Dear compatriots,

We are gathered today, after celebrating together the independence of Western Armenia on January 19 (1920), to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Legion.

After the second Artsakh war in 2020 and the occupation of a large part of the territory of Artsakh region by Azerbaijan, Turkey and Azerbaijan are now seeking to turn a pseudo-military victory into legal ground.

This legal ground is not only the question of the status of Artsakh, but also the question of the rights of Western Armenia.

In this context, as was the case with the Artsakh issue, the Republic of Armenia is being asked by Turkey to make concessions to Turkey on the territorial issues of Western Armenia, for which it has no legitimacy, and on the issue of the genocide and consequent reparations. The 17th century partition of historical Armenia into two territories, Western and Eastern, had led to the political, sociological and economic divisions of the Armenian nation. Armenia entered the race for independence with this handicap. The world war accelerated the dislocation of the multinational states, and the Bolshevik revolution, by exalting class struggles and ideological quarrels, introduced another plane of division.

However, when we talk about Western Armenia, we are talking about a part of the territory of historical Armenia on which lived and still lives an indigenous population that suffered a genocide, applied by three successive Turkish governments from 1894 to 1923.

In 1912, the Patriarch of Etchmiadzin Kevork V, Catholicos of all Armenians, empowered President Boghos Nubar by means of an official circular to participate in and carry out diplomatic negotiations with the objective of establishing an Armenian state on the territory of Western Armenia by freeing itself from the Ottoman yoke.

As a continuation of this responsibility, Boghos Nubar, in partnership with the French military authorities, formed the “Legion Orient” on November 15, 1916, which was largely made up of Armenian refugees from Musa Dagh, with the essential goal of

1. That the constitution of the Oriental Legion was intended to make the Armenians contribute to the liberation of Cilicia and thus create new titles for their national aspirations. 

2. That the Armenian legionaries would fight only against the Turks and only in Cilicia. 

3. That the Armenian legion would in future form the nucleus of the Armenian national army.

The Eastern Legion (Armenian National Army) fought and participated in the liberation of Palestine against the Turkish army from June to September 1918 precisely when the Armenian Republic of the Caucasus, whose capital was Yerevan, signed an agreement with Turkey in Batumi on June 4, 1918.

On October 10, 1918, the Eastern Legion arrived in Damascus, liberated from the Turkish army.

Cilicia was liberated by the Oriental Legion on November 15, 1918. On January 3, 1919, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs received an Armenian request to transform the Oriental Legion into an Armenian and a Syrian Legion.

This measure came into effect on February 1, 1919. Lieutenant-Colonel Romieu retained the command of the Armenian Legion. It comprised 50 officers and 3660 men, 288 of whom were French.

Official source: French Archives, French troops in the Levant. Army.

Thus, on February 1, 1919, the Oriental Legion officially became an Armenian Legion, (the anniversary of the constitution of the Armenian army of Western Armenia). The Armenians of Cilicia who had survived the genocide returned to Cilicia to participate in its reconstruction.

 After the de jure recognition of an Armenia on the territory of Western Armenia on May 11, 1920, and in application of the Treaty of Sevres signed by France on the basis of its Mandate over Cilicia and the Eastern territories (up to Qamishli), France took the decision to disband the Armenian Legion on July 1, 1920.

We consider this dissolution too fast and therefore as a first act of abandonment of Cilicia to the Turkish invaders.

“Generous France will proudly remember that she had the honor of entrusting Sons of Armenia with a batch of bayonets which they wielded with enthusiasm.” 

As a result of the occupation of Kessab by jihadist forces, the Armenian Legion (Hay) was officially reconstituted by presidential decree in Latakya on 24 April 2014.

The second act of abandonment by France in the direction of Armenian Cilicia was the Angora Agreement of October 20, 1921, which was not ratified by France and Kemalist Turkey, but which was applied to the detriment of the Mandate of the Protectorate over the Armenian populations.

However, in the name of Western Armenia, I guarantee the continuation of the mission of the Armenian Legion on the spiritual, philosophical and ideological basis of the Gamavors.

In terms of psychological and physical warfare, it was the Gamavors who formed the Liberation Army in Artsakh, it was the Gamavors who liberated Shushi, it was the Gamavors who liberated the Martakert region, it was the Gamavors who liberated the Karvadjar region, in fact, it was the Gamavors who liberated the whole of Artsakh, noting that a significant part of these Gamavors were sons of Western Armenia.

Armenag Aprahamian

President of the National Council of Western Armenia