14 November 2013
An Armenian farmer in Anjar, Lebanon, displays some of his produce. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
In 2002, we profiled Lebanon’s “Little Armenia,” which includes the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud and the rural town of Anjar in the Bekaa Valley region, some 60 miles to the northeast.
In Anjar, this transplant community of farmers was able to live off their allotted land for decades. However, recent times have brought new challenges:
Overlooking the Mediterranean, on the slope of Musa Dagh (Mount Moses), a stone’s throw from the Syrian border, more than 5,000 Armenians from six villages, were flushed from their homes by the Turks. …
Finally, in September 1939, with the help of the French Navy, they were relocated to the rugged, dry land of Anjar, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. While awaiting the construction of 1,000 single-room homes, these refugees lived for two years in tents. During the first months of their exile, malnutrition and malaria caused the death of some 500 Armenians. …
Despite the rugged climate of Anjar, the Armenians learned to work the land as they had back in Musa Dagh. In addition to 5,400 square yards of residential land, each family was allotted 9,360 square yards of agricultural land. …
“Once the lands were distributed, each family received 110 pounds of wheat for planting,” he adds. “We were able to make a living.”
“Today, I am unable to earn a living,” laments Boghos Taslakian, who is 77. “I sell my cabbages for 10 cents a pound at the market. In reality, agriculture has reached a dead end in Lebanon. My children are no longer interested — they don’t even know the exact location of the family farm. The majority of the youngsters are attracted by other activities, such as jewelry making.”
In order to make ends meet, farmers must take on other activities. After working as a farmer for more than 60 years, Assadour Makhoulian was forced to open a small supermarket in the village. Today his son operates it.
Read the rest in the July 2002 issue of our magazine.
Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity Armenian Apostolic Church Farming/Agriculture Armenian Catholic Church