Armenians in Lebanon
|Regions with significant populations|
Beirut (Ashrafieh) |
|Armenian (Western) · Arabic|
|Armenian Apostolic Church • Armenian Catholic Church • Armenian Evangelical Church|
The Armenians in Lebanon (Armenian: Լիբանանահայեր lipananahayer, Arabic: اللبنانيون الأرمن) (French: Libano-Armenien) are Lebanese citizens of Armenian descent. There has been an Armenian presence in Lebanon for centuries. According to Minority Rights Group International, there are 156,000 Armenians in Lebanon, around 4% of the population. Prior to the Lebanese Civil War, the number was higher, but the community lost a portion of its population to emigration. Prior to 1975, Beirut was a thriving center of Armenian culture with varied media production, which was exported to the Armenian diaspora.
Armenians first established contact with Lebanon when Tigranes the Great conquered Phoenicia from the Seleucids and made it part of his short-lived Armenian Empire. When the Roman Empire established its rule over both Armenia and ancient Lebanon, some Roman troops of Armenian origin went there in order to accomplish their duties as Romans. After Armenia converted to Christianity in 301, Armenian pilgrims established contact with Lebanon and its people on their way to Jerusalem; some of whom would settle there.
Armenians in Lebanon (1915-1975)
The Armenian presence in Lebanon during the Ottoman period was minimal; however, there was a large influx of Armenians after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Other Armenians inhabited the area of Karantina (literally "Quarantine", a port-side district in the Lebanese capital of Beirut). Later on, a thriving Armenian community was formed in the neighbouring district of Bourj Hammoud.
In 1939, after the French ceded the Syrian territory of Alexandretta to Turkey, Armenians and other Christians from the area moved to the Bekaa Valley. The Armenians were grouped in Anjar, where a community exists to this day. Some of these Armenian refugees had been settled by the French mandate authorities in camps in the South of Lebanon which would later make way for Palestinian refugees.
Armenians in Lebanon (1975-present)
During the Lebanese Civil War, Armenians, grouped in Bourj Hammoud and Anjar, did their best to remain neutral. There are three prominent Armenian political parties in Lebanon: the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Tashnag), Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (Hunchag) and Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramgavar Party). They play significant influence in all facets of Armenian life. Various Armenian armed organizations, such as ASALA, JCAG and ARA became active in Lebanon, and used it as a launching pad for their operations. Put forth by the Armenian bloc of the Lebanese Parliament, the legislature unanimously approved on 4 April 1997 a resolution, calling for the commemoration of the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government.
Armenians live in many parts of Lebanon. Historically most Armenians have lived in Beirut and Matn District. From Beirut proper we can mention grander Ashrafieh: Hadjen (Corniche Nahr), Khalil Badawi, Karm el Zeytoun (Հայաշէն), Rmeil, Jmmeyze, Soursok, and Jeitawi. Armenians have had strong presence also in other Beirut regions such as Khandaq Ghamik, Zuqaq al-Blat, Zarif, Bab Idris, Sanayeh (Kantari), Clemenceau and Hamra, among others. During the civil war many of these Armenians emigrated or fled to safer regions in Lebanon. From the Beirut suburbs, there are big concentrations in Matn District, particularly Bourj Hammoud, Dora-Amanos, Fanar, Rawda, Jdeide, Zalka, Jal El Dib, Antelias, Mzher (Dzaghgatzor), Naccash, Dbayeh, Awkar and in the regions situated from Antelias to Bikfaya. To the north, there are further Armenian populations scattered in Jounieh, Jbeil (Byblos) and Tripoli (particularly the Mina area).
There are Armenian religious centers in Antelias and Bikfaya (Armenian Apostolic Church) and Beirut and Bzommar (Armenian Catholic Church). There is an Armenian orphanage in historic sites in Jbeil (Byblos).
