This is Monte Melkonian, the strangest, most interesting man of the late Cold War.
His story took him from suburban California through the Vietnam War, the Iranian Revolution, the Lebanese Civil War and French prisons to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
Beirut, 1982: Zaki Chehab and Joseph Nakhla, two reporters for al-Hawadess, think they've scored an interview with leaders of the elusive Armenian Secret Army (ASALA).
The Armenian fighters apologize, as "the security precautions and the atmosphere demand this from us."
After a terrifying car ride, they finally arrive at the real safehouse.
Giorgiu was part of an underground network of French Armenians who took over the Turkish consulate in Paris.
He was Monte Melkonian, born in 1957 in Vidalia, California.
And he was the last person you'd expect to find in a militant safehouse in war-torn Beirut.
That all changed in 1969, when his family took a trip to Europe and Turkey.
His ancestral town, Merzifon, had almost no Armenians left.
And at the time, Turkey was a U.S. ally while Armenia was a Soviet republic.
Along the way, he witnessed the end of the Vietnam War.
Instead of grad school, he went to the Middle East.
He was near Jaleh Square when U.S.-backed pro-monarchist troops gunned down protesters in a massacre known as Black Friday.
He joined the revolutionaries.
He was rejected by Rahman Ghassemlou's Kurdistan Democratic Party, so he joined the communist Komala Party instead.
“I suggest that the Armenian struggle, if it is to succeed, requires at least as much commitment from every one of us,” Melkonian later wrote.
He continued to wear a Kurdish uniform later in life.
(If you have any photos, let me know!)
The Armenians were caught between the Maronite Catholic-led right-wing forces and the Palestinian-led left-wing forces.
The PKK later waged a decades-long insurgency/terror campaign against the Turkish govt, and saved the Ezidi people of Iraq from ISIS.
There, he met the infamous Harutiun Takoshian, better known by his codename — Hagop "Abu Mujahid" Hagopian.
Yanikian's act sent shockwaves through the Armenian communities worldwide, and inspired Hagopian to found his Secret Army (ASALA).
He used his military expertise to terrorize the Turkish govt, assassinating Turkish diplomats worldwide.
Armenian militants stormed the Turkish consulate in Paris in Sept 1981.
The hostage crisis made the Armenian genocide into front-page news around Europe and America.
He was released after ASALA carried out more bomb attacks.
Journalists accused the ruling Socialists of France of making a secret treaty with ASALA
They also inspired copycat groups, like the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide, founded by the Dashnak Party of anti-Soviet nationalists.
That summer, things took a darker turn.
In response to cross-border attacks by Palestinian guerrillas, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon.
(Sept. 1982 edition of Serxwebûn magazine, written by Kurdish prisoners in an Israeli POW camp in Ansar, Lebanon)
Things really went downhill, which led to the militants losing Armenian community support and Melkonian leaving ASALA.
"More than a million of us died, what does it matter if 25 of you die?" the 1982 attacker shouted.
Armenians reacted with disgust, and Melkonian split from Hagopian.
He had a lot of time to think, and wrote essays on left-wing nationalism, posthumously published as The Right To Struggle.
Melkonian saw 2 options: the land could “be integrated into Soviet Armenia” or “revolutionary Turkey and/or Kurdistan”
In his interview with Chehab, Hagopian said he wanted the USSR to help win "the liberation of occupied Armenia from the Turkish regime and the establishment of a socialist society in liberated Armenia."
In addition to the "structural political changes…needed to truly liberate the potential of Soviet citizens," there were millions of Kurds and Turks living on the lands ASALA claimed for "Liberated Armenia."
He believed that a multiethnic revolution in Turkey would allow Armenians to live alongside Turks and Kurds.
Armenians in the Soviet Azerbaijani province of Karabakh protested to become part of Soviet Armenia. Azeris carried out pogroms against Armenians.
"If we lose [Karabakh], we turn the final page of our people's history," he warned.
He planned the famous April 1993 four-day offensive on Kalbajar, which linked Karabakh with the rest of Armenia.
The war in 1994 with Armenian forces in control of Karabakh. Both sides committed horrible crimes, and over 1 million people were displaced by the war.
Melkonian is more fondly remembered in Armenia. He is considered a hero of the Karabakh War, which has just restarted after a years-long ceasefire.
Azerbaijan's ambassador to Washington claimed last week that Armenia was bringing "Lebanese radicals" to the front lines, a clear reference to Melkonian's past with ASALA.
Azerbaijani Ambassador to the US Elin Suleymanov alluded to 9/11 conspiracy theories and warned that Internet trolls may be trying to “push Armenian propaganda under Jewish names” in an appeal to a…https://asiatimes.com/2020/10/azerbaijan-makes-its-case-to-pro-israel-americans/
This was adopted from my undergrad thesis at Columbia, bibliography on ASALA below.
Also see this source: https://komun-academy.com/2018/11/30/arabs-kurds-armenians-memoirs-of-an-armenian-in-the-bekaa-valley/
# 2, 3, 4, 17, 27: Joseph Nakhla, al-Hawadess, Feb 12, 1982.
# 5 https://thearmenianchronicles.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/a-commander-a-hero-a-brother-chronicling-the-plight-of-uc-berkeley-alumnus-monte-melkonian/
# 18: The New York Times, Sept 25, 1981
# 25: the Amazon book listing
By Angela [email protected] He was independent, intelligent, very curious, extremely daring, and analytical. Without hesitation, Markar Melkonian began recounting his brother’s lo…https://thearmenianchronicles.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/a-commander-a-hero-a-brother-chronicling-the-plight-of-uc-berkeley-alumnus-monte-melkonian/
Melkonian, Monte. The Right to Struggle: Selected Writings of Monte Melkonian on the Armenian National Question. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Sardarabad Collective, 1993.