By Hagop Vartivarian
Hrant K. Sulahian was an Armenian from Aintab who played an important role in the Armenian liberation movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and despite the tribulations of the Armenian Genocide, continued to act as an Armenian community leader in Syria.
Hrant’s father, Kevork, was a pious man who through his own efforts became well-versed in the Bible, and gave spiritual advice when people assembled. As a result, he was called “sage.” He was a part of the Museum Education Association, which in 1867 during the Vartanants holiday was renamed Vartanian. He helped in the construction of the wonderful church of Aintab.
Hrant was born on January 12, 1871, in Aintab and baptized as Krikor. He was a classmate of Armenag N. Nazar in the Mesrobian Alumni School. After this school closed, he went to the Armenian Nersesian School, where he had as teacher of the Armenian language and history Vahan M. Kiurkjian. Kiurkjian inspired him with nationalist feeling and a desire for liberty.
After graduation, Hrant entered the field of commerce like his father, but finding Aintab too confining, moved in 1890 to Constantinople. At this time, the Armenian liberation movement began to coalesce in various cities of Anatolia with large Armenian populations. Cilicia, Sasun, Daron, and Vasburagan turned into centers of Armenian nationalist activity. Outside the Ottoman Empire, liberal newspapers were published and diplomatic actions were taken, which lead to state oppressions of Armenians in the provinces and the capital.
As much as an educated and energetic youth like Hrant attempted to confine himself to commerce, the Ottoman authorities could not fail to notice him, especially as they attempted to weaken the economic prosperity of the Armenians. Hrant was arrested by the police in Constantinople as a dangerous Armenian, and thrown into prison for three weeks after being interrogated. After this, he could not remain freely in Constantinople and continue his business, so he returned to Aintab in 1893-94.