Bourj Hammoud, an Armenian city in Lebanon
Bourj Hammoud (or Burj Hammud) (Armenian: Պուրճ Համուտ, Arabic: برج حموﺪ) is a suburb in east Beirut, Lebanon in the Metn district. The suburb is heavily populated by Armenians as it is where most survivors of the Armenian Genocide settled. Bourj Hammoud is an industrious area and is one of the most densely populated cities in the Middle East. It is divided into seven major regions, namely Dora, Sader, Nahr Beirut, Anbari, Mar Doumet, Naba'a and Gheilan.
Bourj Hamoud has a majority Armenian population but also has a notable number of other Lebanese Christians, a considerable Shi'a Muslim population, a Kurdish population, and some Palestinian refugees and newcomer Christian refugees from Iraq.
Most streets in Bourj Hammoud are named after various Armenian cities such as Yerevan, mountains such as Aragats, and rivers such as Araks. A lot of streets are also named after cities and regions in modern-day-Turkey which were heavily populated by Armenians such as Cilicia, Marash, Sis, Adana, etc.
Mezher (Dzaghgatzor), an Armenian town in Lebanon
Mzher (or Dzaghgatzor in Armenian) is a small town located between Antelias and Bsalim, in Matn district. It is a new town, where most of the population is Armenian, along with other Christians. In Mzher the Armenian community has one of the top Armenian schools, Melankton and Haig Arslanian College (Jemaran) and a socio-cultural sport club, Aghpalian. The headquarters of SAHALCO are also situated nearby. Most of the Armenians of Mzher come from Bourj Hamoud, Ashrafieh, Anjar and the other old Armenian quarters.
Anjar, an Armenian village in Lebanon
Anjar (Arabic: عنجر, Armenian: Այնճար), also known as Haoush Mousa (حوش موسى), is a town of Lebanon located in the Bekaa Valley. The population is about 2,400 consisting almost entirely of Armenians.
According to the traditional Lebanese confessional representation in the Lebanese Parliament, a certain number of seats have been reserved for Armenian candidates according to their confession. Presently the Lebanese-Armenians are represented in the 128-seat Lebanese Parliament with 6 guaranteed seats (5 Armenian Orthodox and 1 Armenian Catholic) as follows:
- 1 Armenian Orthodox and 1 Armenian Catholic seat in the Beirut I electoral district
- 2 Armenian Orthodox seats in the Beirut II electoral district
- 1 Armenian Orthodox seat in the Matn District
- 1 Armenian Orthodox seat in Zahle District
As many Protestants in Lebanon are ethnic Armenians, the sole parliamentary slot for Evangelical (Protestant) community has at times been filled by an Armenian, making for a total of 7 Armenian deputees in the Lebanese Parliament. Lebanese Armenians have been represented in government by at least one government minister in the formations of Lebanese governments. In case of larger governments (with 24 ministers and above) Armenians are traditionally given two government ministry positions. Lebanese-Armenians also have their quota in top-level public positions.
Lebanon is the location of the only Armenian university outside Armenia, Haigazian University. Founded in 1955, Haigazian is a liberal arts Armenian institution of higher learning, which uses English as the language of instruction.
Most Armenian schools are run by the three Armenian Christian denominations (Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical). Others are run by cultural associations like Hamazkayin and Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Notable schools include:
- Armenian Evangelical College (Beirut)
- Armenian Evangelical Central High School (Ashrafieh, Beirut)
- Armenian Evangelical Shamlian Tatigian Secondary School (Bourj Hamoud)
"Pyunik" was the first Armenian newspaper in Lebanon (replaced by Aztag in 1927).
There are three Armenian daily newspapers published in Beirut all mouthpieces of the traditional Armenian political parties (Tashnag, Hunchag and Ramgavar).
- Aztag, a daily newspaper that speaks on behalf of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Tashnag and was established in 1927. It also published an online English version and an online Arabic supplement.
- Ararad, a daily newspaper published by the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party - Hunchag Party
- Zartonk, daily newspaper is published by Armenian Democratic Liberal Party - Ramgavar and was established in 1937.
