What the collective Turkish memory refuses to recall

What the collective Turkish memory refuses to recall

We have no means to know what box office figures the popular film “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine” would have produced had it been shot in the year 1982, but judging from today’s powerful “Palestine fetish,” it seems that the Turks’ collective (and selective) memory refuses to recall the events of 1975-1982.

Why Turks wholeheartedly subscribe to the Palestinian cause although most of them cannot point the Palestinian territories out on a map is a near-mystery. Why do the Turks, when they take to the streets for political demonstrations, just carry placards written in Turkish but in the case of Palestine the protest lingua franca suddenly converts to Arabic and Quranic script is another near-mystery. Perhaps the latter near-mystery explains the former.

At its heyday, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) killed 46 people and injured 299 in 84 incidents of attacks and assassination. Of the victims, 36 were Turkish diplomats.

Historically, there is detailed evidence regarding ASALA’s connections with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the darling of Turks since time immemorial. The evidence also produces ASALA’s irrefutable love affair with George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Naif Hawatme’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), two terrorist organizations devoted to the cause a majority of Turks wholeheartedly subscribe to. It is a well-documented fact that ASALA had established itself under the patronage of the PLO, with links also to Hamas’s present day rival Fatah and, in Lebanon, to the Lebanese Arab Army.

ASALA’s headquarters were situated in Beirut, in an area controlled by the DFLP. ASALA members were trained under the aegis of Fatah’s men and camps, including a site at Hamuriah in Syria. The group, listed as a terrorist entity by the U.S., also had offices and bases in Tripoli, Damascus and South Yemen.

The four ASALA militants who attacked the Turkish embassy on Sept. 24, 1981 were trained by the Palestinians. The squad which attacked Esenboga Airport in Ankara on Aug. 7, 1982, killing nine civilians and injuring 82, were trained at Hamuriah. The Palestinian organizations also assisted ASALA with weapons, sabotage materials, counterfeit passports and other logistics.

There is so much detailed evidence for these links reminding one of the darker side of the moon that the curious reader could even read in detail how ASALA’s leader, Hagop Hagopyan (his nom de guerre), broke up with the PLO in 1982 and allied his organization with Abu Nidal, the anti-PLO leader responsible for much of anti-American terrorism.

About three decades after this dark episode, every Turk remembers, with deep abhorrence, the days of ASALA. Many would mentally associate ASALA’s terrorism with “every living or dead Armenian,” and hence the collective hatred that shows itself in the cheerful April 2012 placard at the heart of Istanbul that read “You are all Armenians. You are all bastards!” Similarly, the murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was perhaps a pathetic expression of the same hatred for ASALA.

None of that is agreeable, but all of it is understandable. What, however, does not fit the entire picture is the Turks’ historic love affair with groups that evidently and substantially assisted ASALA in its attacks and assassinations of Turkish targets.

Were the Turks happy that their Palestinian brothers helped ASALA kill Turks? Are they happy that their Palestinian brothers did so? How would they, with a thick lens of religion with which they view world affairs, explain Muslim brothers assisting Christian assassins for the deaths of Muslim Turks? A true love affair, it seems.

Turkey does not have an ambassador to Israel and, according to news reports, it will soon have an ambassador to Palestine, the land of our brothers who, until less than three decades ago, were ASALA’s brothers in arms.