Common Features Of Armenian Terrorist Organizations


The survey of the aims and strategies of the Armenian minority organizations from a historical perspective during the phase of New Armenian Terrorism (1973-85) shows that they had all assumed the character, aims and functions of terrorist organization. Their activities were directed towards the objectives of inciting and perpetrating revolts, revolutions and acts of terrorism.

It has already been noted above that the Dashnaks who had become organized in the 1890's, had adopted a program based on terrorist strategies, such as forming gangs, demoralizing the target Ottoman population, killing the Turks and undermining their sovereignty, arming the Armenian minority groups in preparation for uprisings, revolts and terrorism, forming revolutionary committees and murder squads, and destroying governmental institutions. After seizing power and establishing an Armenian Republic (1918 - 1920) within a year of the Russian Revolution, in the region where Soviet Armenia is situated today, the Dashnaks engaged in diplomatic activities and tried to assert themselves as a legitimate power; nevertheless, the fundamental terroristic philosophy never disappeared and resurfaced years later in 1972 with the formation of an subsidiary group named the Justice Commandos for Armenian Genocide. The operations of this group are well-known to everyone, not least to the non-involved Armenians on whom they exert constant pressure.

Similarly, the Marxist Hunchak organization has shown that it too endorses terrorism by the protection and support it gives to ASALA, the principal terrorist organization of the period 1973 1985. It is noteworthy that the Hunchaks provided the inspiration and intellectual impetus for the creation of this group.

For terrorist organizations, the Armenian cause, or the Armenian issue no matter what interpretations may be placed upon it has been identified with terrorism whilst the ideals or aspirations of the Armenian people have been reduced to hostility against the Turks and Turkey, to be pursued through vindictive acts and bloodshed.

The Armenian terrorist organizations are, as a rule, formed by a small number of activists, who control the central administration. The operations agreed upon by the central administration are carried out by a number of teams; each entrusted with specific duties. When required for propagandist purposes, these teams are made public under a variety of names, which serves the purpose of creating an impression of large numbers and widespread activity.

Terrorist organizations need not be situated in one specific physical or geographical location. They could be dispersed in several countries, or scattered over the same country. Although this situation on the surface gives an impression of amore democratic and open structure, yet, in reality, such organizations observe a strict discipline imposed by a central organization.

Another characteristic of the terrorist organization is their tendency to split into a number of smaller groups both because of their differing functions and also as a result of rivalries between their members and their leaders. One outcome of this phenomenon is that each group that breaks away forms its own affiliate organization. Hence, there is an apparent mushrooming which once again produces the impression of proliferation.

Secrecy forms one of the basic tenets of these organizations. However, at times, particularly through the instrumentality of the subsidiary team, disclosures are made in order to publicize the activities performed as an occasion for propaganda. This policy also serves the aim of concealing the main centre from detection, which can thus continue its activities in security. For the same reasons, the teams make announcements both before and after committing crimes and take responsibility for them.

In all Armenian terrorist activities, terrorism goes hand in hand with psychological coercion. In fact, the former is a phase in the process of applying the latter. Terrorism can be used as a means of propaganda, as well as an instrument of oppression, intimidation and retribution. The second use of terrorism is reserved for those who oppose the activist organizations or disobey its commands. The majority of non-involved Armenians are subjected to such pressures.

These organizations possess an immense store of expertise and experience in the fields of public relations, communications and the media. Moreover, they have close contacts with the institutions and the people who disseminate information and influence public opinion. Such expertise and contacts provide the organizations with opportunities for survival and gradual expansion.

The terrorist organizations enjoy the open or secret support of one or more states. These may use them either as an instrument to further their own interests, or as a means of covering up their secret organizations or propaganda units.

Hostility against Turkey and the Turks provides the terrorist organizations with a motive for their existence and survival, as well as serving to rationalize their claims and demands. However, in countries, which have close relations with Turkey, the hostile reactions apparently provoked by these organizations tend to be short-lived. Indeed, in such cases, particularly when terrorism takes as its target not only Turkey but also the country where it operates and its citizens, it has to be assumed that the activists are aiming at intimidating their opponents, rather than carrying out hostile operations against the host country.

