Union of Marash Armenians Remember 99th Anniversary of Heroic Defense

Union of Marash Armenians-Watertown Chapter members and volunteers, March 10, 2019

WATERTOWN, Mass.—The Union of Marash Armenians-Watertown Chapter continued its beloved tradition on Sunday, commemorating the 99th anniversary of the defense of Marash, arguably one of the more heroic chapters of Armenian history.  

Following the Armenian Genocide of 1915, many surviving Armenians returned to their ancestral hometown of Marash in historic Cilicia to pick up the pieces. During this time, the Armenians of Marash were under the protection of French legionnaires. In January of 1920, Turkish forces unexpectedly invaded the region in a hard-fought battle that lasted three weeks. The city was soon lit up in flames, as the newly-rebuilt homes and churches were torched. Tragically, the villagers were burned to death inside.

Brave Marashtsis [locals of Marash] took up arms to protect the churches that were sheltering men, women and children, but on the fateful night of February 10, the French retreated, turning Marash over to the Turks. “It was 1915 all over again,” recalled keynote speaker Reverend Father Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church. “Unspeakable massacres took place,” while 800 others, Reverend Baljian explained, decided to follow the French cavalry. But many succumbed to the freezing cold and did not survive the impossible 75-mile journey on foot to safety. Only a small group made it, said Reverend Baljian, who linked the fortitude of the Marashtsis to the miraculous recovery of the Zeytun Gospels, as described in Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh’s latest book The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript From Genocide to Justice.

Reverend Baljian’s historical examination served as a reminder of why this group comes together every year for this memorial tribute almost a century later. “Our gathering here is a sign that we are still honoring and respecting our martyrs,” said chapter member and recording secretary Maral Der Torossian in Armenian during her welcome address to the 100 guests inside the church hall of St. Stephen’s in Watertown.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian attends this event almost every year, not only because he’s a proud descendant of Marashtsis, but because he says it’s hard to reject Nevart Kouyoumjian, dedicated chair of the Watertown organization for the past 16 years. Koutoujian spoke about the resolve of the Armenian spirit as he recalled how his grandparents fled Marash, carefully treading past the lifeless bodies of their friends and neighbors along the way. “Our history is so important to hold onto,” said Koutoujian. “We suffered a terrible genocide. And we’re still here. We survived.”

In memory of those who perished, guests were served a traditional hokejash—keshkeg with squash stew, barley pilaf, kheyma and tomato salad.

The program featured performances by local talent. Sirena Seferian and Anita Tomasian each shared classical piano renditions. Ten year-old Lara Chekijian and 11 year-old Saro Iskenderian impressed the audience with their powerful Armenian recitations from Derenik Demirchyan’s Vardanank and Andranik Tzarukian’s Letter to Yerevan, respectively. Vocalist Hovhannes Khacheryan also took the stage for “Tun Im Hayreni.” Later on, he invited the audience to sing along to “Cilicia” and “Getashen.”

Proceeds from this event and others hosted by the Union of Marash Armenians-Watertown Chapter always go back to the Armenian community. In the past, the organization has supported St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School, Armenian Radio Hour and even young people who have wanted to attend Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Mass., but their families could not afford it. “Wherever there’s a need, we give,” explained Kouyoumjian. She and her younger sister Mary Arabian have been active members and leaders of the local Marash community since they immigrated to the US in 1976.

They, along with other members of the Union of Marash, are proud of the Marashtsi traditions they have built up and kept. “Now we pass the torch to the young generation to continue our bright future,” concluded Der Torossian.

Editor’s Note: The author of this piece has close ties to the Union of Marash Armenians and has volunteered at this event in years past. 

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the former assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.


  1. Did Union of Marash Armenians-Watertown Chapter members remember the anniversary on behalf of Marash Turks. ? I wonder whether Watertown Chapter members remember how their Grand Grand fathers joined the French invaders, wearing French military uniforms rebeled their state and persecuted their Turkish neighbours

    • What is a “Marash Turk”? Oh you mean a Central Asiatic invading homeless squatter who took up the ideology of Sharia Terrorism in order to justify the continued occupation, destruction, cultural theft and ultimate Genocide of the indigenous Armenian population who had been living on their ancestral lands for thousands of years? Why on Earth would anyone remember an invading foreign terrorist scoundrel like that????

    • In 1950s During my college education my principal told me that I shouldn’t discuss with the ignorant people. Now I include taht advise the people WHO have lack of dressage. ( My reply is for all the Armenians joining disscussion here) My last comment ; Are you not aware of the United Nations’ Convention , 1948? If you are sure the documents at your hands are real historic ones. why you hasitate to apply a competent international court? So far, no Armenian answere that question, because thet do not count on their documents which are fabricated and grand ma stories. Please try to be more civilized during such discussion.

    • Orhan Tan,

      Being a hardcore denialist of the Armenian Genocide, such as yourself, is not the definition of being educated; that’s the definition of being an ignorant imbecile.

