Hayastani Azatagrut'yan Hay Gaghtni Banak
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was the most well-known, well-organized, and prolific of the Armenian terrorist groups of the 1970's and 1980's. Founded in 1975 by Hagop Hagopian and Hagop Tarakciyan, ASALA operated mainly out of bases in Beirut. ASALA's primary objective was to increase awareness of the Armenian genocide and further the cause of Armenian independence. In 1915, Turkey (then the center of the Ottoman Empire) attempted to eliminate systematically the sizable Armenian minority living within its borders; estimates of the final death toll range anywhere between a few hundred thousand to upwards of two million people. The anger of the Armenian people, both in Armenia and abroad, only grew with time. Turkey added fuel to the fire by refusing to acknowledge the scope of the killings or apologize publicly for them. Some Armenians hoped that, as the Holocaust had generated international support for the founding of Israel, increasing awareness of the Armenian genocide (brought on by terrorist acts) might help them gain an independent homeland. In addition to its nationalist mission, ASALA also promoted Marxism-Leninism and allied with other international terrorist groups with similar leanings, including the Irish Republican Army, Italian Red Brigades, and Kurdistan Workers Party.
Between 1975 and 1985, the ASALA claimed responsibility for more than fifty attacks, a number that goes up by ten or so if the actions of ASALA splinter groups are included. Most ASALA and ASALA-affiliated acts of terrorism were aimed at Turkish diplomats or Turkish interests in the Middle East and Europe. After a bombing at Paris' Orly Airport in 1983, the group began to split into competing factions and eventually disappeared altogether. No major act of international terrorism was committed by ASALA between 1985 and 1997, but in the latter year, the Turkish Embassy in Brussels was bombed and a man called authorities claiming that the ASALA was responsible. However, experts doubt the veracity of this claim, and no further ASALA activity is expected. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia has become an independent, sovereign state, thereby fulfilling the major objective of most of the terrorists. Former terrorists now find themselves in the government or the military (or perhaps fighting the Azerbaijanis in the contested province of Nagorno-Kabakh), rather than conducting a campaign of international violence from the shadows.