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Turkey: Armenian Terrorism
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security Concerns > Armenian Terrorism


The primary objective of Armenian terrorists during the 1970s and 1980s was to inflict revenge for the massacres of Armenians during World War I. Armenians regard these killings as systematic genocide, but Turks claim they were the unfortunate outgrowth of deportations intended to prevent Armenians from assisting the invading Russian armies. Terrorist groups also demanded that Turkey admit its guilt for crimes committed against Armenians and provide reparations in the form of money and territory for an Armenian homeland.

Most of the violence by Armenian terrorists has been inflicted on Turkish agencies and representatives outside Turkey. The best known of these groups, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), apparently was formed in 1975 among leftist Armenians living in Beirut, Lebanon, with the help of sympathetic Palestinians. In reaction, rightists from the Armenian community in Lebanon formed the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG). A number of other groups claimed responsibility for terrorist acts, but ASALA and JCAG were judged to be the two main groups. It was not clear whether lawful Armenian political blocs in Lebanon sponsored these terrorist units, but they did not openly condone the terrorist acts of their offshoots.

Among the Armenian diaspora, numbering more than 6 million worldwide, probably fewer than 1,000 persons belong to terrorist factions. Members generally are young, recent immigrants to their countries of residence, or reside in places such as Lebanon where political violence is common. Assassination and bombing are the principal techniques used by the two main terrorist organizations. However, JCAG has limited its attacks to Turkish embassy officials in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, refraining from indiscriminate violence to avoid alienating Western public opinion. Since 1983 responsibility for most of the attacks has been claimed by a group called the Armenian Revolutionary Army, possibly a cover name for JCAG.

ASALA has carried out a number of bombings of ticket offices and airport counters of United States airlines in Western Europe. Following the bombing of a Turkish airline counter at Orly Airport in Paris in 1983, which resulted in several deaths and injuries, a split developed within ASALA over the rationale of indiscriminate terrorism in advancing the Armenian cause. An offshoot, the ASALA Revolutionary Movement (ASALA-RM), regarded indiscriminate terrorism as counterproductive, while ASALA-Militant (ASALA-M) continued to favor unrestricted violence against both Turkish and "imperialist" targets. After the split, the ASALA membership appeared to become preoccupied with its internal differences and has since been relatively inactive.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 192 of 206


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