AZO THE SLAVE BOY AND HIS ROAD TO FREEDOM
By Papken Injarabian, Translated from Armenian by Elisabeth Eaker
Papken Injarabian was born in 1906 in Amasia, Turkey. He was the youngest of five children. When Ottoman Turkey entered World War I, his older brothers were conscripted, and the family never saw them again. The Turkish government then ordered the evacuation of Amasia and neighboring villages, as part of the planned deportation and destruction of Ottoman Armenians. On June 21, 1915, nine-year old Papken, his parents and two sisters had to leave behind their beloved home. They were forced to march for hundreds of miles across the treacherous mountains. The heat was intense, and they lacked food and water. People died by the thousands from starvation, dehydration, and exhaustion. Along the way, they saw corpses and evidence of the mass executions of Armenians. During the exodus, young Papken experienced many losses. One of his sisters was given away to Kurds, and his father was murdered. Later, another Kurd separated Papken and the rest of his family from the convoy, threatened to kill them, and abducted his remaining sister. Soon after, his mother died from cholera and overwhelming sorrow. Papken became an orphan and had to fend for himself. He was taken in by Kurds as a slave. In order to stay alive, he had no choice but to become a Muslim, and was renamed Azo. During his enslavement, which lasted more than four years, he ran away many times and had nine masters. He had to endure the cruelty of his masters and their families, starvation, and despair. He never bathed and never slept on a mattress. One day, he heard about an orphanage in Urfa, which rescued many young Armenians like him. This news gave him hope and he was determined to make his way to Urfa.
Gomidas Institute (2015)