This is a segment from a collection of portraits by artist Nalan Yirtmaç of 100 Ottoman Armenian intellectuals who were arrested and taken to concentration camps on April 24, 1915, created for the exhibition “Without knowing where we are headed…”


ISTANBUL — A new exhibition at the Depo art and culture center in Istanbul by artists Nalan Yirtmaç and Anti-Pop points a finger at the brutality experienced by Armenian people living in the Ottoman Empire and in Turkey, Today’s Zaman reports.

On display since April 4 on the first floor of Depo in the Tophane neighborhood, “Without knowing where we are headed…” invites the audience to reflect on both the past and the present day.

The exhibition is made up of portraits of 100 Armenian intellectuals who were among the more than 200 significant figures from the Armenian community who were arrested on April 24, 1915, upon the order of Talat Pasha, the interior minister of the time.


“Last week, from among us, Agnuni, Khajag, Zartaryan, Cangülyan, Dagavaryan and Sarkis Minasyan were summoned by Ankara and they set on the road. We do not know their whereabouts now. I grieve, because although we suffered so much hardship under the Autocracy regime, we are still being unjustly persecuted in this era of Freedom and Constitutionalism also. Was this the fortune to befall those who suffered and toiled for the sake of the motherland all those years!”
From Simpad Pürad’s letter dated May 30, 1915 written from the prison of Ayas

“It may be that one day we would be forced to go, but… We would set out just like those in 1915 did… Like our forefathers… Without knowing where we were headed… Walking on the roads they trod… Feeling the torment, living the pain…”
From Hrant Dink’s article “Like a nervous pigeon: my unsettled state of mind”

These intellectuals, most of whom were arrested on April 24, 1915 in Istanbul one day before the Allied landings in Çanakkale (Gallipoli), were taken to two concentration camps in Çankiri and Ayas, near Ankara. Most of them were slain by band members set loose from prisons. These arrests constitute the first step of the Committee of Union and Progress government’s decision of deportation which soon evolves into a genocide. Following the arrest of approximately 250 people on the night of the 23rd leading up to the 24th, a massive police operation is set underway which targets 2500 people over the course of a couple of days.

The work comprised of portraits of Armenian intellectuals arrested, exiled and killed on April 24 and in its aftermath was created by artist Nalan Yirtmaç. This work pulls them out from under the generic heading of “arrested and cast out Armenians” and turns them into people with familiar names and faces; the active participants of the cosmopolitan Ottoman intellectual milieu. These portraits the artist has produced in her own pictorial language based on photographs from the few publications that have survived to the present day summon a past that is scarcely known by some and completely ignored by others back to collective memory.

The work created by Anti-Pop immediately after the assassination of Hrant Dink on January 19, 2007 is exhibited together with these portraits, drawing attention to the agonizing continuity between 1915 and the massacre of Hrant. On one hand are the intellectuals arrested and killed a hundred years ago, and on the other a revolutionary who paid with his life only a few years ago for believing that Turks and Armenians will reconstruct their own identities on healthy grounds and live in equality and freedom.

To come to terms with the great catastrophe experienced in the Ottoman state and Turkey, to bow our heads and mourn together…

DEPO culture and debate center

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