Rubina Areshian, a Woman Who Committed an Attempt on Sultan Abdul Hamid

Rubina Areshian, a Woman Who CommittedEach era bears its own heroes who one way or another become the symbols of that era. With time, the apprehension of individuals and events of the distant past change along with the distortion of facts. Realistic and reliable representation of the reality needs deep and comprehensive investigation of the events relating to the given historical period.

The Armenian liberation movement against the Turkish oppression has left numerous heroic pages in history, but some of its episodes remain hidden from the general public.

Very few have heard about Rubina Areshian, the idol of the patriotic youth of the early 20th century. In 1905, 24 years old Rubina along with her adherents organized and committed an assassination attempt on Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, blasting his coach with a time bomb. The sultan miraculously survived the attempt.

Rubina Ohanjanyan (nee Areshian, 1881 – 1971) was born in Tiflis to the family of a landlord. Brave and purposeful Rubina joined the Dashnaktsutyun party in the years of her youth. She got into a group of party members under the lead of Kristapor Mikayelian, which was tasked to eliminate Sultan Abdul Hamid.

The operation would be an answer to the violent massacres of Armenians during the 1904 Sasun uprising carried out by the murderous sultan. However, during the last phase of the preparation to the operation, the leader of the group Mikayelian perished in a test of the explosives.

Rubina decided to bring the matter to the end regardless. According to the preliminary plan, Rubina was to approach the sultan on his way out from a mosque in Constantinople where he traditionally performed Friday salah and blast him along with his suite on the spot. However, it was decided to abandon this idea due to the risks. The eventual plan implied the use of a newly-bought coach from Vienna, which would be equipped with a powerful time bomb.

Having carefully examined Abdul Hamid’s schedule, the group set the bomb on the time of sultan’s exit from the mosque. On July 21, 1905, Rubina and her teammates placed the coach near the determined spot in order to activate the bomb at the optimum time. Though Constantinople shuddered from the explosion, the sultan miraculously survived it, having lingered at the entrance of the mosque.

Taking advantage of the stir, the group was able to escape the area. Rubina would leave for Europe, but after the overthrow of Abdul Hamid in 1908, she returned to Constantinople. Shortly learning about the arrest of the Dashnaks, Rubina departed for the Caucasus to try and help them.

Among the arrested was Hamo Ohanjanyan, to-be husband of Rubina, who would be soon sent to Siberia. Rubina followed his tracks and married him soon after finding him. In 1915, Rubina and Hamo returned to Armenia where they would work in a military hospital. Not many people know that it was Rubina and Hamo who first aided the liberated city of Van in May 1915 by sending medication and other relief.

In May 1920, Hamo Ohanjanyan became the third prime minister of the First Republic of Armenia. In 1921, Ohanjanyans left for Cairo after the Sovietization of Armenia. Vigen, the first child of the spouses, would be born in Cairo. Along with their colleagues, the spouses devoted themselves to the preservation of the Armenian culture of the diaspora. In particular, they founded the Nationwide cultural association “Hamazkayin”.

Following the death of her husband, Rubina moved to Canada, where she would pass away at the age of 90 in 1971. She retained her patriotic spirit to the very last day of her life.

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