From the defunct Armenian political newspapers besides Pyunik in the 1920s, one should mention the independent non-partisan newspaper Ayk (after decades of publishing in Armenian, the licence owner Lucie Tosbat sold it to Monday Morning Publishing Group and Ayk started publishing as an English-language daily renamed Ike before folding.) Ayk daily's Lebanese-Armenian publishers Dikran and Lucie Tosbat also published the French language Le Soir.
Special mention should also be made for the Armenian leftist daily newspaper Joghovourti Tsayn (meaning Voice of the People) which had a short span of publication but remained influential during its span of publication.
Press: Weekly publications and periodicals
Lebanon has kept throughout a strong tradition in periodicals and weekly newspapers in the Armenian language, so obviously it is impossible to cover all. But from the notable long-running publications, special mention could be made for:
- Hasg, official publication of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (Armenian Apostolic)
- Avedik, official publication of the Armenian Catholic Church
- Yeridasart Hayouhi (literary periodical dedicated to women) which was later turned into an independent political biweekly called Yeridasart Hay.
- Nor Gyank (New Life) the lifestyle newspaper/magazine
- Gantch, the Armenian Communist weekly (part of Arabic language communist "An Nidaa")
- Khosnag the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) official publication
- Pakine literary cultural publication
- Shirak literary cultural publication
- Spurk literary and cultural publication
- Massis Armenian Catholic publication
- Badanegan Artsakank Armenian Evangelical / Youth publication
- Hasg Hayakidagan Hantes, an annual Armenological publication by the Holy See of Cilicia
- Haigazian Armenological Review, an annual Armenological publication of Haigazian University
The Lebanese state radio established very early on daily radio broadcasts in Armenian through its second channel consecrated to broadcasting in languages (mainly French and English). That programming goes on to date on Radio Liban. During the civil war, the Lebanese Armenians established a great number of unlicensed radio stations (some non-stop for 24 hours a day). The pioneer was the popular radio station "Radio Paradise" and later on "Vana Tsayn" (Voice of Van). However, with the Lebanese Parliament enacting laws organizing the airwaves, all the unlicensed stations (alongside the other Lebanese stations) had to close. They were replaced by two operating and fully licensed radio stations operating in Armenian in Lebanon in accordance with the new broadcast laws - "Voice of Van" and "Radio Sevan".
Lebanese private stations and state-owned Tele-Liban have consecrated occasionally television programming in Armenian on certain occasions. During the Lebanese civil war, an Armenian television station "Paradise Television" co-operated with "Radio Paradise" was established through a broadcast tower in Bourj Hammoud. But "Paradise Television" Armenian television station had to close after it failed to get a broadcasting licence according to the new laws organizing the airwaves. Al Mustaqbal Television (also known as Future Television) and OTV broadcast daily 30-minutes news and comments in Armenian in their regular programming schedule.
Officially, there are three Armenian denominations recognized by the government. The Armenians have Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, or Armenian Evangelical mentioned in their identity cards, in the denomination field. Sometimes, however, there are variations particularly in case of the Armenian Evangelicals, sometimes registered as just Evangelicals or Protestants without mention of Armenian. There are also some Armenian Catholics who are registered under the denomination Latin, sometimes Armenian Latin.
Apostolic (Orthodox) Armenians
The Holy See of Cilicia is located in Antelias (a northern suburb of Beirut). It was relocated there in 1930 from Sis (historical Cilicia, now in Turkey) after the Armenian Genocide. Alongside the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin located in Republic of Armenia, it is one of the two sees of the Armenian Apostolic Church (the national church of Armenians). The Catholicos, the leader of the Holy See of Cilicia, has his summer residence in Bikfaya in the Matn District also north of Beirut. The seminary of the Armenian Apostolic Church is also on site at Bikfaya. The affairs of the Lebanese Armenian Orthodox population however are run by an independent body, the Armenian Prelacy of Lebanon (Aratchnortaran Hayots Lipanani) with its own Armenian Primate of Lebanon Bishop Shahé Panossian as head.