      In terms of taking Turkey to the International Court of Justice for the three genocides that the Ottoman Turks committed against the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians, the problem is that Turkey would certainly never submit to any kind of decision rendered against it for those horrible crimes.

      In terms of documents, Germany, Britain, and the United States all possess a massive amount of documents on the Armenian Genocide inside their archives. What about Taner Akcam, who is a Turk and happens to be a very distinguished Armenian Genocide scholar. He possesses many important documents on the Armenian Genocide.

  2. First; In the world history, questioning the origin of the people who have settled in a part of the world for centuries long may cause unlogical conclusions. Such as; all USA, including the USA Government, is supposed to be considered as the Spanish and Portugese invaders. Does it make sense today? If it is considered so, why Armenian Assembly of America just requested from the USA (“squatters” in your mantality) more than 100.000.000 $ for helping improve Armenian democracy (https://massispost.com/2019/03/armenian-assembly-co-chairman-van-krikorian-testifies-before-congress/)? Besides, another reminder, the root of USA is not going back to even 300 years ago, but Ottoman Empire had stayed in three continents for 500 years..
    Second; what is the meaning of cultural theft, does it mean a kind of asimilation? If it is so, why none of Ottoman Armenians lost their native languge and religion in these 500 years?
    Third; if we are going to talk about an imaginary genocide, I’d wish to talk about the latest genocide executed by Armenian army before the eyes of whole world witness just before the beginning of 21. century. I mean the invasion of Azerbaijan terrritory and “Khojaly Massacre”. And here are some legal and historical facts that are universally accepted concerning how Armenians carried out a genocide:
    Historical remarks of Ministry of Defence of Armenia, Serj Sarkisyan, on 18th May 2001, he says: “There are lands that we INVADED. There is nothing to shy about it. For our security, we INVADED these territories. We were also saying this before 1992 and we are saying this now too. Maybe my style of talking is not diplomatic but this is the fact.” So, I think any Armenian official should read the Article 35 of the UN Charter to be informed first about the rule of international law.
    In USA, 16 state parliaments have accepted “Khojaly Massacre” as “GENOCIDE”. Also, it is officially recorded by the Human Rights Watch, by the resolution number 822 of the UN Security Council, by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by the European Court of Human Rights (22nd April 2010) and by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation Europe Minsk Group.
    Is there any other universal admission and evidence needed to show more clearly about how the great Armenian Army executed a great genocide against babies?

    • Thank you Serkan Korkmaz; you have perfectly represented the facts. One more important point: it is pointed out that “Marash were under the protection of French legionnaires. In January of 1920, Turkish forces unexpectedly invaded the region….” Marash was at that time were the Turkish territory since thousand year. What were the French legionary looking for in the region? Weren’t the invaders? Therefore saying “Turkish forces unexpectedly invaded the region..” is absurd. Hi.. our old neighbors let us be serious and honest.

    • “Facts”? Which facts? You Turks are endlessly and desperately denying all the facts about your history, which is filled with horrible crimes from top to bottom.

      On the subject of stealing cultures, the Turks have been the champions in this. After all, your cuisine, music, and arts were stolen from the Armenians and Greeks. Your genes were stolen as well, as a result of the massive amount of rape committed by your forefathers against young Armenian women. Again, this explains the reason why today’s Turks look so much like Armenians, as opposed to looking like the Mongolians that they originally were.

      As for the indigenous Armenian population who had lived on its ancestral lands (the six provinces of Western Armenia) for over four thousand years prior to the unwelcome arrival of the Turks from Central Asia in 1064 AD, their native language and religion had indeed been lost after the 1915 Genocide. As a result of the Ottoman Turks’ success in completely wiping out the entire Armenian population of Western Armenia, what does this therefore mean? This obviously means that their language and religion no longer exist in their ancestral lands.

      “In USA, 16 state parliaments have accepted “Khojaly Massacre” as “Genocide.”

      No, they have not. They have not accepted any kind of “Khojaly Genocide.” What they recognize is the “Khojaly Massacre.” So what? It’s very well-known that the parliaments of those particular states accepted large quantities of money from the Azerbaijani government in exchange for recognizing “a massacre committed by Armenian soldiers against Azerbaijani civilians.”

      As for those pro-Turk/pro-Turkbaijani organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, UN Security Council, and OSCE, what sort of factual evidence do they have against the Armenians in regard to the Khojaly massacre? They have nothing!

      On the other hand, if those Armenian soldiers had truly massacred those 161 Azerbaijani civilians, how could you possibly compare that with the 1.5 million victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide? What about the three hundred thousand Armenian victims of the 1894-1896 Hamidian Massacres? And then on top of that, what about the massacres of Armenians in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad, and Maragha? What about the 243 Armenian civilians who were massacred in Stepanakert by Azerbaijani artillery and rocket fire, between 1991-1992? What about the slaughter of thirty thousand Armenian civilians in Baku, by a combination of Azerbaijani and Turkish soldiers in September of 1918? What about the slaughter of 25 thousand Armenian civilians in Shoushi, by a combination of Azerbaijani and Turkish soldiers in May of 1920?

