Movses Panossian was born in 1885 in Musaler. The witness told that on July 13, 1915 the Turkish government issued an order according to which the Armenians were to be deported, however, the foremen from 7 villages held a meeting and decided that they were ready to die where they were born and had no intention to become refugees. Panossian also told about the defense of Musaler and French ships that rescued them.
I am the last participant of the heroic battle of Moussa Dagh and I am here, alive…
On the 13th of July, 1915, the Turkish government issued an order, telling: “In seven days all the Armenians must leave.” The elders of our seven villages met in Yoghun-Oluk and said: “I was born here, I will die here. I will not go as a slave to die with tortures under the enemy’s order; I will die here, with a gun in my hand, but I will not become an emigrant.” [While telling his testimony, Movses Panossian sometimes spoke in the dialect of Moussa Dagh – V. S.]. And so we did. We ascended the mountains. Everyone took whatever he had with him: mattresses, quilts, pots, pans, animals, and chickens.
We took everything to the mountain. The Turkish soldiers said to us: “You’re climbing like asses. Tomorrow you will come down like asses and will leave.”
The world was as mixed up then, as it is now. Before the battle of Moussa Dagh, our Hnchaks of Kheder-Bek had gone to fight the Turks in Zeytoun with Mr. Aghassi Toursargsian. That was why when our Moussa Dagh battle began, Mr. Aghassi said: “These are the seeds I have sown.” Until the battle of the mountain, my father used to go to the training by night, and mother used to say to my grandfather: “Your son goes to the training by night, comes in the morning, takes the plough and goes to the fields. He never stays at home.”
My grandpa said to his daughter-in-law: “We must always be ready like that.”
So, well organized, we climbed up the mountain. Our two corporals, Sabintsian and Minas’ grandfather (he was a master of silk worms) split us into groups. Our Tataralang was a flat open field. In those days, the Tatars had wanted to reap the Armenians with scythes, but our people had made short work of them. That was why that place was called Tataralang; that is to say, a place to massacre the Tatars.
We occupied our positions at the pass of Tataralang. Tshents Poghos was there. He had been a soldier of the Turkish army. The English had shot and wounded him. He could play the bugle. He could transfer the news well and he could understand the meaning of the Turk’s trumpets: whether the signal meant something good or bad. That trumpeter Poghos said to us: “Go forward, but the Turkish bullet can kill you. It enters as a small bullet, but the wound is big, be careful.”
What I had was a hunting rifle, and the bullets were filled from the end of the barrel. It was difficult to use it. I did not have a regular gun to fight the Turks the way I wanted. There Mardjimag was wounded. I saw it but was afraid and changed my place. The son-in-law of Blagh Agoup remained there. A bullet shot him and he died before my eyes. My brother Davit was 30 years old; he died there. We buried him with military honors. There were many boys from Hadji-Habibli as were the fighters from Yoghun-Oluk. We shot the Turkish commander and their trumpeter. Seeing that, the Turkish soldiers ran away. After the fight, we went down the mountain and saw their corpses on the ground. The Turks left behind their animals and provisions and ran away. I saw the Turks’ sheep eating the cracked wheat. I took the wheat that was left and threw it over my back to carry it to the mountain. We reached Ghezeldjekh and my family was in Savalokh. I walked on and on and reached our people. My mother and sister saw me and rejoiced. They had already recruited my brother Hakob in the Turkish army and had killed all the Armenians on the road while taking them to a valley. So, my brother Hakob had already been killed before the battle of the mountain…
The Turks attacked us four times, but each time got their answer. Our boys of Moussa Dagh fought well: the women and girls helped us; they brought us water to drink in water jugs. Several women, rifle in hand, fought with us. One of them was Nashalian; she was very brave… The children had become messengers: they carried news from one front to the other… All of them were at work. One day a Turk had come to the mountains to plunder. The women had caught him and killed him with stones. Good for you, women! There was always a white cloud, something like mist, on our mountains. One could say that God had sent it specially to help us, for we could see the enemy from above, but the enemy could not see us. The Turks tried to come up, but whoever did so was killed. “Come on, eh Mohammed, come on, eh Mohammed,” we used to say and shoot. The Turks could hardly stand this for two hours and then they fled…
It often rained in the mountains; the raindrops pierced our body. Once, when it was raining, we entered under a rock for shelter. Sheikh Panos’ son was with us. He had a book and it always was under his arm. We said: “Open your book. Let’s see what our future will be.”
Sheikh Panos’ son opened the book and began his prediction: “A ladder will come down from Heaven and we’ll be rescued.”
He said this, but we did not believe him, because we had been fighting for more than forty days, day and night; we were exhausted. Our food and the ammunition were getting less and less… The Mediterranean Sea was behind us. At night, we lit a fire for the passing ships to see us and come closer. During the day, Reverend Andreassian had drawn a Red Cross on a bed-sheet and displayed it on the mountain slope… A few days passed and finally a ship was seen far out at sea. The Kerekians’ son was a good swimmer; he dived into the sea and swam to the ship. There was a small metal box hung from his neck, containing a letter written in French. From the ship, they had been watching with field glasses; they had seen him. They helped him to get on board the ship. Movses had knelt, crossed his face to make them understand that he was a Christian, for he could not speak French. He had given the captain the written letter; they had read it, understood that about five thousand Armenian Christians of Moussa Dagh were waiting for God’s salvation. The captain had asked where they were, where the enemy was, how long they could withstand: “You resist for 8 more days, let me get permission from my government, either we’ll bring you weapons or come and rescue you.” They did not bring us any weapons, but they came with warships and rescued us. As Panos’ son had said, they lowered ladders from the ship, and we went up on board the ship. What he had said was always in my mind, and I never lost hope, and we were rescued…
Verjine Svazlian. The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors. Yerevan: “Gitoutyoun” Publishing House of NAS RA, 2011, testimony 281, pp. 463-464.