2787) Pursuing The Just Cause Of Their People: Study Of Contemporary Armenian Terrorism by Prof. Michael Gunter

Contents :
Acknowledgments & Introduction
1 Historical Origins
2 Beginnings of the Current Terrorism
5 Modus Operandi
6 Transnational Sources of Support
7 Turkish Counterterror and Harassment?
8 Conclusions & Selected Bibliography
. .

I would like to express my gratitude to the many people, too numerous to name, who encouraged me to write this book. Paul Henze gave me a number of documents and his expert advice, as did Jennifer Noyon and Barry Rubin. Nan Canter first suggested this subject to me, while my year spent as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in International Relations at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey also made me sensitive to these issues. Mete Tuncoku was my friend while I taught in Turkey, and I will never forget Nazan Erkal.

Richard Hovannisian and Edward Boghosian, among many Armenians I have met and genuinely liked, have helped me understand numerous things about the Armenian point of view, while my friends Heath Lowry and Justin McCarthy have given me important insights into the Turkish position. Both Ankara University and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research invited me to conferences where I learned a great deal. The editors at Greenwood Press have been most helpful and understanding.

For many years Paul Stephenson has been my friend and the chairman of the Department of Political Science where I teach and work, Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. His support and encouragement have long been invaluable to me. Special thanks too must be given to Joseph Lerner, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tennessee Technological University and to the staff of its Jere Whitson Memorial Library, especially Eloise Ramsey Hitchcock. Finally, I want to express my special appreciation to my wife, Judy, and our two children, Michael and Heidi, as well as my parents, Martin and Larissa Gunter. Although all of these people have influenced me, I am completely responsible for the analysis that follows.

The growth of the incidence and importance of terrorism in the contemporary international system has been mirrored by a prodigious outpouring of literature on the subject. Precious little, however, has appeared about the Armenian terrorist attacks against Turkish diplomats and property, 1 a campaign recently termed by United States Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Fred Ikle as “one of the most dangerous and most neglected of all terrorist movements…” 2 and by a journalist who interviewed one of the terrorist leaders as “the most mysterious and best-organized armed formation operating in the Middle East and Europe.” 3

Outraged over the alleged genocide of some 1½ million Armenians by the Turks during World War I 4 and the resulting loss of their ancestral homeland, Armenian terrorists in the past decade have murdered 30 Turkish diplomats or members of their immediate families, including 4 in the United States. In addition, some 34 non-Turks have been murdered and over 300 wounded because they happened to be in the terrorists’ line of fire. 5

When the terrorists have been apprehended, however, some Armenian apologists have implied that the terrorists have a right to murder and should not be prosecuted. After Hampig Sassounian was found guilty of assassinating Kemal Arikan, the Turkish consul general in Los Angeles in 1982, for example, some Armenians in Boston announced: “What occurred throughout Hampig’s trial was a mockery of justice, an attempt to stop the Armenian people from actively pursuing their cause…. We are outraged by the…guilty verdict….” “Armenians protest misuse of judicial system,” proclaimed another article in the same Armenian-American newspaper. Referring to the trial of two other Armenian terrorists, who had murdered the Turkish ambassador to Yugoslavia in March 1983, the same publication declared: “To consider it a criminal act distorts the selfless struggles of the Armenian youth, who are pursuing the just cause of their people.” 6

Embassies of Turkey in such disparate locations as Athens, Beirut, Belgrade, Berne, Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Ottawa, Paris, The Hague, and Vienna, as well as the Turkish delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Turkish Center at the United Nations also have come under attack. The Turkish Consulate in Geneva has been bombed on two separate occasions, the consulates in Los Angeles and Lyons once, and the Paris Consulate seized and occupied.

The Turkish Airlines (THY) offices in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Milan, Paris, and Rome have been bombed too, making good a terrorist threat against “any Turkish institution that lies within its striking limits.” Foreign governments have been cautioned to “lift the protection thus far accorded” to Turks and Turkish property or else be “held responsible for the innocent victims within their own personnel [sic],” while travelers have been advised against using any form of Turkish transportation “because they might become the innocent victims of our rage.” 7 Furthermore, non-Turkish airlines or their offices, such as Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, El Al, KLM, Lufthansa, Pan Am, Sabena, Swissair, and TWA, have been hit because of their commercial relations with Turkey.

