More violence against Turks in US
Boston — The bitterness has raged for 67 years now.
And with the assassination early Tuesday evening of Turkish Honorary Consul General Orhan Gunduz in the Boston suburb of Somerville, the United States is again the battleground for the animosity that has seethed between the Armenians and the Turks for so long.
An extremist Armenian group called the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility for the murder of Mr. Gunduz. The same group admitted to the January killing of Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan in Los Angeles, the bombing Mr. Gunduz's Turkish import store in Cambridge, Mass., in March, and bombings in New York and Los Angeles in late 1979. The Somerville shooting came one day before the preliminary hearing in the trial of 19-year-old Lebanese citizen Hanpig Sassounian in Los Angeles for the murder of Mr. Arikan.
The Justice Commandos are one of two Armenian terrorist groups that have claimed responsibility for killing some 22 Turkish diplomats around the world in the past few years.
The two largest Armenian communities in the US are located in Hollywood, Calif., and in Watertown, a Boston suburb -- each near the site of an assassination of a Turkish diplomat.
Martin Halabian, the director of information for the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, says the violence ''is repulsive'' to most of the Armenian community. He says that Armenians born in this country are used to democratic processes as a means of bringing about change. Armenians recently arrived from Lebanon and other Mideast countries, however, are more used to militancy as a way of life, he adds.
Armenians say that in 1915 some 1.5 million of their people living in Turkey were either killed outright by the Turks or died during a forced march into the desert. The Turkish government has never admitted that this took place, saying that it was part of a civil war.
Armenians, on the other hand, compare the killing to Hitler's extermination of millions of Jews during World War II. Armenians point out that after World War II, the Jews got reparations and a homeland in Israel. But what Armenian's term their genocide has yet to even be acknowledged.
''It is an Israeli type of feeling on the part of the Armenians,'' says Edward Boghosian, editor of the Armenian Reporter, a New York-based Armenian newspaper.
Terrorist acts by Armenians against Turks were very rare up until a few years ago. Former Boston University history Prof. Robert Mirak says that while the Armenian community flourished in Lebanon, Armenians cherished the hope that that community would be the one to move into an Amrenian homeland. A free republic is a long-held Armenian goal. With the ''virtual destruction of the Armenian community in Lebanon, a feeling of desperation has come in,'' he says, as Armenians realize they are farther and farther from their goals.
Armenians who survived the events of 1915 feel a sense of responsibility because they survived, says Barbara Merguerian, editor of the Armenian Mirror Spectator, a Watertown, Mass.-based newspaper. ''Most of us express this responsiblity by keeping the Armenian culture and heritage alive. There are some who reflect that in terrorist acts.'' Mrs. Merguerian's paper has taken stands against terrorism, as has the Washington-based Armenian Assembly of America. However, Armenians condemn the Turkish government for not admitting their charges of genocide.
Nabi Sensoy, an official at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, says the Armenians are badly misrepresenting what happened in 1915.
''So there's no question for admitting our guilt for what never happened,'' said Mr. Sensoy. ''As far as we're concerned, there is no problem.''
Mr. Mirak says Armenians feel ''the time has come to tell the Turks, 'You can destroy us, but you can't destroy our history.' ''
''(The killing) will not resolve the fundamental issues dividing the Armenian and Turkish peoples,'' said a statement released by the Armenian Assembly of America.
Turkish officials say that their main concern now is stepping up protection of other Turkish diplomats.
President Reagan's spokesman Larry Speakes said Wednesday that Mr. Reagan ''profoundly deplores the cowardly assassination of Orhan Gunduz in Massachusetts last night. The President is determined that the United States government will provide no quarter for individuals or organizations engaged in terrorist acts. The government and people of Turkey are friends and we share with them the condemnation and the mourning for the consul general.''