BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The Turkish Cihan wire service made a sensational revelation last week — a Turkish hit squad had planned to assassinate a visiting Armenian Parliamentarian on March 22, 2009.
Based on information obtained from Turkish security services, Cihan disclosed that Mutlu Erdogan and Selcuk Onur Ozyilmaz, members of the Turkish Unity Revenge Squad (Turk Intikam Birligi Teshkilati), were plotting to kill an unnamed ARF (Tashnag Party) leader. They were tipped off about his presence in Turkey, after he had acquired a Turkish cell phone.
The Armenian Weekly, a Boston-based ARF publication, speculated that the target of the Turkish hit men may have been Ara Nranyan, an ARF Parliamentarian from Armenia, who was in Turkey to attend a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) conference as Chairman of the Audit Committee of BSEC’s Parliamentary Assembly.
During a phone conversation, the hit squad members discussed their plan to assassinate Nranyan, but decided to postpone their intended action, having learned that the security forces were trailing them. “Let a few months pass and we will slowly begin to conduct operations. We won’t stand idly by,” the conspirators told each other on a phone call which was monitored by Turkish authorities.
The ARF Bureau press office expressed concern that “information about Nranyan’s entry to Turkey was made available to a terrorist organization,” noting that “such information could have only been provided by the Turkish state.”
Meanwhile, a Turkish police report established a link between the hit squad and Ergenikon, a covert group of military and intelligence officials who carried out terrorist operations, including political assassinations, in order to create mayhem and instability in Turkey with the aim of toppling the elected government.
“Nranyan’s visit was not secret, but it was not a high profile visit either. So, it is possible that the information the alleged plotters had was from a source within the Turkish government,” ARF Bureau political affairs director Giro Manoyan told the Armenian Weekly. “We are taking the issue seriously and looking into it, trying to find out as much information as possible,” he added. “The information is disturbing because it corresponds with certain facts,” said Manoyan. “In a country where someone like Hrant Dink who was considered a ‘dove’ was gunned down in broad daylight, we wouldn’t be surprised that a member of the ARF, generally viewed in Turkey as ‘hawks,’ would be targeted,” Manoyan noted. Indeed, it was revealed that the Ergenikon group had even planned to assassinate the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey!
It is surprising that ever since this most serious revelation, no Armenian government official has bothered to make a statement or issue a condemnation. Not even the Chairman of the Armenian Parliament has raised his voice at the news that a member of his legislative body had been targeted for assassination.
One would have expected that the Armenian government would have pressed Ankara to disclose how a hit squad was alerted about the upcoming visit of an Armenian Parliamentarian to Turkey — was it through a phone company insider, a Turkish visa officer or a state official who knew of Nranyan’s plan to attend the BSEC conference?
Armenia should demand that Turkey conduct a thorough investigation of this ugly incident and disclose the steps taken to ensure that such leaks to terrorists about visiting Armenian dignitaries to do not take place in the future. Until Yerevan becomes satisfied that the Turkish government is doing everything possible to guarantee the safety and security of Armenian visitors, no Armenian official or tourist should step foot on Turkish soil, and no Armenian athlete or sports team should participate in any tournament in Turkey. No more soccer diplomacy! Also, until further notice, no Armenian from the Diaspora should visit Turkey.
Strangely, some naïve Armenians do not seem to realize that when they go to Turkey on vacation, they are not simply visiting another country, but going into enemy territory. Since there are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey, no Armenian consular official can come to the assistance of an Armenian citizen in trouble, as was the case in the killing of a pregnant Armenian woman near Ankara, and the beating of an Armenian family vacationing in Antalya.
Armenians should raise this assassination plot at every opportunity through the global media and international meetings, particularly the Black Sea Economic Cooperation conference, demanding that Turkish officials bring severe charges against the accused hit men, disclose the findings of their investigation, and take preventive steps before Armenia agrees to send another official delegation to Turkey.