Turkey commemorated its diplomats killed as a result of a series of attacks by Armenian terrorist groups that marked the country's foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s.
A total of 31 Turkish diplomats and their family members have been killed around the world by Armenian terrorist groups, namely the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) and the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG).
The bloody attacks started back in 1973 with the assassination of Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadır Demir in Los Angeles by Gourgen Yanikian, an Armenian.
On Oct. 22, 1975, the terrorists raided Turkey's Embassy in Vienna and killed Turkish Ambassador Daniş Tunalıgil while he was working in his office. Two days later, Turkey's Ambassador to Paris Ismail Erez and his driver Talip Yener were mowed down when they were in the official car of the embassy.
These initial assassinations were followed by a series of attacks targeting both diplomats and their relatives throughout the 1970s. In 1976, the first secretary of Turkey's Embassy in Beirut, Oktay Cirit; in 1977, Ambassador to the Vatican Taha Carım; in 1978, Ambassador to Madrid Zeki Kuneralp and his wife Necla Kuneralp; again in 1978, retired Ambassador Beşir Balcıoğlu; in 1979, the son of Lahey Ambassador Özdemir Benler, Ahmet Benler and again in 1979, the tourism adviser of the Paris embassy Yılmaz Çoban were all victims of Armenian terrorism.
Founded in 1975 in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War, the ASALA is responsible for hundreds of bloody terror acts. According to "Armenian Terror," a 2006 study by Ömer Engin Lütem, a former Turkish diplomat, the killings spanned continents, taking place in the U.S., Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Portugal, Iran and the U.K.
While the Marxist-Leninist ASALA not only targeted Turkey but also other countries and became infamous for a 1975 bombing on the Beirut office of the World Council of Churches, the nationalistic JCAG only targeted Turkey because it believed that attacking other countries would damage the so-called "Armenian struggle."
Armenian terrorist attacks intensified from 1980 to 1983, when 580 of the 699 attacks – over 80% – occurred.
The Turkish diplomats who were assassinated during this period were, respectively, the executive attache of the Athens embassy Galip Özmen and his daughter Neslihan Özmen; the consulate-general of Sydney, Şarık Arıyak; security attache of Sydney consulate-general Engin Sever; the working attache of Paris, Reşat Moralı; religious representative to Paris Tecelli Arı; Mehmet Savaş Yergüz, a secretariat in the Geneva consulate-general; Cemal Özen, the security attache of the Paris consulate-general; the consulate-general of Los Angeles, Kemal Arıkan; the honorary consul-general of Boston, Orhan Gündüz; the executive attache of the Lisbon embassy, Erkut Akbay, and his wife Nadide Akbay; military attache in the Ottawa embassy, Col. Atilla Altıkat; executive attache of the Burgas consulate-general Bora Süelkan; Belgrade Ambassador Galip Balkar; the executive attache of the Brussels embassy, Dursun Aksoy; the wife of Lisbon's acting Ambassador Yurtsev Mıhçıoğlu, Cahide Mıhçıoğlu; the wife of Teran embassy's secretariat Işık Yönder; the deputy working attache of the Vienna embassy, Erdoğan Özen and the deputy international director of United Nations' Vienna office.
Retired Ambassador Bilal N. Şimşir, the writer of the book "Our Martyr Diplomats," explains the bloody period as follows: "During the 1970s and 1980s, planes kept carrying the caskets of martyr diplomats from all around the world to Turkey. The Turkish diplomats who went abroad with baggage returned in a coffin. They were our colleagues. We could have been in those coffins. And they could have been alive today."
The attack at Esenboğa airport on Aug. 7, 1982, was one of the most notorious attacks by the ASALA, as the group targeted non-diplomat civilians for the first time.
Nine people died and over 80 were injured when two terrorists opened fire in a crowded passenger waiting area at the airport in the Turkish capital Ankara.
The 1981 and 1983 Paris attacks are among the group's other notable acts. ASALA terrorists held 56 people hostage for 15 hours during the Turkish Consulate attack in 1981, while a suitcase bomb killed eight people – most of them non-Turks – in 1983 at a Turkish Airlines check-in desk at Paris' Orly Airport.
According to some Turkish officials, after the Orly attack, the group lost much of its support and financial backing from the Armenian diaspora and had to dissolve.
The terrorist attacks ended in 1986, according to the Armenian Terror study.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Hazel Çağan Elbir, an analyst working on Armenian terror in the Center for Euroasian Studies Center (AVIM), said that Turkey has become one of the countries that suffered the most from terrorism for a long period of time.
Elbir stated that the first attack that killed Baydar and Demir back in 1973 was regarded as a discrete action by the international community and did not get the necessary attention.
In order to compel the Turkish government "to acknowledge publicly its responsibility for the so-called Armenian genocide in 1915, pay reparations and cede territory for an 'Armenian homeland,'" the ASALA and the JCAG targeted Turkish diplomats in numerous bloody attacks in that decade.
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following revolts when some sided with invading Russians, which resulted in some Armenian casualties.
Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocation, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.
The Turkish government has repeatedly called on historians to study Ottoman archives pertaining to the era in order to uncover what actually happened between the Ottoman government and its Armenian citizens.
Rebuffing the "genocide" allegations, Turkey has officially acknowledged past experiences as a great tragedy in which both parties suffered heavy casualties, including hundreds of Muslim Turks.