Revolutionary females: Sose Vartanian

An example of the courage and self sacrifice of Armenian woman was Sose Mairig,  born in 1869 in the village of Teghout on the slopes of Mount Nemrut. The daughter of Markar Dro-Avandur, she belonged to a large family and had many siblings. Sose was illiterate and married young, without any formal schooling.

At age 13, she fell in love with Serop, a close friend of the family’s who was many years her senior, and was married to him shortly after that. Stories about their lives love to point out that a very headstrong Sose publicly refuted her family’s choices in husbands, claiming that she would marry none other than the great fedayee. They had been newly married when Kurdish thieves approached their home, hoping to steal their livestock. As Serop was away at that time, Sose immediately grabbed the rifle and calling out to her husband, said: “Hurry, husband, for the thieves are taking out sheep! If you are not ready, I shall go after them!” That was how Sose would always be remembered, ready and a constant by her husband’s side.

Together, they had two sons, Hagop and Samson, probably born between 1884 and 1887 respectively. Sose’s involvement started the day she married Serop. The couple’s involvement with Dashnaksutiun started around 1891, soon after the Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries was founded.In 1895, when Serop was back from his 5 year journey abroad, He started a campaign of spreading awareness and inciting the youth to take up arms. He’s famously known for saying, “Men, stay without food and water, but never leave yourselves unguarded without a gun.” He sold his farm and bought guns with the money, taking his family to the mountains with him. Sose also began commanding the freedom fighters residing in the mountains in her husband’s absence. In the beginning, however, it was extremely hard for the men to adjust to having Serop’s family with them and begged their leader to send both wife and children to a safe place. Serop’s refusal to heed his men’s wishes brought about much disgruntlement, though most worries were abated upon the arrival of high ranking ARF members who did not oppose Sose’s role in the fighting.

Sose became a living legend alongside her husband and their brave men. Wherever Turks and Kurds murdered and pillages, the nomadic group would find their way over to mete out punishment. Many young men joined in the battle against injustice.

Sose’s role was no different from that of a male fedayee, with the added tasks of a mother and housewife. She was a rare phenomenon, a female fedayee, resolute, fearless, cool and cunning in battle, she was often resented by the men. Her career as a fedayee came to an end in 1899, Gialiguzan village, when Serop, betrayed and treacherously poisoned, was killed in fierce battle with the government troops. Sose was seriously wounded; her life was spared by the commanding officer of the Turkish troops, who admired her courage and heroic and attractive bearing. At government expense, he had her treated at a hospital. After recuperating, she was jailed in Baghesh. The battle also took her eldest son, though it is said that her youngest was saved only to perish in the massacres of Garin. After finding freedom from prison, the young legend made her way back to her home village, constantly visiting her husband’s 2 graves` 1 holding his body, and the other his head. She refused to leave the motherland. She saw her husband’s dream come true in Armenia’s independence, but her joy was short lived and, on the heals of massacre and mayhem in her beloved country, she fled to Alexandria, Egypt.

Before the death of her family, Sose was described as being ” blond, beautiful and still youthful, a woman who gave you the sense that she was indeed a Sosee (Armenian tree known for it’s height, beauty and longevity) amongst the other trees in the forest.Tall and graceful, with a soft and beautiful face, eyes both curious and wary, and a smile both simple and proud, sweet but firm.” However, upon finally settling in Alexandria, she would wear black all her days in mourning for her husband and sons, with her hair tied back tightly into a sever bun. She died in 1953, her last words being, “Serop is calling me, I must go to him.”

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