Musa Dagh

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Musa Dagh defense
Part of the Armenian Genocide
Map of the Musa Dagh Armenian Self-Defense.
Date 1915
Location Ottoman Empire
Result Successful resistance, eventual rescue by the French navy
 Ottoman Empire Armenian civilians
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Yesayi Yakhubian, Yesayi Aprahamian, Nerses Kazandjian, Movses Ter-Kalutsian and others
around 20,000 by the end[citation needed] 250[1] 4,000 Armenian Civilians
Casualties and losses
heavy[citation needed] unknown[citation needed]

Musa Dagh (Turkish: Musa Dağı; Armenian: Մուսա լեռ, Musa leṛ;[2] Arabic: جبل موسى‎‎ Jebel 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.


Armenian combatants in Musa Dagh
Location of the Armenian camp during the resistance.
The remains of the monument near the top of Musa Dagh in memory of the French warships that rescued the Armenian people on 12 September 1915. Picture taken on 12 September 2015, the 100th anniversary of the rescue.

The denizens of that region had been given an official order from the Turkish government to perform violent expulsions of six Armenian villages: Kabusia (Kaboussieh), Yoghunoluk, Bitias, Vakef, Kheter Bey (Khodr Bey) and Haji Habibli. This was a fragment of a wider operation conducted by the Ottomans since 1915.[3] As Ottoman Turkish forces converged upon the town, the populace, aware of the impending danger, fell back upon Musa mountain and thwarted assaults for fifty-three days.[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. Allied warships, most notably the French 3rd squadron in the Mediterranean under command of Louis Dartige du Fournet, sighted the survivors, as Werfel was told, just as ammunition and food provisions were running out.[6] The warships then transported them to safety in Port Said, Egypt.[7][8] French and British ships, beginning with the Guichen, evacuated 4,200 men, women and children from Musa Dagh.[9]

Nearly 250 men took part in the defense, fighting off Turkish armies in June 1915.[1] The Armenians had refused deportation and fled to the highest mountain in the town, and from July to September 1915 they defended themselves until French ships rescued them.[1] Starting in 1918, when Sanjak of Alexandretta came under French control, six Armenian villages returned to their homes.

In 1932 a monument was erected at the top of the mountain to commemorate the event.[10] 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, while some of the residents of Vakıflı village chose to stay.[11] Vakıflı is the only remaining ethnic Armenian village in Turkey,[12][13] with a population only 140 Turkish-Armenians. Most who left Hatay in 1939 immigrated 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 remaining survivors, the chief priest was quoted to say: "The evil only happened ... to enable God to show us His goodness."[14]

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh[edit]

The French warship Guichen, pictured above, participated along with several cruisers in the rescue of some 4,000 Armenians who had taken shelter on Musa Dagh.

These historical events later inspired Franz Werfel to write his novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), a fictionalized account based on Werfel's detailed research of historical sources.[citation needed] A movie of the same name was released in 1982.[15]

Werfel had 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".[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response By Peter Balakian, p.210
  2. ^ Adalian, Rouben. Historical Dictionary of Armenia. p. 449. 
  3. ^ New Outlook, Volume 111 edited by Alfred Emanuel Smith, page.800
  4. ^ Remembrance and denial: the case of the Armenian genocide by Richard G. Hovannisian – 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, page.92
  9. ^ The new presence by Nadace M.J. Stránského, p.14
  10. ^ "La Reconnaissance Armenienne" in "l'Illustration" page XXII, 29 October 1932.
  11. ^ Başlangıç, Celal (29 July 2002). "Musa'dan notlar" (in Turkish). Radikal. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  12. ^ Kalkan, Ersin (31 July 2005). "Türkiye'nin tek Ermeni köyü Vakıflı" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  13. ^ Campbell, Verity (2007). Turkey. Lonely Planet. ISBN 1741045568. 
  14. ^ Franz Werfel, the faith of an exile: from Prague to Beverly Hills By Lionel Bradley Steiman, page 86
  15. ^
  16. ^ Bobelian, Michael. Children of Armenia: a forgotten genocide and the century-long struggle for justice. p. 83. 

External links[edit]

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