Indeed, even foreign governments such as Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland have been threatened because they tried to apprehend Armenian terrorists within their jurisdictions. After seriously wounding Kani Gungor, the Turkish commercial attaché in Ottawa, Canada, for example, a message from ASALA menacingly declared: “We warn the Canadian authorities against all initiatives against our compatriots as well as the utilization of any kind of force or violence against them.” 8 In another overt threat, this time to French authorities, ASALA warned that unless political asylum was granted to four terrorists who seized and occupied the Turkish Consulate in Paris, “there is no doubt there will be a confrontation between them and us.” 9 ASALA also threatened to attack “all Swiss diplomats throughout the world” 10 unless that government released two Armenians held after a bomb they were preparing exploded prematurely in their hotel room in Geneva. Lufthansa offices in Rome were bombed “as a punishment for the German government which helps Turkish fascism….” 11 Even the Vatican and the Pope specifically have been threatened with a “hit” because of their support of Ansha, an affiliate of the World Council of Churches that helps Armenians emigrate from Soviet Armenia and thus, in the words of ASALA, aids in “the traffic of Armenian emigrants.” 12

In the United States the Turkish State Folk Dance Ensemble performances in California were canceled because of threats and a bombing, the Ataturk Centennial night organized by the American-Turkish Association of Houston was disrupted, and in January 1982 Armenian extremists broke up a Turkish history class at the University of California—Los Angeles being conducted by Stanford J.Shaw, a prominent professor of Ottoman studies. In addition, Professor Shaw’s home was bombed, his office at the university broken into and ransacked, and frequent verbal and written threats of violence hurled at him. Finally, he was forced to cancel his regularly scheduled classes and go into hiding. The apparent reason for this harassment was the pro-Turkish views he expressed in his History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, 1977. Replying to an inquiry concerning this matter, William D.Schaefer, the executive vice chancellor at UCLA, wrote: “Because an international terrorist organization is involved, the University’s power to remedy the situation is limited.” 13

On August 7, 1982, striking for maybe 14 the first time on Turkish soil itself, Armenian terrorists indiscriminately slew ten passengers at the Ankara (Esenboga) International Airport, while wounding seventy-one others. Illustrative of the hatred motivating them, Levon Ekmekjian, one of the terrorists captured during the Ankara raid, declared, “It wasn’t enough,” when police told him how many had been killed and wounded. In reference to the massacres of Armenians by the Turks in 1915, one of the gunmen yelled, as he fired at his victims: “More than a million of us died! What’s the difference if 25 of you die?” 15 As Michael J.Arlen, Jr., a measured Armenian critic of the present terrorist campaign has explained elsewhere: “It was as if a particular poison had entered the Armenian system several generations back, and had remained within it: a poison that one might up to a point live with but that caused the limbs suddenly to twitch, or the mouth—perhaps in mid-sentence—to grimace grotesquely.” 16

Although their present terrorist activities began only in the 1970s, Armenian terrorism itself is nothing new. Neither is the strategy behind it or even the international support it has elicited. To decipher the roots of the current Armenian terrorist movement, it is necessary to analyze briefly its historical origins in the nineteenth century as the “Armenian Question” and the deportations and massacres that the Armenians suffered during World War I.

Then, with this necessary background understanding, the main analysis can commence. Specific attention will be given to the beginnings, in the 1970s, of the current terrorism, the terrorist ogranizations involved, their modus operandi, transnational connections, the question of Turkish harassment and counterterror, and finally the conclusions that can be drawn and the recommendations that can be made for terminating the terrorism. It is hoped that what follows will help everyone to better understand objectively an issue which has for too long been wrapped in subjective polemics.


1. See, however, my two earlier analyses: “The Armenian Terrorist Campaign Against Turkey,” Orbis 27 (Summer 1983), pp. 447–77;
and “Contemporary Aspects of Armenian Terrorism,” in International Terrorism and the Drug Connection (Ankara: Ankara University Press, 1984), pp. 103–44.

2. “Testimony by the Honorable Fred C.Ikle, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Before the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” (Washington, D.C.: mimeographed, March 11, 1982), p. 6.

3. “Armenian Terrorist Leader Hagopian Interviewed: Milan Panorama in Italian, 1 Sept. 80, pp. 62–65,” in Joint Publications Research Service: Western Europe, No. 1628, September 24, 1980, pp. 1–6, hereafter “Panorama Interview.”

4. The number of Armenians killed and the circumstances involved therein are in dispute. The Armenians claim that what happened was genocide willfully perpetrated by the Turkish government. The Turks, however, claim that only a far smaller number of Armenians died as an unfortunate result of general wartime conditions, and that, in addition, hundreds of thousands of Turks also were killed at that time. For an analysis of the conflicting claims, see below.

5. See E.J.Dionne, Jr., “Armenian Terror: Tangle of Motives,” New York Times, August 1, 1983, p. A6, for these figures.

6. Cited in The Armenian Weekly, January 14, 1984, pp. 1, 6, and 7.

7. Communiqué issued by the “General Revolutionary Command, Armenia of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA),” one of the two main Armenian terrorist groups, as cited in C.L.Sulzberger, “Deadline for More Terror,” New York Times, April 9, 1977, p. 9. The other main terrorist group is the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG), since 1983, the Armenian Revolutionary Army (ARA).

