The one who ignored the rules: Sose Mayrig

The cover photo: young Sose Mayrig wearing a cartridge case

In the history of the national-liberational struggle of the Armenian people there are examples when a woman did not only inspire hayduks (fidain) to fight but fought with them   side by side. The most famous history of such love and union is the history of famous fidain Serob Aghbyur and his no less famous wife Sose. 

You can read about Serob Aghbyur and why he is one of the most significant hayduks here.

Sose was a loving woman, a friend and a comrade in arms for Serob. At the end of the 19th century, when the liberation movement of the Armenian people was gaining a momentum, there was a strict rule among the soldiers-liberators (fidains) who devoted themselves to this cause; not to get married, so as not to have weaknesses and other worries, except for the highest goal. And if they had already managed to get married before joining the fidai detachments, it was necessary to keep the wife and children away. However, Serob, being at the origins of the struggle, not only got married, but also brought his wife into the struggle.

The fidains said; “We are all married, we all have wives and children. If we take our wives with us everywhere how can we move? We need to send Sose to Caucauses or another safe place”. Notwithstanding these complains, fidains  acknowledged that Sose had inspired them as a female warrior.

Sose was born in 1868 in the village Teghut (Vilayet of Bitlis, Ottoman Empire). Serob was from a neighboring village – Sgard (Sogord) on the southeastern slope of Mount Nemrut. Here is how Sose is telling about herself:

“I was a very spoiled girl and thus I always was among men and could talk with them bravely. Once my uncles decided to ask me as a joke with whom I would like to get engaged. That day Serob was at our place with his brothers. I told my uncle;” If I am to get engaged then only with Serob”. Everyone laughed. Serob also laughed but a little later his face became serious and he left after the meals. A few months had passed after this conversation when Mghe, Serob’s brother, came to ask for my hand in marriage. Thus the joke became a reality. In 1881 (if I am not mistaken) I and Serob got married. I was 13 years old. After 2 years my first son, Hakob, was born.”

The breaking moment in the fate of this brave woman was the battle at the village Geliguzan. In 1899 Serob Aghbyur, with his detachment, had sheltered in one of the villages of Bitlis called Geliguzan.This  formidable Armenian fidain, who haunted the Kurdish-Turkish bandits, was almost the most desirable target. One of them,the Kurdish leader Bishar Khalil managed to bribe an Armenian from Sasun  named Avo, who betrayed Serob’s location. As a result, the enemies managed to poison Serob’s tobacco, and very soon he became ill and his hair began to fall out. Sose grabbed Serob by the arms and, together with their eldest son Hakob and Serob’s brothers, Mkhe and Zakar, dragged him to the position.

Despite the heroic confrontation, Serob, their eldest son and Serobs brothers die in this battle, but Sose shows an unseen courage. In the midst of the battle she takes the position and continues the fight. However, the enemy forces were inevitably approaching. 

Barely alive Sose is thrown  into the prison of Bitlis by the Turks. After her  liberation and the uprising of Sasun by Armenians in 1904, she went to Van, and then to the Caucasus from there. After the sovietization of Armenia, Sose Mayrig left for Constantinople, and then Alexandria (Egypt) became her last refuge. Her other son, Samson, was killed in Karin (Erzrum) during mass pogroms.

One record from the memories of the Armenian family in Egypt is saved, for whom Sose Mayrig had become a close friend. Maro Khanamiryan, Sose’s friend: 

“We often gathered around her and asked her to tell how she got married, how she fought, how she suffered, how she became free and reached Egypt. Tears were flowing down her eyes, and she was telling and telling, showing the traces of knife wounds, which were punishments for disobeying the Turkish Pasha. She let us touch her hands, there were traces and fragments from cartridges inside her body. (…) Until now I cannot keep me from crying when remembering Sose Mayrig.”

Sose Mayrig died in 1957 in Alexandria. She was 89 years old. She earned the immeasurable veneration of the Armenian people, who called her “Mayrig” – “mother”. Indeed Sose became a mother to the entire people selflessly devoting herself to the national liberation struggle. 

by Eleonora Sargsyan

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