Center. The film is the first offering in a
film series sponsored by The Associates of Brand Library & Art Center.

#8 Nané



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Posted 26 September 2012 - 09:43 AM

I finally got around to watching this documentary. Most probably I was intentionally avoiding it because I knew it would tear my heart apart. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

#9 Yervant1


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Posted 29 November 2017 - 03:56 PM

L.A. Weekly
Nov 29 2017
The Complicated History of Armenian Women's Genocide-Era Tattoos
Liz Ohanesian | November 29, 2017 | 8:12am


This 1919 image of an unknown Armenian woman (taken by an unknown photographer) hangs in the Natural History Museum's current exhibit "Tattoo: An Exhibition."    

Inside the Natural History Museum's new exhibit "Tattoo," ink on flesh takes myriad forms. A touring exhibition that originated at Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris, "Tattoo" explores millennia of markings, from the ancient tribal patterns that adorned the skin of indigenous people to the colorful sailor-style tattoos still popular in modern day L.A. There are examples of tattoos that are symbols self-_expression_, group identity and punishment. And then there's the 1919 photo of a woman in Aleppo. Tattoos run down her face and onto her chest, which is exposed by her partially open shirt.

The woman is not named, but the caption accompanying the photo gives a piece of her story. She was Armenian and had been able to escape a brothel thanks to the YWCA. The placard notes that during the course of the Armenian Genocide, women who had been captured and made slaves or prostitutes had been tattooed as a means of identification. It's a profoundly disturbing image and snippet of a story that points to an obscure facet of a genocide committed within the Ottoman Empire that is, to this day, denied by Turkey.

Even when your heritage is Armenian, when you are a descendant of genocide survivors, the sight of the tattoos can come as a shock. You grew up hearing about death marches and other atrocities. But the tattoos aren't included in many of these narratives. In 2011, filmmaker Suzanne Khardalian covered the subject in Grandma's Tattoos, a documentary that later aired as part of Al-Jazeera's Witness series. That film, though, was a personal story that delved more into the impact of trauma brought about by the Genocide. The question of why women were tattooed remained unanswered. That, perhaps, is because there isn't one clear-cut reason.

"Every woman's story is different," says Elyse Semerdjian by phone. Semerdjian is a historian who studies the Ottoman Empire and is a professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She's currently working on a book about the Armenian Genocide and gender-related issues. Part of her research for the book includes a look into the history of Armenian women who were tattooed during the Genocide. 

A page from the Sept. 5, 1920 issue of the Washington Times
Wikimedia Commons

Semerdjian explains that the tattoos were used by multiple ethnic groups in rural parts of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Kurds and Arabs. She adds that, while some women may have been taken into a household as a slave, others were adopted by families. "They were traditional forms of tattooing that were worn by women in those communities," she says. "They were marks of inclusion in a tribe in many cases. It meant that those women had the same tattoos as other women in those communities. The Armenian women were not the only ones to receive those tattoos."

That's where deciphering the stories behind the tattooed Armenian women gets difficult. There's a gut reaction to look at them as a means of punishment. There's a long history of that in various parts of the world, according to Lars Krutak, an anthropologist and photographer who studies tattoos and was a consultant on "Tattoo: An Exhibition," citing examples from ancient Chinese and European history. For modern folks, though, the closest comparison might be the numbers tattooed on Jewish people's forearms during the Holocaust.

There's a problem with that kind of comparison, however. At Auschwitz, the tattoos were applied by SS authorities to mark prisoners at the concentration camp. During the Genocide, tattoos don't appear to have been a tool used by the Ottoman Turks, who orchestrated the campaign against Armenians, Semerdjian notes. In some instances, those tattoos may have actually helped women escape death. Semerdjian has found instances of that in her research.

Tattoos have long been used to identify people as being part of a specific ethnic group. Answering generally on the use of tattoos in this regard, Krutak notes, "Tattoo designs spoke about a collective identity because everyone wore ancestral patterns that were handed down from generation to generation. And once you carried the ancestral mark on your body, you were expected to be a responsible family and community member."

In that respect, the tattoos that Armenian women received would mark them as members of a group that was not being persecuted, but they also covered the women's true identities.                       


     "For me, the interesting thing is that the tattoos are working on different levels," says Semerdjian. "It tells us that being tattooed could in some cases camouflage you in a period in which Armenians were supposed to be exterminated and not survive."

She adds, "It does give you a strong sense that the tattoos are about identity at [their] core. I think it produces a strong emotional reaction for Armenians because it's about the erasure of the Armenian identity and this new identity that's being placed on the face."

When World War I ended and some of the Armenian women were able to reconnect with their communities, their tattoos remained. Semerdjian notes that some women tried to hide these permanent reminders of life during the Genocide by using makeup or undergoing procedures to try and remove the tattoos. "They weren't excluded from society," says Semerdjian. "They may have felt stigmatized and ostracized because they were wearing those marks, but they had families and there was no separating them from other Armenians. Yet, psychologically, it does a kind of work that was difficult to undo."

Semerdjian has been poring over archives, including those of the League of Nations at the United Nations, to find photographic documentation of the tattoos, and there isn't much to find. Overall, she says, tattooing Armenian women wasn't an extremely common practice during the Genocide, but the images and stories that do exist illustrate one of the tragedies associated with genocide. "It's a minority of women who ended up rescued during World War I who actually bore the tattoos," she says. "But, the ones who were tattooed, they capture our imagination because it's come to mean so much about that forced assimilation, that moment of forced assimilation."


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