103 years ago, on September 12, 1915, the 40-day heroic defense at Mount Musa Dagh (Musa Ler) ended in victory. Located in Western Armenia, Mount Musa Dagh was a hotbed of Armenian resistance during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Residents of the Armenian villages surrounding the mountain climbed Musa Dagh, fleeing from the attack of Ottoman troops.
The victims of the deportation program of the Armenian population organized by the government of the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 became the Armenians of even the most remote Armenian-populated areas of the Empire. In the heroic struggle of the Armenian people, the self-defense of the inhabitants of the six Armenian villages of the Mediterranean Suedia region truly stands out.
Having risen on Musa Dagh and having organized self-defense there, the Musalerians would manage to successfully defend themselves for 40 days and, throwing off the attack of the regular Turkish army, escape the massacre.
In the hopes that the help of the allies from the sea would arrive, the Musalerians raised two white flags – one with an image of a red cross and another with an inscription in English reading “Christians are in danger.” In order to attract the attention of passing ships, the flags were surrounded by bonfires to be visible at night.
In addition, a special guard was tasked at the sight of a warship to quickly deliver them a letter in English in a tin box with a call for help. However, for a long time, no ships appeared on the horizon, and the Turks periodically appealed to the Armenians with calls to surrender.
Finally, on the morning of September 5, the French cruiser “Guichen” carrying out intelligence service in the area appeared on the horizon. A sailor on duty with binoculars accidentally noticed the flag with the red cross installed on a mountain. At the same time, the Armenian guards immediately rushed into the sea and moved towards of the ship.
The French picked up the swimmers. After reading the letter and realizing the situation, they carried out precautionary artillery shots from the cruiser in the direction of the Turkish positions. In the evening of the same day, the cruiser left the area, promising to deliver assistance in the coming days.
On September 9, the commander of the Turkish army, seeing the seriousness of the situation, demands that the Musalerians surrender, threatening to start an offensive and not to spare anyone.
In such a fateful situation, the Musalerians choose the only correct tactic: from their positions, they began a counteroffensive and delivered a crushing blow to the front positions of the Turks, forcing them to retreat in panic.
On September 10, the French armored cruiser “Jeanne d’Arc” along with another French cruiser approached the shore of Musa Dagh. The warships would then bombard the Turkish positions for an entire day. The leadership of the Armenian self-defense units informed the Armenians that the French government has decided to transport them to Port Said.
On September 12, all the defenders of Musa Dagh descended from their positions to the sea. Over the next three days, the French and British squadron evacuated over 4,000 heroic Musalerians to the Egyptian city of Port Said. Musalerians took with them their saving flag with the red cross. Today, this flag is kept as a holy relic in the Ainchar ethnographic museum in Lebanon.