Musa Dagh,Musa Ler ( Մուսա Լեռ, Musa meaning “Moses Mountain”) was the site of resistance by the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. The denizens of that region had been given an official order from the Turkish government where they became violently expelled from their six villages (Kabusia (Kaboussieh), Yoghunoluk, Bitias, Vakef, Kheter Bey (Khodr Bey), Haji Habibli) by the Ottomans in 1915. As Ottoman Turkish forces converged upon the town, the populace aware of the impending danger fell back upon Musa mountain and repeatedly thwarted assaults for fifty-three days. Allied warships, most notably French, in the Mediterranean sighted the survivors, as Werfel was told, just as ammunition and food provisions were running out. The warships then transported them to safety in Port Said, Egypt. British and French ships successfully helped evacuate 4200 men, women and children from Musa Dagh.
Starting in 1918, when Hatay province came under French control, six Armenian villages returned to their homes. On June 29, 1939, following an agreement between France and Turkey the province was given to Turkey. Nearly 250 men took part in the defense, fighting off Turkish armies in June of 1915. The Armenians had refused deportation and fled to the highest mountain in the town, and through July to September of 1915 they defended themselves until French ships rescued them.Afterwards Armenians from six of the villages emigrated from Hatay, while some of the residents of Vakıflı village chose to stay.Vakıflı is the only remaining ethnic Armenian village in Turkey, with a population only 140 Turkish-Armenians. Those who left the Hatay in 1939 immigrated to Lebanon where they founded 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 as saying, “The evil only happened… to enable God to show us His goodness.”
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. A movie of the same name was released in 1982.
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”.