The Armenian Apostolic churches in Lebanon include:
- The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Mother Cathedral (Sourp Krikor Lousavoritch Mayr Dajar) which serves as the church for the Holy See of Cilicia (Catholicossate of the Great House of Cilicia - In Armenian "Gatoghigosaran Medzi Danen Guiligio" (Antelias, Lebanon). The big complex also contains a memorial chapel dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, an Armenian library, printing presses, Armenian museum and "Veharan", residence of the catholicos of Cilicia and premises for the clergy.
- Holy Sign (Saint Nshan) Armenian Orthodox Church (Downtown Beirut) which serves as the church for the Armenian Apostolic Archbishopric of Lebanon and head office of the Armenian Primate of Lebanon.
- Saint Hagop Armenian Apostolic Church (Jetawi, Achrafieh, Beirut)
- Saint George (Sourp Kevork) Armenian Apostolic Church (Hadjin, Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
- Armenian Apostolic Church of the Assumption (Khalil Badaoui, Beirut)
- Armenian Apostolic Church of the Assumption (Jounieh, Kesrouan, Lebanon)
- Forty Martyrs (Karasoun Manoug) Armenian Apostolic Church (Marash, Bourj Hammoud)
- Holy Mother of God (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) Armenian Apostolic Church (Adana, Bourj Hammoud)
- Saint Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church (Tiro, Bourj Hammoud)
- Saint Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church (Sis, Bourj Hammoud)
- Saint Paul (Sourp Boghos) Armenian Apostolic Church (Anjar, Beqaa, Lebanon)
- Holy Pentecost Armenian Apostolic Church (Tripoli, North Lebanon)
- Holy Mother of God (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) Armenian Apostolic Church - a complex that also includes the Zarehian Tebrevank (both in Bickfaya, Metn) and the commemorative statue of the Armenian Genocide
Armenian Catholic Church, has its patriarchate in the Lebanese capital Beirut, and represents Armenian Catholics around the world. Armenian Catholic Church also has its summer residence and its convent in Bzoummar, Lebanon.
Armenian Catholic churches include:
- St. Elie-St. Gregory the Illuminator (Sourp Yeghia - Sourp Krikor Lousavoritch Armenian Catholic Cathedral, (Debbas Square, Downtown Beirut)
- Armenian Catholic Church of the Annunciation (Achrafieh, Jetawi, Beirut) - also serving as church for the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Eparchy.
- Armenian Catholic Church and the Convent of Bzoummar (Bzommar, Lebanon)
- St. Saviour (Sourp Pergitch) Armenian Catholic Church (Bourj Hammoud)
- Holy Cross (Sourp Khatch) Armenian Catholic Church (Zalka)
- Our Lady of Fatima Armenian Catholic Church (Hoch el Zaraani, Zahle, Beqaa)
- Our Lady of the Rosary Armenian Catholic Church (Anjar, Beqaa)
Armenian Evangelical Church, headquartered in Ashrafieh. The affairs of the Lebanese Evangelical community is run by the Union of the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE).
Major Armenian Evangelical Churches:
- First Armenian Evangelical Church (Kantari, Beirut)
- Armenian Evangelical Church (Achrafieh, Beirut)
- Armenian Evangelical Church (Nor Marash, Bourj Hammoud)
- Armenian Evangelical Church (Amanos, Bourj Hammoud)
- Armenian Evangelical Brethren Church (Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
- Armenian Evangelical Church (Anjar, Beqaa)
The churches also have active youth branches called "Tchanits" and summer camps at "Ketchag", near Beirut. There are also a number of "Brethren" churches of Evangelical orientation ("Yeghpayroutyoun" in Armenian).
Armenian Genocide Monument
Bikfaya is home to a commemorative plaque and monumental sculpture, honoring the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Designed by Zaven Khedeshian and renovated by Hovsep Khacherian in 1993, the outdoor, freestanding sculpture rests on top of a hill that is located on the grounds of the summer retreat of the Catholicate of Cilicia.