In retrospect, Armenian terrorism appears to have three main objectives: 1) to compel the Armenians to join the ranks of the activists by exerting pressure on them, thus securing their support, 2) to influence world public opinion by convincing it of the might and scope of Armenian terrorism, and 3) to prepare the ground for hostility against Turkey in case of future conflicts of interests and political confrontations on the international scene.

The nineteenth century myth of an enslaved and impoverished minority deprived of its rights, and the twentieth century theme of a nation subjected to massacres and genocide have both been used in order to have access to sources of power in international relations. These sources will probably be enlisted in the service of nations who are Turkey's rivals or even by international institutions for specific ends. What, in fact, is not known among the aims of the terrorist organizations is the to which the opportunities, that arise by instigating international conflicts, will ultimately be put. This is no other than the attainment of the goal or ideal, which they expect to be realized through its own momentum in the course of a historical process outside their immediate sphere of influence.

NEW ERA OF TERRORISM (1973 - 1985)

In the era of New Armenian Terrorism, Dashnak and Hunchak organizations function as the main centres which encourage, promote and train terrorist groups so that they can develop and expand over new areas and increase the scope of their targets. Their leadership extends to the formation of new terrorist groups and teams, providing man-power, intellectual and moral support for the newly founded organizations, and the preparation of the ground for their activities through the establishment of contacts and relations. Apart from these, ASALA, short for the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia constitutes another major terrorist organization.

It has succeeded in having its name mentioned more than that of any other group, and as such has become almost synonymous with Armenian terrorism. Together with the traditional organization and their offshoots, ASALA, too, is the initiator of the new era of terrorism. As has been noted above, despite its seemingly independet status, ASALA is affiliated to the Hunchaks, deriving its moral and intellectual strength from them, as well as making use of their established contacts and relations.

Seen from this angle, it may indeed be claimed that terrorism as we see it in our day is a continuation of the earlier tradition of terroristic activities, which was revived under the favourable circumstances of the sixties, and, making use of the opportunities that were created anew, once again embarked upon its mission of hostility against the Turks, engaging in criminal acts of the greatest inhumanity and cruelty.

One of the attempts at rationalizing terrorism is provided by Michael M. Gunter in his study on "Armenian National Liberation", where he claims that the peoples of many different countries in our day support the struggles of the terrorists and believe in the validity of the reasons for which they take action. Similarly, Gerard J. Libaridjian, the editor of the Armenian Review and director of the Zorian Institute for Contemporary Armenian Studies situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, explains the reasons that lie behind Armenian terrorism as follows: "The reluctance of Turkey and the major world powers to recognize the exasperation of the Armenians, even after sixty years spent in attempts at establishing peace, has resulted in bringing about a new era of terrorism." Agop Agopian, the ASALA leader, on the other hand, argues that Armenian terrorist activities emerged "after it became evident that the policies pursued by the traditional parties had failed:"

In the light of these statements it becomes clear that those who share such views, present the situation as if it were one that entails a choice between peaceful or violent methods of pursuing the Armenian cause; they ignore the phenomenon of Armenian terrorism as a continuing historical process. Moreover, they fail to explain from what source they derive the right to launch such violent attacks against Turkey and to instigate revolutions, revolts and warfare with the aim of destroying its unity, nor do they tell us who invests them with this right or authorizes the exercise of such acts. The terrorists claim a right to perform acts of violence - the right to cherish animosity, seek revenge and commit assassinations - and to exercise this right freely.

They pretend not to be aware of the fact that the Armenian activist organizations were engaged in terroristic operations right from the start. For the new era of terrorism is clearly a revival of the older and traditional phase of terrorism, reactivated as a result of preparations made in the sixties through propaganda campaigns and demonstrations, as a means of manipulating the aspirations of certain countries and peoples over Turkey and taking advantage of the attitudes of rivals exploiting her political and economic difficulties.

One need not doubt, however, that the era of New Armenian Terrorism will come to the same end as the former. Yet, in the meantime, the Armenian people themselves are undergoing the humiliation and anguish of being branded as terrorists in the eyes of the world and observe with anxiety the course taken by the events. This is an aspect of the situation which the terrorist organizations do not wish to see, or perhaps, one which their mentors refuse to see. In this way, regardless of the harm caused, propaganda and psychological coercion campaigns continue to be waged on a large scale