ASALA is NOT an active organization at this time,
since it has served its purpose of raising awareness of the Armenian Cause.
“We find the information of the existence of the offices of ASALA in Armenia and Nagorni Karabakh currently to be inaccurate.”
(Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia)
The Orly Group
3rd October Organization
Armenian group formed in 1975 with stated intention to compel the Turkish Government to acknowledge publicly its alleged responsibility for the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, pay reparations, and cede territory for an Armenian homeland.
Initial bombing and assassination attacks directed against Turkish targets. Later attacked French and Swiss targets to force release of imprisoned comrades. Made several minor bombing attacks against airline offices in Western Europe in early 1980S. Bombing of Turkish airline counter at Orly Airport in Paris in 1983--eight killed and 55 wounded--led to split in group over rationale for causing indiscriminate casualties. Suffering from internal schisms, group has been relatively inactive over past four years, although recently claimed an unsuccessful attack on Turkish Ambassador to Hungary.
A few hundred members and sympathizers.
Location/Area of Operation
Lebanon, Western Europe, Armenia,Nagorno Karabagh , United States, and Middle East.
In January 1975, ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia), hitherto an unknown organization, bombed the World Council of Churches (WCC) office in Beirut and since then had placed itself within both the "Middle Eastern terrorist" complex and the International terrorist system. During the period of time between 1975 and 1982 dozens of Turkish diplomats and a lot of installations of Turkish and Western interests had been the target of Asala’s militant activities.
Asala’s activities were actually carried out by a small group of people, but due to their spectacular nature they were very successful in bringing the issue of the Armenian genocide to the forefront of international awareness. The public opinion Asala appealed to was often that of the world at large rather than that of the worldwide Armenian Community.
The roots of Asala can be traced in the accumulation of frustration resulted from the international community’s lack of interest inthe Armenian genocide committed by the Turks in the course of World war I, and a tendency among western pro-Turkish scholars
to deny the genocide as a historical fact. Furthermore, during the mid-1970’s the militant milieu surrounding the civil war inLebanon inspired and stimulated young Armenians to resort to political terrorism.
At the end of 1981 Asala published an eight-point political program which it described as “the political line that the Popular Movement for Asala will support.” This was the result of long discussions with leaders of the Popular Movements, with a view to
eventually forming a united organization, and was clearly a compromise between the views of the marxists and the nationalists.In this Asala identified its enemies as “Turkish Imperialism” backed by “local reaction” and “international imperialism.”“Revolutionary violence” was the “principal means” to achieve the liberation of Armenian territories. Asala supported those who“reject the authority of the oppressing classes” and will work to “strengthen and expand” coalitions within the “international revolutionary system.” Asala called for transformation of Soviet Armenia into a revolutionary base for “the long people’s war.”
In addition to focusing world attention on the Armenian genocide, Asala had given hope to the younger Armenian generation, galvanisingthem into activity either directly or as political supporters of the Armyworking for the defence and release of activists arrested in Europe and the US. The traditional Armenian parties in diaspora like the well known Tashnak were forced to set up guerilla groups of their own, like the Justice Commandos for Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Revolutionary Army, in order to stop their youth from flocking to Asala.
The fundamental difference between the Justice Commandos and Asala lies in their political aims, with the former stopping at international recognition of the Armenian genocide. Asala, on the other hand, came to be seen as the basis for a widespread
Armenian liberation movement.
Everything changed with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the subsequent expulsion of the PLO and most of Asala from
Beirut. Asala’s isolation from its supporter groups and its political allies, who were preoccupied with other matters during this period, had a devastating effect on its activities.
After the expulsion from Beirut Asala transfered many of its activities in Syria. With the military wing in control, it formed a working relationship with the anti-PLO Palestinian radical Abu Nidal. This would explain the dramatic cooling in PLO-Asala
relations at the end of 1982. Indeed, the PLO was said to have begun working against Asala, and when Fatah leader Abu-Iyad (Salah Khalaf) visited France in December 1982 he gave the French security servises details of Asala activists, including photographs.
Discovery of the Abu-Nidal connection was another factor in the total disillusion of the Armenian organizations with Asala in the wake of Beirut. In April, 1983 the Armenian National Movement (France) joined the Popular Movements in the UK and the USA
to form a new organization, the Democratic Front.
Asala’s terrorism had arguably had a greater ideological content and had been oriented towards discrediting the official Turkish thesis about the Armenian Genocide and persuading the international public opinion that the Turkish State has no right to rule over
The establishment of Asala was a belated reaction to the Genocide the Armenian people underwent by the Turks, and an indirect result of the tranformation of Beirut into the terrorist capital during the 1970’s.
Asala’s activities never had the possibility to bring about a new state of affairs which Armenians would like more. Undeniably, in short perspective, Asala’s activities revived the Armenian question, and here lies the main of its achievements, but in long
perspective, it deeply divided the Armenian Diaspora and offered an opportunity to the Turkish state to divert the international attention by victimizing herself.
Christos Iacovou is a postgraduate student of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article is a summary of his research “Asala: History and Ideology,” originally written in Greek.