The Hidden Cross: Documentary about the Armenians in Amed

A documentary about survivors of the Armenian genocide who had to convert to Islam was shot in Amed. ANF talked to the directors.

The documentary film "The Hidden Cross" (Saklı Haç) tells the story of Armenians in the northern Kurdistan province of Amed (Diyarbakır), who have converted to Islam after the genocide. The directors see their film as a work-up in the form of a confrontation with what everyone knew but was not talked about.

The genocide of the Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire has killed about one and a half million people. A not insignificant part of the survivors has converted to Islam. For over a century, they have kept their identity, their culture and their faith hidden. Especially in rural areas with a predominantly Sunni population, Armenians changed their names and began performing Muslim rituals. Many felt the need to be more Muslim than the Muslims. The Egil district in Amed is home to Armenians who had to hide themselves and their identity. Altan Sancar and Serhat Temel have made a documentary about them. They told ANF what motivated them to write this documentary.

A hidden story

"The Armenian genocide has many facets, including Armenians converted to Islam. They cannot really express themselves and do not speak. We thought that by giving voice to these people, we came one step further in 1915. The title of our documentary summarizes the lives of Armenians converted to Islam. It was created in an interesting way. In the first week of shooting, we visited a woman. She said she wanted to show us something and got a cross out of a chest. It was her grandmother's cross that passed it on to her mother, and finally to her. She herself will pass it on to one of her daughters. So we got the idea for the title "The hidden cross". It's not just about the cross, it's about identity, culture and beliefs that are hidden. Hiding is not just a symbol, but also a part of the story," says Altan Sancar.

Gala in Amed

The gala of the documentary took place in Amed on 16 June. More screenings are planned in Istanbul and other cities, according to Sancar: "Our biggest dream would be a gala in Armenia. There will also be screenings in Europe. At the same time, we expect performances at film festivals. Afterwards, the film will be freely accessible on the internet. Our goal is for everyone to see and know what has been done to Armenians, Kurds and other discriminated peoples in the region. We will continue to work on this topic."

Important is the confrontation

Serhat Temel, the second director, says that he had played as a child with many of the children and grandchildren of the main characters of the documentary: "We grew up with them. We realize how much we hurt them as a child. It is a story we know. We found it necessary that it be worked up and a confrontation with it takes place. There have been many topics that require an apology. However, we are not concerned with a superficial apology, but with a confrontation with reality. What will save and clear us is to confront with what we have done ourselves. Already in our childhood, we knew what it was all about, how these children grew up and how the people who have spoken in the film suffered. And we wanted everyone to see it. It is supposed to be a confrontation for all who lived there and remained silent until today."

Generational trauma

Although more than a century has passed since the genocide, the people in the film are still traumatized, Temel says: "Actually, we did not talk to the first generation, but to the second and third generations, who did not experience the genocide themselves. In their stories it becomes clear that the trauma has not been overcome. Actually, this is the story of our shame. We first wanted to process the topic in writing, but then we thought it would be more widely used as a documentary. Our main concern is that the stories of these people become known. We've been working on the film for about a year, of which we spent three months filming."

Altan Sancar, who himself is a grandson of converted Armenians, adds, "Perhaps the basis for what Turkey is experiencing today was laid in 1915. If we can deal with the truth of 1915, maybe something can change today.”