The Treatment of Women in the Armenian Genocide: New Document Discovered in Paris Library

During their studies in the Nubarian Library of Paris, Turkish historian Umit Kurt and journalist Alev Er have discovered a document on the Armenian Genocide, hitherto unpublished, whose author is the well-known female writer Zabel Essayan. Her 11-page document tells the details of what happened with Armenian women in and after 1915. Zabel Essayan submitted the document to Boghos Nubar Pasha, chairman of the Armenian National Delegation, according to an article published on August 21, 2014 in the Istanbul-based Armenian  “Agos” periodical, which has introduced some extracts of the document.(*)
Essayan particularly mentions that, since the beginning of the war, the Committee of Union and Progress had  systematically exterminated non-Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire. More than 200,000 young women and children were forcibly kidnapped.
Zabel Essayan, a gifted novelist, was born in 1878 in Scutari, a district of Constantinople. From an early age, she wanted to be a writer and as early as age 17 she published a short piece in a literary magazine. She obtained higher education in Paris where she worked her way through the Sorbonne by revising a French-Armenian dictionary and by writing articles and short stories for French and Armenian magazines. She returned to Constantinople at the age of 30 to enjoy an active literary life, well recognized for her talent. The Young Turks ranked her with Zohrab, Zartarian, Siamanto, and Varoujan and placed her name – the only female writer – on their list for liquidation. She escaped to Bulgaria and then managed to reach the Caucasus, where she documented much of the atrocities taking place. In 1918 she went to Egypt, then to Cilicia and then to Paris, serving in the Armenian National Delegation. Disillusioned, she took a pro-Soviet orientation and urged all Diaspora Armenians to recognize Soviet Armenia as the only motherland.
In 1927 she visited Soviet Armenia for the first time. Shortly afterwards, she was invited to settle there. In 1933, at the age of 55, she left a comfortable Parisian life and settled in Soviet Armenia with her daughter Sophie and son Hrant. In Yerevan, she taught Comparative Literature and French Literature at the University, wrote numerous articles and published prolifically. She was arrested during the Stalinist purges in 1937. It is believed, but not confirmed, that she was drowned, or either she died in exile, sometime in 1943.

(*) The report, "La liberation des Femmes et Enfants Nonmusulmans en Turquie," written in March 1919, had been already used by historians Vahé Tachjian and Lerna Ekmekcioglu. See Vahé Tachjian, “Gender, Nationalism, Exclusion: The Reintegration Process of Female Survivors of the Armenian Genocide,” Nations and Nationalism 15, (1), 2009; Lerna Ekmekcioglu, "A Climate for Abduction, a Climate for Redemption: The Politics of Inclusion during and after the Armenian Genocide," Comparative Studies in Society and History, 55 (3), 2014, p. 537. ("Armeniaca").

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