During the new phase of Armenian
terrorism from 1973 to 1985, the terrorist organization most
frequently mentioned was ASALA (The Armenian Secret Army for
the Liberation of Armenia). No information has yet been published
on its establishment, structure and activities. With regard
to ASALA, various Armenian sources and publications provide
information about certain individuals, and the results of
terrorist activity, mostly obtained from publications issued
by the organization or terrorist group. This is information,
which the terrorist group wishes to publish or does not object
to having published. With regard to the founding of ASALA,
some publications link it with the events in Lebanon; they
take the view that it was established under the inspiration
of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, within which it
had been active. Others claim that it was founded by a small
group of Armenians, who, within a short time, carried out
the most sensational and effective acts of terrorism of the
period. All this is very far from providing a complete explanation
of how ASALA was founded. Until the conditions under which
ASALA first appeared as an organization are better known and
the gap it filled is more satisfactorily elucidated, present
doubts will continue for a long time to come.
It is generally known that
the first Armenian terrorist activities of the new period
were in accordance with the policies and targets of the Dashnak
terrorist organization. Throughout the course of history as
well as in the period under discussion, the Dashnaks were
completely pro-Western. They adopted a policy of limited terrorist
activity, which was directed basically against Turkish targets,
and, as revealed by various sources of evidence, they obtained
help and support from the Western states; in fact, they collaborated
with them. Basically, their principles and historical development
did not allow them to adopt a different approach. In this
situation, one sphere of activity still remained. Namely that
relating to the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, which appealed
to the younger Marxist Revolutionary generations and, particularly,
to the "New Armenian Resistance Organizations",
in France. In fact, this area had long since been filled by
the Hunchaks. Since 1960, they, with their various points
of view, had also been preparing for a new period of terror.
However, the Hunchaks were not in evidence, and a terrorist
organization, wishing to be regarded as completely new, appeared
on the scene in the guise of ASALA. When the factors leading
to the new period of Armenian terrorism are taken into consideration
and their aims and policies, especially as a Hunchak terrorist
organization, are examined, the conclusion can be reached
that ASALA is a terrorist offshoot of the Hunchaks. It was
above all the conditions and new developments in Lebanon that
lay behind the emergence of this group as a new terrorist
organization, which because known for the various acts of
terrorism for which it claimed responsibility. In fact, no
significant change has taken place. The two Armenian terrorist
organizations once again occupy the centre of the stage against
the backdrop of history. The first is more in evidence, operating
through its terrorist offshoots, whilst the second operates
under cover, in the guise of a terrorist group to which it
has given manpower and expertise, as well as moral support.
This group in turn carries out terrorist activities through
subsidiary groups and teams.
and Organizational Structure
ASALA was founded in 1975.
The leader of this terror organization is known to have been
Agop Agopian, one of the two most active members of the six
or seven founding members. The second was Agop Tarakdjian,
who was personally involved in terrorism and other criminal
activity and who ensured the continued existence of the organization
in the absence of Agop Agopian. The second of these two men
died in 1981, whilst the first continued as leader throughout
the whole of this period, apart from the time spent under
treatment for wound received. He was well known as a mucahid
and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The organization was structured
in accordance with the general practice of the Armenian terrorist
groups. The Lebanon Central Committee was the supreme executive
body. In 1980 this committee took on a very important form
in the Lebanon and assumed the nature of a "bureau".
Subordinate to the Central Committee were bodies such as the
Political Committee, the Finance Committee, the Propaganda
and Information Committee, the Intelligence Committee and
the Military Committee. Subordinate to the Military Committee
were a number of operational teams.
ASALA revealed to the world
its aims and objectives in a "political programme"
published in the end of 1981. According to this, the aim of
ASALA was “the foundation of a united Armenia under the
leadership of a democratic, socialist, revolutionary government”.
The identity of the government in question is quite clear
from the definition. All aid was welcome from the USSR and
other socialist countries, while at the same time Soviet Armenia
was accepted as a base in "the long struggle of the Armenian
In this political programme
their enemies were divided into two groups. The first of these
was the Dashnak Armenian terrorist group, and all the "regional
reactionaries" who opposed, or at least failed to support
ASALA. The second was "Turkish imperialism, aided and
abetted by international imperialism".
ASALA believed that “the
only way of liberating Armenian territory was through the
use of violence”, and issued public announcements to this
effect. According to their programme, ASALA was to support
all those who rejected the domination of the ruling classes
and who were willing to work towards the foundation and strengthening
of coalitions within the international revolutionary movement.
Violence and terror formed an essential element in this programme.
In order to realise ASALA's
aims and objectives it was not essential that terrorist activities
should be directed solely against Turks and the friends of
Turkey, or against people in positions of power or authority.
"Terror is a phenomenon" and the important point
is its scope and dimension. The actual targets may be of secondary
importance. Greatest stress it to be laid on murders and massacres
that will arouse violent public reaction. Whether the targets
are men, women or children, Turks or non-Turks, is of little
significance. Nevertheless, first importance was to be given
to attacks on Turkey and the Turks. The importance of the
attacks and massacres carried out in the airports of Paris
and Istanbul, in the Istanbul Covered Market and the airport
of Orly, lay entirely in the nature and violence of the reaction
these were aimed at arousing.
3. Strategy, Attitudes
The essential aim of ASALA
was to make the Lebanon the centre for all progressive Armenian
movements throughout the world and the point from which all
operations would be directed. In short, all progressive Armenian
groups were to unite in the Lebanon and for the basis for
an "ASALA Popular Movement". In this way, all progressive
Armenians could enter into an official organization in which
their individual strengths could be united.
