Governments at war make dangerous promises. And the First World War was a time of promises and lies. The promises came first: in 1916, the British told the Arabs they could have independence; in 1917, they told the Jews they could have a homeland; and the French told the survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide that they could return to liberate their homelands in eastern Turkey.
Then came the betrayals.
Superpowers like legions, the Roman variety, preferably when they are composed of foreigners. So the British created an Arab Legion to fight against the Ottoman Turks for independence and a Jewish Legion to fight against the Ottoman Turks for Palestine. And the French created an Armenian Legion – an offshoot of the French Foreign Legion, needless to say – to fight against the Ottoman Turks for Cilicia.
The Arabs lost Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, the Jews did not get all of Palestine, and the soldiers of the Armenian Legion – having helped to liberate Palestine – were abandoned amid the ashes of their own burnt cities.
Among the indigenous peoples of the Middle East, they were the most traduced of all, since they recovered not a square inch of their land. To be a loser doesn’t get you much purchase in the history books. To be a loser twice over turns you into a curio. Thus the story of the Armenian Legion has until now been largely untold and unremembered.