95 Anniversary of Musaler Battles

The monument “Musaler”, symbolizing selfdefense battles in Musaler village, is located on the way to Echmiatsin. On September 19 of the current year, we’re going to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the self-defense battles in Musaler. On this occasion we had a talk to the monument gallery manager Anush Malkhasyan and Vardges Martiryan the secretary of “Musaler” Patriotic Union. First, however, we’d like to refer to the history of the battle. Musa Ler was the site of the famed resistance. Of the hundreds of villages, towns, and cities across the Ottoman Empire whose Armenian population was ordered to remove to the Syrian desert, Musa Ler, located on the Mediterranean Sea south of the coastal town of
Alexandretta and west of ancient Antioch, was one of only four sites where Armenians organized a defense of their community against the deportation edicts issued by the Young Turk regime beginning in April 1915. By the time the Armenians of the six villages – Bitias, Yoghun-Olok, Haji-Habibli, Khedr-Bek, Vagef and Kabusi – were instructed to evict their homes and chose instead to retreat up the mountain and to defy the evacuation order. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Armenians had little expectations of surviving the siege of the mountain when food stocks were depleted after a month. Their only hope was a chance rescue by an Allied vessel that might be patrolling the Mediterranean coast. Eventually French warships moved in and transported the entire population to the Port Said in Egypt.

When, how and where does “Harisa” ceremony takes place?
Vardges Martiryan: – Harisa is the symbol of the fight and memory, and the musalertsies from all over the world celebrate this event, but the real activists are from Vagef, Turkey, and Aynchar, Lebanon. By the way, Vagef is the only village where you can see only Armenians living there, no Turks can be found. The event of Harisa (matagh) marks the unanimity of musalertsies, who were together both in the period of war and peace. Musa Ler had somehow become the salvation of their fort, as they had only water, wheat and sheep there, and they made harisa (a dish that combines the lamb with rice and
grains) and divided people.

Who cooks harisa or is there a special man who takes this responsibility and passes this tradition from generation to generation?
Anush Malkhasyan: – It seems we hear Uncle Poghos’s words, but there is no such a tradition. Everyone can take part in cooking harisa from young to elder. But we respect our elders and they have an important part in cooking harisa. 

VardgesMartiryan: – You know, this is not a feast where you must do nothing but eat, it’s a great ideology, the meaning of which is a unanimous struggle and a unanimous victory.

What is the role of the young men in it?
VardgesMartiryan: – “Musaler” Patriotic Union consists of two parts – administrative part and the youth wing, over 130 people take part in the ceremony, they know both the history and the dialect.

What songs and dances characterize the event?
VardgesMartiryan: – There are a number of them, but the famous ones are “Dapkina”, “Dzundrhava” from dances, and “Gyarne ” from songs.

Did you ever have a tourist at the ceremony?
Anush Malkhasyan: – Yes, we did, although compared with previous years the number of tourists has reduced. Mostly, we have tourists from the Armenian Diaspora, Germany as connected with the German writer Franz Werfel “Forty Days of Musaler”, from France connected with Tartizh de Furne who provided great assistance to the Armenians. On September 19 we’ll celebrate the 95th anniversary of the battles in Musaler.

How are you doing with the preparation works for the ceremony?

Vardges Martiryan: – Everything is ready for the ceremony. Beside the dances, songs and harisa cooking, we’ll also celebrate the 10th anniversary of Vagef Patriot Union, and 30 out of the union members will go to the pilgrimage to Turkey, we’ll visit the cemetery of the famous warrior Yesayo Yaghubyan, we’ll have a football match at school after Franz Werfel and a photography exhibition.

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