An attempt was made in the
summer of 1981 to put this section of ASALA strategy into
effect by calling all progressive Armenians to a meeting in
the Lebanon. By "progressive" was meant "Marxist-Leninist".
The second stage of this strategy
began with the terrorist activities and open war undertaken
by the organization thus founded with the help of certain
socialist states. Armenian terror formed an integral part
of the struggle for independence in the Middle East, uniting
with other movements directed against the integrity of Turkish
territory. This led inevitably to the union of ASALA and PKK.
ASALA was clearly a terrorist
organization in attitude and behaviour. In all ranks of the
administration terror and the implementation of terror was
regarded as an essential feature of the organization. The
leaders murdered one another, liquidated those of whom they
disapproved or had them done away with. Apart from this, each
terrorist team was presented to world opinion as if it were
a separate Armenian organization and all types of propaganda
were carried on by this means. Responsibility for the crimes
committed were assumed by various organizations whose names
had never before been heard of. A list is to be found in an
appendix at the end of this Introduction showing how in 1981
and 1982 the murders, crimes, bombings and raids were carried
out by a single organization but attributed to groups with
a variety of different names. By examining this list the reader
will find a number of operations claimed to have been carried
out by a great many different Armenian groups but which actually
all bear the mark of a single team and a single organization.
All these so-called independent groups remained subordinate
to and directed by ASALA itself.
The first stage in the political
development of ASALA, which is generally agreed to have been
founded in 1975, was highly effective, and the organization
was strengthened by new forces recruited during the Armenian
Congress in Paris in 1979. It gained further strength in 1981.
In 1983 it split into two factions.
The first operation carried
out by ASALA was the assassination by Agop Tarakdjian, one
of the founders of the organization, of Oktay Cerit, First
Secretary in the Turkish Embassy in Beirut, on 16 February
1976. The period up to 1979 was marked by ASALA's involvement
in the conflicts between the various Palestinian groups, in
the course of which Agopian, one of the leaders, was wounded.
Links with the Armenian terrorists in France were established
during the Armenian Congress meeting in Paris in 1979, which
saw the organization strengthened by the addition of new elements
and fresh blood. The most famous of the new members were Alex
Yenikomshian and Monte Melkian. In 1981 a number of terrorist
attacks carried out by ASALA on innocent groups or individuals
having severely shaken its standing in world public opinion.
Following the Israeli occupation of the Lebanon the ASALA
leaders were forced to leave the Lebanon along with the Palestinians.
A split in the organization took place in 1983.
• The Agop Agopian Group
- This was centred in Greece and the Middle East. Its terror
was directed indiscriminately against Turks and non-Turks,
as well as against innocent women and children. It was this
group that was responsible for the attack at Orly.
• In Western Europe the movement
operated under the name of the "Asala Revolutionary Movement".
This followed a more moderate course of action and directed
its terror solely against Turks. The leaders of this group
were Monte Melkonian and Ara Toranian. Toranian was the leader
of a group centred in Paris known as the "Armenian National
Movement" which described the Orly attack as a purely
Melkonian, who had been born
in Iran, declared his intention of setting the Armenian struggle
on a sound political footing. According to this the movement
had two aims; to rouse the Armenians to action, and to make
common cause with other groups in their struggle against Turkey.
In this second stage, Melkonian was involved in establishing
alliances with other groups while Agopian continued with his
own type of activity.
ASALA received support from
three main sources:
1.The Soviet Union, the Eastern
block and other socialist countries.
2.Countries such as Greece
and Syria whose geopolitical expectations depended on the
destabilisation of Turkey from within and without.
3.Various communist parties,
indirectly from the Hunchak Armenian terrorist organization
and its sympathisers, and also from the Armenian church, in
spite of its difference in outlook.
In ASALA's links with other
groups first priority was given to relations with non-Armenian
terror groups which threatened Turkey directly or indirectly,
and whose activities ran parallel to the strategy implemented
by ASALA itself. In the period between 1976 and 1980 these
consisted of groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization,
activist members of the various communist parties and the
secret services belonging to certain states. In 1980 ASALA
widened the scope of its activities following the agreement
reached with PICK at a meeting in Sidon in the Lebanon, thus
establishing unity of outlook and action between ASALA and
PKK. As a matter of fact, these two organizations had already
displayed a marked affinity in aims, structure and beliefs.
From 1983 onwards ASALA relations began to develop along the
lines of the strategy laid down by Monte Melkonian. First
priority was given to terrorist activity within Turkey, and
links were established with any group capable of furthering
this strategy by either direct or indirect means. These groups
were headed by PKK, the Turkish CommunistParty and other communist
and information media
important, official organ is Haiastan
publications include the periodicals Hai-Baikar, Armenia and
Kaytzer, published in London.
radio broadcasts began in 1981 in Beyrut with a daily one-hour
programme "The Voice of the Armenians in the Lebanon".
Apart from these, facilities are provided by the public radio
corporations and mass communication media belonging to countries
with which it has established contacts.
ASALA — MR
Monta Melkonian (Meykonyan)
who left ASALA and passed to France in September 1983 has
disclosed that he has founded the ASALA — The Military Apparatus
Of People’ s Movement, ASALA — Revolutionary Movement (ASALA
— MR). The recovering of the relations with the French Government,
which deteriorated has been their most important goal. While
it was being thought that these would do their actions in
Turkey, they have taken the North American and Western European
wings totally under their own control and attracted the militants
in these regions to their line. Melkonian, was killed in 1993
in Nagorno Karabakh while he was fighting against Azerbaijanis.