The sculpture is a bronze abstract figure of a woman standing with hands open toward the sky. A plaque with Arabic and Armenian inscriptions reads:
This monument, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, was erected with the cooperation of the whole Armenian Community in Lebanon, to celebrate the rebirth of the Armenian nation and to express gratitude to our country, Lebanon - April 24, 1969
Sports and Scouts Movements
There are three predominantly Armenian sports clubs in Lebanon with a strong tradition in sports as well as Scouting. They are
- Homenetmen Beirut also known as HMEM—full name Hay Marmnagertagan Enthanour Miyutioun (Armenian General Union of Physical Culture)
- Homenmen Beirut also known as HMM—full name Hay Marzagan Miyutioun (Armenian Sports Union)
- Antranik Sports Club (of the Armenian Youth Association (AYA) of the Armenian General Benevolent Union AGBU)
All of them have various branches distributed in many Lebanese cities throughout the country where there are Lebanese Armenian communities.
The Armenian clubs Homenetmen and Homenmen have important football (football) teams in the official first and second division football leagues in Lebanon, although the membership of the teams is not restricted to ethnic Armenians and will usually include other Lebanese non-Armenian players as well as contracted foreign players, including professional players from the Republic of Armenia.
Homenetmen Beirut has won the Lebanese Football Championship title 7 times in the years: 1944, 1946, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1963 and 1969 and Homenmen Beirut the Championship title 4 times in 1945, 1954, 1957 and 1961. Overall, both clubs feature in the top 5 of most titles in Lebanese football with Homenetmen Beirut winning seven Lebanese titles and Homenmen 4 titles.
Armenian clubs Antranik and Homenetmen have prominent basketball teams playing in the official first and second division basketball league in Lebanon, although the membership of the teams is mixed and is not restricted to Armenians and will usually include other Lebanese non-Armenian players as well as contracted foreign players. Many Lebanese Armenians have represented Lebanon in the national team. In women's sports, the Armenian basketball clubs (Homenetmen and Antranik) are traditionally considered as powerhouses in the sport, and both clubs have won the official Lebanese Basketball Championships women title on several occasions. The Armenian club Antranik's Women Basketball team went on to win the pan-Arab championship titles.
The abovementioned Lebanese Armenian clubs also have huge influence on many other sports in Lebanon, but most notably in cycling, table tennis (ping pong) and track and fields. Individual Armenians have also excelled, most notably in weightlifting, wrestling and martial arts competitions.
Lebanese Armenians also have great influence in women sports in Lebanon, most notably in basketball, cycling and table tennis. The Armenian basketball clubs of Homenetmen and Antranik have won the official Lebanese Basketball Championships on several occasions. The Armenian club Antranik's Women Basketball team went on to win the pan-Arab championship titles.
- Aram I - Head of the Holy See of Cilicia
- Khatchig Babikian - Former Member of Parliament and minister
- Pierre Chammassian - Comedian
- Laury Haytayan - Civic activist
- Zaven Kouyoumdjian - TV talk show host
- Guy Manoukian - Composer
- Arthur Nazarian - Former member of Parliament
- Karim Pakradouni - Politician and former minister
- Hagop Pakradounian - Member of Parliament
- Serj Tankian - Vocalist of System of a Down
- Paula Yacoubian - TV presenter
- Roy Malakian - International Dj and Music Producer
- Wartan Ghazarian - Lebanese international footballer
- Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Lebanon
- Anjar, Lebanon
- Bourj Hammoud
- Holy See of Cilicia
- List of Lebanese Armenians
- Lebanon Minorities Overview Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- Lebanon Minorities Overview Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- Migliorino, Nicola. Constructing Armenia in Lebanon and Syria: Ethno-Cultural Diversity, page 166
- Lebanon Recognizes the Armenian Genocide
- Monument in Bikfaya, Lebanon
- "Paula Yacoubian - Prestige Magazine". 2014-07-03. Retrieved 2016-09-19.