Musa Dagh

Coordinates: 36°15′30″N 35°54′13″E / 36.25833°N 35.90361°E / 36.25833; 35.90361
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Musa Dagh defense
Part of the Armenian genocide

Map of the Musa Dagh Armenian Self-Defense.
DateJuly 21 – September 12, 1915
(1 month, 3 weeks and 1 day)
Result Armenian victory
Successful Armenian resistance
Eventual rescue of Armenians by the French navy
 Ottoman Empire Armenians
Commanders and leaders
Captain Rifaat Bey Reverend Dikran Antreassian
Yesayi Yakhubian
Yesayi Aprahamian
Nerses Kazandjian
Movses Ter-Kalutsian
19,000 (4,000 regular troops and 15,000 fighters) 600 fighters[1]
4,000 Armenian Civilians
Casualties and losses
Unknown 18 fighters killed
12 injured

Musa Dagh (Turkish: Musa Dağı; Armenian: Մուսա լեռ, romanizedMusa leṛ;[2] Arabic: جبل موسى, romanizedJebel Musa; meaning "Moses Mountain") is a mountain in the Hatay Province of Turkey. In 1915, it was the location of a successful Armenian resistance to the Armenian genocide, an event that inspired Franz Werfel to write the novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.


The deportation orders of the Armenian population of modern-day Turkey, issued by the Ottoman government, in July 1915 reached the six Armenian villages of the Musa Dagh region: Kabusia (Kaboussieh), Yoghunoluk, Bitias, Vakef, Kheter Bey (Khodr Bey) and Haji Habibli.[3] As Ottoman Turkish forces converged upon the town, the populace, aware of the impending danger, refused deportation and fell back upon Musa mountain, thwarting assaults for fifty-three days, from July to September 1915.[4][5] One of the leaders of the revolt was Movses Der Kalousdian, whose Armenian first name was the same as that of the mountain. French warships of the 3rd Squadron in the Mediterranean under command of Vice Admiral Louis Dartige du Fournet, sighted the survivors just as ammunition and food provisions were running out.[6] Five French ships, beginning with the protected cruiser Guichen, under the command of Captain Jean-Joseph Brisson, evacuated 3,004 women and children and over 1,000 men from Musa Dagh to safety in Port Said.[7][8][9] The other French ships were the seaplane carrier Foudre, the protected cruiser D'Estrées, and the armored cruisers Amiral Charner and Dupleix.[10]

Starting in 1918, when the Sanjak of Alexandretta came under French control, the population of the six Armenian villages returned to their homes. In 1932, a monument was erected at the top of the mountain to commemorate the event.[11]

The mountain was in Aleppo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire, until after World War I, when the French took possession and put it in Sanjak of Alexandretta, Mandate of Syria.

On 29 June 1939, following an agreement between France and Turkey, the province was given to Turkey. Afterwards Armenians from six of the villages emigrated from Hatay Province, while some of the residents of Vakıflı village chose to stay.[12] Vakıflı is the only remaining ethnic Armenian village in Turkey,[13][14] with a population of 140 Turkish-Armenians. Most who left Hatay in 1939 emigrated to Lebanon where they resettled in the town of Anjar. Today, the town of Anjar is divided into six districts, each commemorating one of the villages of Musa Dagh.

As the French squads came to the rescue of the survivors, the chief priest is quoted as having said, "The evil only happened... to enable God to show us His goodness."[15] This event was depicted in The Promise - a 2016 American epic historical drama film directed by Terry George and starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale, set in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh[edit]

These historical events later inspired Franz Werfel to write his novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), a fictionalized account based on his detailed research of historical sources.[16] Werfel told reporters: "The struggle of 5,000 people on Musa Dagh had so fascinated me that I wished to aid the Armenian people by writing about it and bringing it to the world".[17] A movie of the same name was released in 1982.[18] Six years after the novel was published, when Nazi Germany started conquering Europe, the copies of “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” spread widely among young adults, some of whom found themselves in circumstances similar to those faced by Armenians. The book was popular in Warsaw ghetto and Vilna ghetto and when the Jewish resisters decided to fight back in the Bialystok ghetto, they spoke of the ghetto’s “Musa Dagh” moment at the planning meeting.[19]

An eyewitness account from the Deir-az-Zur Region in Syria was provided by a Turkish officer, a Jewish Ashkenazy settler from the First Aliya, born in Rishon Letzion, Eitan Belkind.[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response By Peter Balakian, p.210
  2. ^ Adalian, Rouben (13 May 2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Scarecrow Press. p. 449. ISBN 9780810874503.
  3. ^ New Outlook, Volume 111 edited by Alfred Emanuel Smith, page 800
  4. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian : Remembrance and denial: the case of the Armenian genocide – page 161
  5. ^ Resistance and revenge: the Armenian assassination of the Turkish leaders ... By Jacques Derogy p.22
  6. ^ Franz Werfel: an Austrian writer reassessed – by Lothar Huber, page 176
  7. ^ The great war for civilisation: the conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk.
  8. ^ The Christian minorities in Turkey – Wilhelm Baum, p. 92.
  9. ^ The new presence by Nadace M.J. Stránského, p.14.
  10. ^ Le Contre-Amiral Darrieus, Commandant la 2e Division et p. i. la 3e Escadre de la Méditerranée, à M. Victor Augagneur, Ministre de la Marine (22 septembre 1915).
  11. ^ "La Reconnaissance Armenienne" in "l'Illustration" page XXII, 29 October 1932.
  12. ^ Başlangıç, Celal (29 July 2002). "Musa'dan notlar" (in Turkish). Radikal. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  13. ^ Kalkan, Ersin (31 July 2005). "Türkiye'nin tek Ermeni köyü Vakıflı" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
  14. ^ Campbell, Verity (2007). Turkey. Lonely Planet. p. 438. ISBN 978-1741045567. Vakifli.
  15. ^ Franz Werfel, the faith of an exile: from Prague to Beverly Hills By Lionel Steiman, page 86
  16. ^ Zhang, Yicheng (19 March 2020). "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – Genocide, Resistance, and Revelations for Today". The Yale Review of International Studies. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  17. ^ Bobelian, Michael (September 2009). Children of Armenia: a forgotten genocide and the century-long struggle for justice. Simon and Schuster. p. 83. ISBN 9781416558354.
  18. ^ "Forty Days of Musa Dagh". IMDb.
  19. ^ Lebovic, Matt. "How Armenia's 1915 'Musa Dagh' fighters inspired Jews to resist Nazi genocide". Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  20. ^ Belkind, Eitan, This is How it Was, [Tel Aviv] 1972, reference in Hebrew Rishon Letzion City Archives

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

36°15′30″N 35°54′13″E / 36.25833°N 35.90361°E / 36.25833; 35.90361