The website of the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum has posted archival photographs of some of the women and children who were sexually enslaved during the Armenian Genocide of WWI. The captives were tattooed as seen in the few photographs below.

Islamized and tattooed Armenian woman, Orient im Bild, Potsdam, 1927.

Victoria, 19 years old, from Adiyaman, Nubarian library collection, Paris.
Mariam Chaparlian, 27 years old, from Marash, Nubarian library collection, Paris.

Marie Bisninyan, 20 years old, Nubarian library collection, Paris.

Melek, 17 years old, Nubarian library collection, Paris

The Armenian genocide resulted in the kidnapping of thousands of Armenian women from their families, usually during deportations or overnight stops. After the organized mass killings of the Armenian male population, during the first stage of state-orchestrated policy of extermination, the Ottoman governors implemented another pre-meditated phase of the genocidal policy: the destruction of the rest of Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire, this time targeting the elderly, women and children.

Some of those individuals who were kidnapped and integrated into Muslim family life, over time forgot about their Armenian ethnicity and even lost the ability to speak their native language. In order to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones many Armenian women forcibly to adopted Islam. They eventually were married off to Muslim men and in keeping with local tribal customs, were marked with specific tattoos. Tattoos were extensively used as amulets in the Middle East and Islamic countries, with the wearers believing that the mark imbued them with magical powers. These tattoos were often in the form of dots or a small “x” and provided protection, strength or fertility. These new markings represented new belonging and a marked change in their life.

What is ironic in this story is that Armenia’s society and especially the government do almost nothing to stop the ongoing and current human trafficking of women and children from Armenia.