By Harutyun Jebejian
When I was in Alexandria, Egypt, in the late 1960s and the 1970s, I used to hear from the elders of my family about Araxie Jebejian, a martyr, and now declared a saint of our nation.
Miss Araxie Jebejian was a daughter of the Jebejian family in Aintab who was a well-to-do and well-known family in Aintab, which had a population of 30,000 Armenians in its Armenian part before the Genocide.
Her father was Kevork Agha Jebejian. Her parents belonged to the Armenian Apostolic church (Another segment of the Jebejian family were of the Armenian Evangelical church). Araxie was well connected to her church all through her life till her martyrdom, preaching the Gospel from house to house.
She attended Haiganoushian Armenian school in Aintab, the Girls’ American Seminary of Aintab, then the Girls’ American College of Marash. Then she attended in 1912 the Woobdrooke Theological College in Birmingham, England. She returned back to Aintab in 1914.
She taught in Marash College and Aintab’s Education Lovers (Gertasirats) School.
She was a decent person, with interpersonal skills, keen to help others, and well respected by others. She was dedicated to the ideal of promoting the educational and spiritual needs of her people.
She could have saved her life in the American College in 1915, yet she chose to join her family in the route to Der Zor, with only one brother, Dikran Jebejian, who survived out of 9 members of the family.
When they were going through the town of Bab, the governor (or kaymakam), was infatuated by her education, intellect and beauty and asked her to be his wife. Her response was:
‘I don’t want to separate from my mother and my family members. I prefer to be with them to Der Zor and die in the desert rather than be the wife of a non-Christian’.
In her stay in Der Zor for 1 year she would be a blessing for the remnants of the Armenians there, about 250,000 Armenians. She would support them, encourage them and pray for them.
At times she would distribute money to the people from funds occasionally received by the German theologian, Miss Beatrice Rohner (1876-1947).
The Governor (or Mutasarrif) of Der Zor, Ali Suad Bey, was aware of the financial assistance Araxie was receiving and was facilitating it. After Ali Suad Bey was removed from his position and transferred to Bagdad, a more racist, Zaki Bey, replaced him.
Araxie sends a secret letter to Miss Rohner telling her about the plight of thousands of Armenians in Der Zor and the imminent death they will face under Zeki Bey’s rule.
Miss Beatrice Rohner responds that nothing will prevent the catastrophe on those in Der Zor.
The caravans start their move from Der Zor to Sheddadeh and Sinjar for the final phase of extermination.
Once the caravans cross the Euphrates river, Zaki Bay sends 5-6 soldiers to detain Araxie Jebejian, and with her a school principal, Hagop Zeituntsian, and 9 members of a youth musical group, one of whom was Araxie’s younger brother, 20-year old Yervant Jebejian. They were all directed to the Der Zor jail. There Zaki Bay personally tortures the group by whipping them with a cane before they face their death. Araxie Jebejian gets more of the wrath of Zaki Bay, as she insisted to refuse to marry him. He shoots her with a bullet and she fell as a martyr, and was named a saint by Puzant Guzubeeyukian.
The Principal of the Woodbrooke College in Birmingham, England, (the school founded in 1903) where a large photo of Araxie was hanged in the school hall, described Araxie Jebejian posthumously as ‘Every Christian church has a martyrology, but there are churches in which martyrology is almost the whole of the history. The Armenian martyr roll is probably longer than that of all other Christian Churches stitched together, and still being written. Araxie was the offspring of such a mother church of martyrs. For from the first days of the ancient Armenian Church down to our own times, its members have been called and chosen and have been found faithful. Among the multitude of martyrs in Der Zor, no figure stands out clearer, more serene, more courageous, or with a brighter glow of victorious faith than that of our dear friend, Araxie Jebejian.’
Sarafian, Kevork A., 1953, Armenian History of Aintab, vol.II, The Union of the Armenians of Aintab in America, Inc., USA; Los Angeles, California.