Mousalaer - Anjar History

recollections of Barkev Sarkahian (died 2016), first cousin of the first Armenian President Levon  Ter-Petrossian (Der-Bedrossian, Petrossian??google)

Father entered US in 1908. Returned to Musa Dagh in 1921-22. Aunt Mary born in USA during this time, later was link to re-entry of family during Lebanese Civil War.

Born 1933 in ?? Moved with family to Anjar in 1939 after first moving to Beirut before the rest of the community in 1937 without his father signing away his lands like the others did in the agreement to be resettled.

The Mousa Dagh mountain rescue (now called Samandagh or Samandag) in 1915 by French Navy Captain Dartij?? De Fourne took 4000plus?? Armenians to Port Said, Egypt. [18 had died in defending the population on the mountain.] Most of the boys and men joined the French Foreign Legion (army) to fight in Palestine against the Ottoman empire. After the war the part of the empire where Mousa Dagh is became a French colony and the residents resettled there in 1919. [wiki]

On the eve of World War II, France gave Turkey this coastal region as an incentive not to join Germany, but the Armenian enclave near Mousa Dagh, but the Armenians felt unsafe and somehow ?? got the French to resettle them (deported??) into their territory in Lebanon.

Movses Der Kaloustian, Armenian general in French army [see biography in Armenian by Boghos Senabian, 2004, later the Speaker of the House in the Lebanese parliament and a respected Lebanese politician] played an instrumental role in acquiring the land on the eastern edge of the Bekaa Valley for this resettlement. The Muslim owner of this parcel of land defaulted on a bank loan or something. The French acquired the land in 1938 from the bank. The French government gave money to construct all the houses according to a standard one floor model home. But the war started. In 1940 the houses started to be built but someone in charge of the designated funds stole part of those funds that were to be used to construct the houses (corruption) so they had to make less complete versions of the model home. The people lived 1 1/2 years in "tents" (canvas rectangles serving as roofs built with tree branches to support them). They were finished in 1943, with all the families working on construction (15 years old and older males).

After the war in 1946-1947 Stalin enticed many Armenians to return to Armenia.

From the website:
The new wave of the Armenian migration.
In 1946, many patriotic Armenians from the foreign Armenian colonies decided to repatriate to their historical homeland to contribute the post-war restoration. However, in years1948-1949, Stalin launched a new campaign of terror, and thousands of those repatriated Armenians were illegally arrested and forcibly deported to Siberia and Altay. From the beginning of the 60s, Armenians began to emigrate from the Soviet Union on a large-scale. The Soviet leaders considered the Armenians, together with the Jews and the Germans as "unreliable elements" of the Soviet system.

Half the families abandoned Anjar to return to Armenia, including one of Barkev's uncles (name Tomas??) whose son Levon later became the first president after independence, leaving empty houses. In 1948 Palestinian refugees fled what was then called Palestine (now Israel) into Lebanon, and the government placed some into these empty houses. They stayed until 1955-1956 or so, but then wanted to build a mosque in the Christian town and the Armenians also began to fear intermarriage (which was still very unacceptable then), and so the Armenian women went after the Palestinians with sticks (but of course all the men were armed to back them up) to scare them. The Lebanese army protected them ??, but Movses Der Kaloustian negotiated their relocation out of Anjar?


background on Musa Dagh:

Antakya is the biblical city of Antioch ad Orontes, where St Peter is said to have preached in a cave-church belonging to St Luke. The church is still there. You can visit it.

Unless you're traveling to or from Syria, Antakya (ahn-TAHK-yah) is a detour, requiring a trip south over the Belen Pass (740 meters, 2428 feet) but the mosaics from the Roman suburb of Daphne (now called Harbiye) in the Antakya Archeological Museum are worth the trip.

While you're here you might want to take a swim at Samandag (Seleucia ad Piera), 29 km (18 miles) SW on the Mediterranean, especially since Antakya is usually very hot and dry (see When to Go for more.)

Antakya is not served by train or air (fly via Adana). Most buses from Aegean and Central Turkey come via Adana.

By the way, the province of Hatay, of which Antakya is the capital, was part of Ottoman Syria and, after World War I, part of French Mandate Syria, but joined the Turkish Republic by plebiscite just before World War II.