memory is nothing but ash and bone
hishoghut’yan mokhir yev voskrayin
հիշողության մոխիր եւ ոսկրային
— Armenian proverb
EXT. YENI BIR KADIN.1 FINISHING SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES — DAY
[It is the age of the NEW WOMAN,2 July, 1914. YENI BIR KADIN SCHOOL is an experiment in Constantinople, the first of its kind, a brief, liberal attempt to dismantle the DHIMMI,3-caste system. The students are mainly from middle-class Turkish, Armenian and Greek families, a combination of Islamic and Christian faiths. Riot of girls cheering loudly, something that has never been seen before; wild-looking girls running at break-neck speed. The athletes wear a curious combination of head scarves, pantaloons and silky knickerbockers. Their classmates, in their official YOUNG TURKS’4 -sponsored school uniforms, cheer enthusiastically as the athletes race around on the immaculately-kept grounds. It is amazing enough to make even SUFFRAGETTE SALLY5 stand up and take note.]
[NARINE DILSIZIAN (27), an Armenian gardener, works on the school’s garden. A few feet away, her daughter, HASMIK (15), leans against a broken and bullet-pocked wall, watching the race.]
[ZELDA KIRKE, a 40-year old American English teacher, wife to a junior member of the American embassy, is enthusiastically cheering on her daughter, MATILDA (15), who, dressed in the same silly Edwardian-era fashion, leads neck-and-neck with another girl in the last lap of the race. The excitement increases as they approach the finish line. ZELDA is beside herself, encouraging her daughter with shouting and jumping up and down. A young Turkish teacher (though not a YOUNG TURK), ASIYE, stands next to ZELDA, shouting, “Bravo, Matilda!” over and over while clapping her hands.]
[MATILDA breasts the tape just ahead of the other girl; her head scarf unraveling, letting her long brown hair shine in the sun. The grounds are invaded by girls running to congratulate MATILDA and her rival. ZELDA hurries towards her happy but exhausted daughter, pushing her way through the mass of school girls.]
This was your best race!
I — I beat her, Mama.
You did daughter! [Laughing.] Come to the baths, we will get you cleaned up again.
[Mother and daughter walk happily towards the school buildings; MATILDA getting many kisses from her friends as they pass by. ZELDA stops to talk to NARINE, who jumps to her feet and looks nervous.]
Narine, my dear, I hope you can make it. There isn’t much to do, you know, only caring for the tulips.
[ZELDA, who hadn’t realized HASMIK was there, turns to her.]
How’s the calculus? Still confusing?
HASMIK [with respect]:
A little, Madam Zelda, bayan.
MATILDA [with a very fond look in her eye as she steps forward]:
NARINE [straightening herself]:
My daughter works hard, Madam Zelda, bayan. Your money will not be wasted. Varton and I will always thank you.
ZELDA [gaily as she leaves]:
I hope to see you both later, darlings.
[NARINE returns to her work. A group of students, TURKISH GIRLS, laughing and pushing each other boisterously, amble by. As they near HASMIK, two girls nudge each other and giggle. Suddenly one of them trips HASMIK as she passes. The Armenian girl falls to the ground and jumps up aggressively, about to attack the Turkish girl. NARINE shouts “Hasmik-jan!”]
[The headmaster, OSMANOGLU BEY (65), despite his so-called liberal views, observes the incident but simply looks the other way.]
[HASMIK stands, suddenly blind with rage. With a snort she strides away towards the main school’s gate.]
NARINE [shouting angrily in Turkish]:
(Where are you going?)
HASMIK turns to look at her mother then continues to storm off.
1. Turkish, literally, New Woman.↩
2. The New Woman was a Feminist ideal that emerged in the late 19th century and had a profound influence on Feminism well into the 20th. The term was popularized by writer Henry James, to describe the growth in the number of Feminist, educated, independent career women in Europe and the United States. According to historian Ruth Bordin, the term was, “intended by James to characterize American expatriates living in Europe: women of affluence and sensitivity, who despite or perhaps because of their wealth exhibited an independent spirit and were accustomed to acting on their own.”↩
3. Dhimmi and Dhimmitude are historical terms referring to non-Muslim citizens living in an Islamic state. Depending on the people and time period this “separate but equal” status has led to persecution, purges and, in extreme cases, genocide.↩
4. Officially known as the Committee of Union and Progress, the Young Turks were a Pan-Turkish nationalist reform party in the early 20th century, aligning themselves with Germany during WW1 and seeking to purge non-Turkish Muslims from the country. Originally favoring reformation of the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Empire, their leadership, what historians have referred to as a “dictatorial triumvirate,” seized power in a coup d’état in 1913. Led by “The Three Pashas” (Enver, Djemal and Talaat), their dogma and policies led directly to humiliating defeat after defeat against Tsarist Russia and the ethnic cleansing of 1.5 million of their own people, the Ottoman-Armenians.↩
5. The title character in a novel by English author Gertrude Colmore (1911), written to help further the cause of the Women’s Movement.↩
6. Bayan is the Turkish word for lady.↩
7. -jan is a suffix in the Armenian language denoting affection.↩