8. Cited in New York Times, April 10, 1982, p. 5.

9. Cited in John Kifner, “Armenians Assert Suicide Squads Are Ready,” Ibid., September 27, 1981, p. 7.

10. Cited in New York Times, January 5, 1981, p. A10. In fact, some forty bombings were carried out against Swiss interests. See Andrew Corsun (Threat Analysis Group, Office of Security), “Armenian Terrorism: A Profile,” U.S. Department of State Bulletin, August 1982, p. 34.

11. Cited in “Excerpt from Chronology of Actions by ASALA and Justice Commandos,” data compiled by Bonnie Cordes of the Rand Corporation.

12. “Panorama Interview,” p. 5.

13. Letter to Professor William J.Griswold, Colorado State University, October 21, 1982. For the Turkish position concerning Professor Shaw, see ATA-USA: Bulletin of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, March 1982, p. 12; and ibid., April and July 1983, p. 45. For the Armenian viewpoint, see The Armenian Horizon (Published by the UCLA Armenian Students Association), No. 2, 1983, p. 1; The Armenian Reporter, August 4, 1983, p. 11; and ibid., August 18, 1983, p. 3.

14. Shortly before the Ankara airport attack, the military commander of an ASALA base in Lebanon boasted: “I want to say that, over the years, we have carried out scores of military operations inside Turkey, including the assassination of some U.S. personnel.” Cited in “Nadim Nasir Report: Al-Majallah Visits an Armenian Secret Army Base in Lebanon,” in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Daily Report (Middle East and Africa), September 1, 1982, p. G8, hereafter “AlMajallah Interviews ASALA.” In an earlier interview (“Panorama Interview,” p. 3), the ASALA spokesman also claimed that his organization had “struck…in Turkey itself.” Andrew Corsun lists twelve incidents of Armenian terrorism as having occurred in Turkey over the years (“Armenian Terrorism,” p. 33). Whatever, the attack at Esenboga was certainly the most visible to date. The others, if they indeed occurred, were probably lost in the sea of domestic terrorist attacks that were engulfing Turkey before the military coup of September 12, 1980.

15. Time, August 23, 1982, p. 38.

16. Michael Arlen, Jr., Passage to Ararat (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1975), p. 186.

Copyright © 1986 by Michael M.Gunter
ISBN: 0-313-25247-5
Greenwood Press, Inc.


Houston, Texas, USA said...

The claim that 1.5 Million Armenians died is totally unsubstantiated and greatly inflated.

The three Ottoman Census' done before 1914 shows that total Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire was less than 1, 250,000. The highest Armenian population was 18% in Erzurum and much less than that in other Western cities, averaging about 8% of the entire population.

The head of the Ottoman Census Bureau at that time was An Armenian and these statistics were confirmed by the French and English Ambassadorial reports to their governments (documents available). Records show that about 700,000 Armenians in the East were relocated to south and about 400,00 of these reached their destinations in the Fertile Crescent, which was also Ottoman territory at that time. Many escaped, some to UAS, other to Russia, France, South America, and many other Middle Eastern lands and European countries. English and Armenian records estimate about 200,000 Armenians dead, mostly due to diseases, hunger, and civil commotion. The claim that 1.5 Armenians were killed is a lie fabricated by the Armenian extremists.

Armenians were de facto belligerent before and during the 1. World War (as clearly stated by Nubar Pasha,the Head of the Armenian Delegation in the Paris Conference , and their first Prime Minister Katchnuzhai. After 1000 years of peaceful coexistence the Christian Ottoman Armenians, encouraged by the allies, have taken arms against their own Ottoman Government, joining the invading Russian Forces with 200,000 Armenian Legion lead by Garo Pastermajian, who was the Erzurum representative in the Second Ottoman Assembly.

Garo rebelled against his own government, which he swore allegiance to. Armenian soldiers guerrillas invaded Eastern Anatolia and massacred Ottoman Muslim and other civilians to ethnically clear the Eastern Anatolia and to become the majority.

They have massacred over 600,000 Ottoman civilians and attacked the Ottoman army supply lines. Ottoman Government had to move them to South, away from the Russian war zone, to secure their supply lines and to eliminate a fifth column during the war time. There is no record that proves that the government ordered their killing. Quite to contrary, there are clear Ottoman Government orders for their physical protection during the relocation.

Numerous Ottoman Officials who mistreated the Armenians were severely punished by the government, some were even executed. Armenian Genocide is a big lie. Armenians rebelled against their own government and joined the enemies of the Ottoman State,


D.I. Karsan

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