Discovering the Legacy of Zabel Yessayan in Artsakh

STEPANAKERT, Artsakh—Thanks to the Artsakh Human Rights Essay and the Graphic Design T-shirt Contests, young people in Artsakh are discovering the legacy of Zabel Yessayan, the Armenian author and human rights activist.

Born in 1878 in Constantinople, Yessayan played an important role in the tumultuous events shaping Armenian history in the first part of the 20th century. The contests are organized by Artsakh Ombudsman (Human Rights Defender) Ruben Melikyan, TUMO Stepanakert’s Korioun Khatchadourian, and Judith Saryan from Cambridge, Mass.

The winning entry of the Graphic Design T-shirt Contest was designed by Astghik Simonyan of Stepanakert (Photo: TUMO)

On Nov. 8, TUMO Stepanakert announced the winner of the Graphic Design T-shirt Contest. The winning entry was designed by Astghik Simonyan of Stepanakert. She created a stylized image of Yessayan’s face on the front of the T-shirt. Below it, she printed Yessayan’s quote, “Literature is not an ornament, a pleasant pastime, a pretty flower. Literature is a weapon to struggle against Injustice.” Simonyan designed a geometric pomegranate symbolizing Artsakh to adorn the back of the shirt.

The winners of the Human Rights Essay Contest in honor of Zabel Yessayan will be announced on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Zabel Yessayan attracted a lot of attention during her lifetime, but she disappeared without a trace in a Soviet prison in the 1940s. Starting 15 years ago, her story resurfaced with the works of Lerna Ekmekcioglu and Melissa Bilal, and the documentary “Finding Zabel Yessayan.” Ever since, Yessayan’s books have been translated into English, French, Turkish, and Italian.

Earlier this year, the mayor of Paris announced that a street was recently named after Yessayan, a group of women Turkey recently created a play about her life and works, and researchers are combing through her archives in Yerevan to learn more about this brilliant and courageous woman.

The Zabel Yessayan Human Rights Essay Contest is co-sponsored by the Tufenkian Foundation and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).

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Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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