      When it comes to committing genocides and massacres, and doing it in the most gruesome manner, there has been no bigger champion in this particular field other than the Turks and Turkbaijanis (Azerbaijanis).

  3. Yeravan telling what he believes on what is continuously repeated tales and assuming that they are the facts. It might be considered those tales if there is any real share of claims but it’s never been based on un-refutable evidences; many forgeries. The problem is that the descendants of our ancient neighbors are mind-conditioned and they cannot think otherwise; the others are guilty and they are completely innocents. Please take care by listening the stories that recited to you; better to read also what the other scientific researchers have been exposed about what happened before, during and after the WWI. We the people we are not the enemies only the politicians of the time leaded the tragedies. Otherwise you cannot explain how we the Turks and Armenians lived together for centuries. Have you read the Report of Hovannes Kachaznouni, -The first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Armenia- presented at the Bucarest Congress of Dashnaktsutiun Party held on April 1923; the original one was in Russian; but I give you the English copy’s link: http://www.turkishpac.org/pdfs/KachaznuniEnglish.pdf.

    • Another typical Turk denialist comment, filled with diarrhea!

      Here’s one of the many eyewitness accounts of what it was like to be an Armenian in the former Ottoman Turkish Empire:

      “The British ethnographer, William Ramsay, who spent more than a decade in Turkey doing fieldwork and was fond of the Turks, described what it meant to be an infidel”:

      “Turkish rule… meant unutterable contempt… The Armenians (and the Greeks) were dogs and pigs… to be spat upon, if their shadow darkened a Turk, to be outraged, to be mats on which he wiped the mud from his feet. Conceive the inevitable result of centuries of slavery, of subjection to insult and scorn, centuries in which nothing that belonged to the Armenian, neither his property, his house, his life, his person, nor his family, was sacred or safe from violence, and to resist which by violence meant death.”

      In terms of Katchaznouni, yes, I know very well how Turk denialists (such as yourself) use falsified translations, published by Kaynak Yayinlari, which are the exact opposite of what Katchaznouni stated. In the original text (page 7), Katchaznouni clearly states that what happened to the Armenians was a “holocaust.”

  4. Dear Sirs:
    My Father, Nazareth Minas Aintablian, formally from Watertown, MA. was a faithful attendee of the St. Stevens Apostolic Church as was the rest of the family until 1972 when He & his household moved to Garden Grove, CA until his death in the year 2000 at the age of 88 & his wife Koharik passed away in 2003 at the age of 80. Eldest son, Antranig passed in 2014 at the age 69 a few months short of his 70th year while living in Newport Beach, CA.
    My name is Vartan Nazareth Aintablian, age 68, second of the 5 children, all four of us are still alive. Aznieve, Hrach, & Armen. I would like to know if you or any other groups have any history of my Grandfather “Minas Aintablian”, of Marash, Turkey, genocide victim of World War 1. If so, please email me with any information. I will be most grateful and happy to contribute for your time, documentation & percentage of any financial rewards due my family. If you need any further information that will enable you for additional research, please do not hesitate to reach me. Thank you for your time and energy for this cause.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Vartan “Vic” Nazareth Aintablian
    1350 E. Washington Bl. Apt 5
    Pasadena, CA 91104

  5. Hello, old neighbors,
    I’m Cuma Ali’s grandsom Yunus Emre Koç. My ancestors have lived in Marash for hundreds of years. I liken what the old neighbour’s said to an incoherent and distressing effort to exist. My grandfather told me this: He mentioned that they were Armenian neighbors living in their own villages . He said that the Armenian and the Turks shared a food supplies with each other. My grandfather’s father goes to visit his Armenian friend to give bulgur to his Armenian neighbor. He sees food cooking in a big caldron. He can’t make sense of the Armenian not giving him a treat. Because for us Turks sharing with your guest and your neighbors is a very valuable behavior. He ask why he doesn’t shared the food.The Armenian neighbor says “Dude, that’s pork” we don’t eath pork because of our religious beliefs. My Armenian neighbors treated my great-grandparents with respect and my grandfather shared everything with them .But I see that sharing can’t be friendly. Because the child of the same neighbor doesn’t think good things about the Turks. I have witnessed that my grandfather’s father , didn’t harm any Armenians. And no Turks adds anything but faith to humanity. Kahramanmaraşlı Türk Yunus ve Kürtürlü Atceli Cuma Ali’s grandsom.

  6. Never respect the EVIL as you Turks are. Blood for blood… as you murdered 90% of my family. Turkey is cursed and very shortly will fall apart from the inside. You are carrying the noble gens of Armenians, Greek, and other nationalities who you killed, raped, burned alive, crucified, and beheaded.
    Innocent blood on you all despite how much time will pass.
    The Earhtquik in Marash was a small token of what is coming on you for all the innocent blood that you still shading.
    Repent and ask for God’s forgiveness for the Armenian Genocide…for all the pain you have inflicted on others…
    God is watching you and your time is up…

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