20 August 2004

First "Mousa Ler" Armenian Conference

AZAD-HYE (20 August 2004): On 13th August 2004, His Holiness Aram I Catholicos received in Antelias the Organizing Committee of the First Conference of "Mousa Ler" (also known as Mousa Dagh) Armenians, headed by Dr. Vazken Der Kaloustian.

The preparatory period of this Conference lasted about one year, at the end of which "Mousa Ler" Armenians from all around the world gathered in Anjar (the center of "Mousa Ler" Armenians) from 8-11 August 2004.

Besides dealing with many of organizational issues, the "Mousa Ler" Armenians celebrated the 65th anniversary of establishing the town of Anjar in the Beqaa valley (Eastern Lebanon).

The members of the Organizing Committee presented the Catholicos a copy of the Final Statement of the Conference. They pointed out that the event was a successful one, considered to be the first such attempt to bring "Mousa Ler" Armenians together, on many levels (organizational, social, cultural, etc.).

The Catholicos, from his side, referred to the unique position of Anjar on the map of the Armenian presence in Lebanon and praised the devoted work of "Mousa Ler" Armenians in preserving their traditions.

"Mousa Ler", literally meaning the "Mountain of Moses", is situated in the present day Hatay Province of Turkey, not far from the capital Antioch (this Province was until 1939 part of the Alexandretta Province of Syria, but it was granted to Turkey by the French mandate forces).

The Armenians of "Mousa Ler" are famous in modern Armenian history for their struggle against the Ottoman invaders, who surrounded their 6 villages during the World War I and tried to annihilate the population. The people of "Mousa Ler" ascended their sacred mountain and organized a heroic defence for forty complete days until a French vessel spotted them from a nearby coastal area and came to their rescue. The population was transported to Port Said in Egypt. They returned back to their ancestral villages after the Turkish defeat in World War I. In 1939 they retreated to the town of Anjar (Lebanon). Their ordeal was the core of a novel written by a Jewish Austrian novelist called Franz Werfl ("Forty Days of Mousa Dagh").

Modern day "Mousa Ler" area includes one forgotten Armenian village, called Vakf, whose Armenian population (mainly aged) is trying to preserve itself in the sea of a Turkish majority. It is considered to be one of the last Armenian villages in present-day Turkey.

So next time you visit Lebanon, just include in your itinerary a must visit to the town of Anjar (It is a worthwhile stopover on the connecting road between Beirut and Damascus, close to the Lebanese-Syrian border. It has also ancient Arabic ruins from the time of the Umayyad Caliphate.

For more information see the official website of the Mousa Ler Association of California.

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