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Mihran Damadian

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1863-1945 AD

A well educated writer and teacher, Mihran Damadian became a freedom fighter and a Hnchak activist. He was one of the leaders of the Sassoun rebellion of 1892-1894. As a member of the Armenian National Delegation after World War I, he proposed that France take a mandate over an independent Cilicia.

Mihran Damadian organized an anti-Turkish demonstration in Athens in July 1891, and participated in the Sassun rebellion in August 1891.

Mihran Damadian, who was one of the organizers of the Kumkapi demonstration in Istanbul, had escaped from Istanbul to Athens, had returned to Turkey after the Athens demonstration of July 1891, had arrived at Sassun, where he organized a band, and had begun to encourage the people to rebel. This Damadian band had raided the village of Avzim in Mush in December 1892, killed a Turk named Sergeant Ishak in the street, and fled. Subsequently, the Gendarmerie had pursued the band. In 1893 army commanders informed Istanbul that the bands were increasing.

During the activities of the bands in 1893, Damadian was caught wounded, and sent to Istanbul. On May 21, 1893 he was put in prison by the Ottoman police, charged with inciting the Armenian people to revolt. He was later freed.

When Damadian was still in the region, Hamparsum Boyajian, with the nickname Murad, came to the area, and cooperated with him. After Damadian was arrested, he continued the preparations for rebellion.

Instrumental in the founding of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramgavars).

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Mihran Damadian was born in Constantinople in 1864. He was the fifth child of Serope Damadian. He received his elementary education at the local St. Hagop and Vienna Mekhitarist schools. Subsequently, his parents sent him to the Mourad-Raphaelian School in Venice. The young Damadian soon showed his aptitudes, writing literary articles in the school publication Bazmavep. His first poems were published in 1878. While a pupil of Fr. Ghevont (Leo) Alishan, Mihran learned about the Armenian Question from him, whereupon he and his classmates began to inquire further into the matter.

In 1880, after graduating from Mourad-Raphaelian, Damadian returned to Constantinople. Once he became informed about the sad developments having occurred in the Congress of Berlin, he became more involved with the Armenian Question.

Until 1883, Damadian held teaching positions in Constantinople and, in between jobs there, he taught for a short while in Adana. The United Armenian Association, whose founders were Megerdich Portugalian and Arpiar Arpiarian, had already opened a series of schools in various provinces of Western Armenia. Their goal was to ensure the intellectual development of the Armenian youth, while imbuing them with aspirations for national liberation at the same time.

One of the Association’s principal schools was the Nersisian in Moush, whose principal’s position was filled by Damadian in 1884. There, Damadian soon became acquainted with the first teacher, Hairabed Janigian of Van, who would subsequently become the founder of the Moush branch of the Armenagan Party. The national liberation ideology, which was gradually crystallizing in Damadian’s mind, received new content in Moush, and he formed the desire to visit Van with Janigian, where the trend-setting school of the Association, the Normal School, where the fire of desire for national liberation in Vasbouragan was fueled through the inspirational teaching of Portugalian.

In a short period of time, Damadian, who was receiving a steady stream of reports on the important developments affecting the Turkish Armenians from his brother in Constantinople, became famous as a sought-after intellectual, and he adopted a revolutionary orientation, driven so by various events that occurred in the region. Thus, in 1886, together with Janigian and Kegham Der Garabedian, the secretary of the local diocese, he laid the foundation of a secret organization.

This organization in Moush had a pact of secrecy. Its members would be strangers to one another, except for those by whom they were recruited. A great deal of excitement over this organization was created among the local population, and the number of those who wished to join it was great. Those who undertook the formation of this organization, perplexed by this reception and fearing that it would be difficult to keep a large organization secret, temporarily suspended the acceptance of new members, in order to reorganized internally.

Those who were jealous of Damadian’s increasing fame resorted to betrayal. In 1888, Damadian was forced to leave the Nersisian School and return to Constantinople and take up a teaching position in the Catholic school of Ortakoy. After joining his family, Damadian noticed that much had changed among the Armenians of Constantinople in the intervening few years, and the solution of the Armenian Question appeared to be farther from becoming a reality.

The incidents in Van and Taron had begun to have an adverse effect on the Armenians of Constantinople. It seemed to Damadian that the reason had to do with the Patriarchate and National Administration. He was convinced that the major revolutionary movement had to start from Constantinople and radiate toward the Armenian provinces.

It was during this period that Damadian became acquainted with Hampartsoum Boyajian (The Great Mourad), and together they formed a group of idealogues, which was joined by revolutionary youths from Western Armenia having settled in Constantinople. It was through the latter that it would be possible to establish contact with the provincial regions engulfed in darkness. In 1889, Damadian and his colleagues decided to affiliate with the local branch of the newly formed Hunchak Party, yielding largely to the insistence of Mourad.

