Zabel Asadour was an Armenian poet who is usually better known by one of her pseudonyms – Madame Sibil or Sybille. Other names used were Zabel Khanjian and Zabel Asadour. Additionally she was a teacher at various locations in the provinces, as well as Constantinople. She wrote novels and dramatic works and published her own and others work. She was also considered to be a philanthropist, particularly with regard to her tireless efforts on behalf of women.
She was born Zabel Khanjian on the 23rd July 1863 in Üsküdar which is a district in the city of Istanbul. Little is recorded about her early life but it is known that she went to school at an establishment in Constantinople called Üsküdar Djemaran. She graduated from there at the age of 16. Much of her time was spent writing, in particular about the injustices suffered by girls and women in her home country. She was a strong campaigner on behalf of an organisation that she helped to found called the “Azkanver Hayuhyats Enkerutiun”. The primary aim of this movement, which translates to the
concerned the establishment and continued operation of schools for Armenian girls in those districts of the Ottoman Empire where the Armenian population was most influential.
Eventually the government saw this organisation as seditious and took steps to close it down. Despite this obvious setback Sibil managed to stay active with her politically-driven writing finding publication outlets wherever she could. Her second husband, Hrant Asadour, was a great help with this as he was also a writer and was fully supportive of his wife’s endeavours. In 1879, for example, she wrote Practical Grammar for Contemporary Modern Armenian. This classic of Armenian grammar was revised and reissued many times.
Some of her work was published jointly with her husband, often in a literary magazine called Massis which they had helped to re-establish after a period of dormancy. Along with items of poetry that were included, she wrote articles on great figures from Armenian literary history. These were eventually compiled in a 1921 book called Profiles.
She also had articles on pedagogy and educational matters published in various publications. Her poetry ranged from powerful, sometimes mournful, pieces depicting the struggles of her fellow Armenians to much gentler offerings aimed at children. There were also lyrical, wistful pieces like the following poem which describes the perfections to be found in everyday life that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. It is called The Ideal:
Other work appeared during the 1880s in a publication named Hairenik and, in 1891, she produced a novel called The Heart of a Girl. In 1902 her collection of poems called Reflections was published with some of its content of a romantic nature while others were fiercely patriotic. In addition, Sibil wrote a number of short stories, for and about women, and a number of plays including one called The Bride.
Zabel Asadour died on the 19th June 1934 at the age of 70.