My name is Bedros Bidanian, and I am an electrical engineer, and graduate of the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. My professional life began in Beirut in 1984 right after my graduation, and continued in the Arabian Gulf, taking me from Qatar, to Kuwait, and back to Qatar in 2014.
“My story” will not be about my personal and professional achievements, but rather that of my “roots,” and of the epic journey of my ancestors, beginning with their courageous resistance during the events that led to the Armenian Genocide in 1915, and leading up to my generation, and where I think the journey beyond will take us.
I am a proud descendant of a small group of Armenians who heroically stood up against the pernicious plans of the Ottoman Empire, and fought for forty days on the steep slopes of “Musa Ler” – an epic resistance immortalized in Franz Werfel's novel “THE FORTY DAYS OF MUSA DAGH”.
There were several Armenian villages in the Sanjak of Alexandretta, on the shores of the North-Eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It is hard to tell how these villages were formed, and where their inhabitants came from, but it is safe to assume that they were most likely remnants from Armenian Cilicia. The Armenians living in that mountainous region for centuries formed a homogeneous group with a unique character and a distinct dialect.
In 1915, upon receiving an order from the Ottoman Empire to vacate their villages and take the road to the desert of Der Zor, my ancestors, the brave people of Musa Dagh, refused to obey the displacement orders, and chose to stay and stand up to the enemy. They chose to fight, and even die, rather than to succumb to the cruel threats of the enemy. They decided to go up the mountain, to higher ground, and by doing so were able to change their destiny.
And they did so by fighting fiercely; relying solely on their hunting rifles, and the few supplies that they could carry on their backs. Their only chance for outside assistance was a big Red Cross banner that they had posted on the high grounds of the mountain, hoping to attract the attention of the Allied navy patrolling the Mediterranean Sea.
They fought on the mountain for forty days, surviving against all odds. However, as their supplies and ammunition diminished so too did their hopes of survival. Just when despair was setting in, a miracle took place: The Red Cross flag had been spotted, and the French Navy had been notified about people seeking assistance. On September 15, 1915, the French navy battleship Guichen, under the command of Dartige du Fournet, and four other battleships, evacuated the Armenians of Musa Dagh to Port Said, Egypt.
The people of Musa Dagh remained in Port Said for four years until 1919. At the end of the First World War, and as per international agreements, France took control of the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, providing my ancestors with the opportunity to repatriate their homeland of Musa Dagh.
The returning population remained in their villages for the next 20 years, rebuilding what was destroyed, and reorganizing their lives.
However, in 1939, when the French government decided to hand over rule of the Sanjak of Alexandretta to Turkey, my ancestors decided to vacate their villages to avoid Turkish rule.
Their first stop was the Bay of Basit in Syria, where they remained for some time until they were allocated land in the village of Anjar, in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
Anjar was established, first as a tent community, and later as a village .
With the resilience of proud mountain people, they built the village, and rebuilt their shattered lives, against all odds. Life was very harsh for the new settlers. They had to fight the harsh climate of Bekaa Valley, and faced many fatal diseases. Unfortunately, they lost many children to malaria.
I was born in Anjar in 1960, into a very humble family, the youngest out of five sisters, and a brother. We were an extended family of 10 (including grandparents), living in two small rooms.
Life in Anjar was not easy. It’s the story of struggle, and of a poor farming community that never gives up.
And true to their character, the people of Musa Dagh have not given up, and with every generation living conditions in Anjar have improved, and people’s lives have progressed. Each generation has left an undeniable mark on the ongoing development of their village.
Anjar represents a strong Armenian community in the Diaspora, one with solid foundations, a unique character, and a distinct dialect that is still spoken by most villagers. It is a beautiful, small Armenian village; home to many churches, schools, and community centers etc., and home to a blooming new generation: the fourth generation outside Musa Dagh.
The struggle continues with the fourth generation descended from displaced persons. The means and place of the struggle may have changed, but the people’s zeal remains the same.
The humble seeds planted have sprouted branches and are growing....