In 1890, the Kum Kapu demonstration occurred, as a result of which a large number of Armenagan and Hunchak youths were arrested. Damadian managed to find refuge in Athens, where he continued his revolutionary activity together with Greeks. Before the year was out, Damadian set out for Western Armenia under the pseudonym of Melkon Khurshid. First, he passed through the towns of Cilicia, where he became familiar with the local situation, and then reached Sassoun, where he found fertile soil for revolt, particularly since a significant number of revolutionaries had gathered there. However, Damadian was arrested shortly thereafter, in 1893, by the Turkish government.

He was taken to Constantinople as a dangerous revolutionary. He was injured in the right leg during transit. After spending a year in a Constantinople jail, he managed to escape and, in 1895, he organized the Bab Ali (Sublime Porte) demonstration. A day before the demonstration, however, his colleagues decided to send him to Bulgaria and Romania, to expand political party efforts there. This time it was the Romanian government, which arrested him and deported him to Constantinople. Owing to his cleverness, he again managed to flee and take refuge in Athens, permanently staying away from his birthplace. In 1896, Damadian went to London as member advisor of the Hunchak Party’s Central Committee, and as contributor to the Hunchak paper. Meanwhile, dissension had broken out among the party’s leaders, as a result of the conduct of the Nazarbegians and socialism.

Preferring to remain aloof from the concept of socialism, Damadian joined Arpiarian and Mihran Svazlian. Together with them and a few other partisans, they formed the Reformed Hunchak Party in London and became members of its center. In 1898, Damadian went to Alexandria, where he endeavored to spur an increase in the membership of the Reformed Hunchaks. Having gotten married in 1900, he decided to settle in Egypt and began working as a customs agent. Disagreements having broken out among the Reformed Hunchaks caused him to cease political activity for a while, during which he wrote articles in the interest of national service.

In 1904, Damadian assumed the position of accountant in the Alexandria office of the Mantashev oil company, which he held until 1917. On October 31, 1908, following the proclamation of the sham constitution, together with a group of fellow ideologues, Damadian founded the Armenian Constitutional Democratic Party, in which members of the Armenagan Party and the moderate wing of the Reformed Hunchak Party came together. The radical Reformed Hunchaks then adopted the name Liberal. Among the founders of the Constitutional Democratic Party were Vahan Tekeyan, Vahan Malezian and other prominent intellectuals, as well.

Having a mastery of seven languages, Damadian often traveled on business to various cities of the Middle East, including Aleppo and Beirut. He was always involved with national issues, to the extent that his time allowed. He also visited various regions of Cilicia, establishing clubs of the Ramgavar (Democratic) Party.

In 1915, Damadian became one of the founders of the Ramgavar organ Arev (Sun), which is still being published today in Cairo. The Armenian National Union was founded in Egypt in 1916 with Damadian’s participation. The purpose of this Union was to organize an Armenian volunteer movement. In this connection, he went to Paris and met with Boghos Noubar, the president of the Armenian National Delegation. Subsequently he, along with the Hunchak Stepan Sapah-Gulian and the Dashnak Ardavazt Hanimian, headed for the United States, where an Armenian National Union was formed, likewise for the purpose of supporting the volunteer movement.

In 1917, Damadian was sent to Italy as a representative of the Armenian National Delegation to the Italian government. In 1918, when the delegation for a Complete Armenia came into existence, Damadian was appointed the plenipotentiary representative of Cilicia, as one who was eminently familiar with the region. In that position, he went to Cilicia with the mission of organizing a general revolt, which the Allied powers would assist. Damadian succeeded in bringing together the Armenians, Greeks, Syrians and Arabs, and on August 4, 1920, the independence of Cilicia was declared, owing to his efforts and with him as prime minister. However, that dream and excitement didn’t even last a day, because the French government pursued a policy of betrayal, impeding the entrance of General Antranig and Armenag Yegarian to Cilicia, and dissolving the Armenian volunteer regiments. Damadian remained in confinement for a year, after which he returned to Egypt in 1921. The founding meeting of the Democratic Liberal Party was convened in Constantinople on October 1 of the same year. Damadian was elected member of the party’s central committee and, later, President.

In 1922, the Mantashev company sent him to Beirut as its director. He remained there for approximately eight years. During the period of his residence in Lebanon, he established a tobacco factory and became a force giving impetus to the national life. It was there that he became a participant in the formation of the AGBU Armenian Youth Association and conceived the plan of founding the first ADL daily, which would become a reality later on, in 1937, when Zartonk (Awakening) daily began publishing.

In 1936, Damadian’s health deteriorated and, as a result of surgery, lost his right leg, which had been wounded 43 years earlier. Damadian returned to Cairo, where he spent the last years of his life. His last accomplishment was participating in the creation of the Armenian National Fund.

This inimitable leader, who was so devoted to our national liberation movement and was one of the most brilliant intellectuals and revolutionary figures of that period, passed away in Cairo in 1945. Ara Aharonian Excerpt from: Heroic Figures of A.D.L. (C)2006




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