Operation Van – Paris, 1981

Operation Van – Paris, 1981On September 24, 1981, in Paris, four young Armenians aged 20-24 – Vasken Sislian, Aram Basmajian, Hagob Dzhulfayan, and Kevork Guzelian – armed with pistols, submachine guns, and explosives, captured the Turkish consulate in mere minutes, taking 60 hostages.

During the shootout, one of the Turkish guards was killed and two fighters along with a vice-consul were wounded. Thus, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) commenced the operation codenamed “Van”.

Operation Van was a new phenomenon in the activities of ASALA and in general in the history of the Armenian national liberation movement. The trial of the young men would also become a historical event.

The trial of the four young men that took place from January 24 to January 31, 1984, was special. This was the first political process after the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian in 1921. The trial turned into a tribune for the accusation of Turkey. The interests of the Armenian people were brilliantly defended by lawyers Leclerc, Teijan, Signar, Patrick Devedjian, Aslanyan, and Pestimaljyan.

The widow of the national hero of France Missak Manouchian Mrs. Meline gave a speech at the trial, condemning the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey in 1915. She also asked the permission of the presiding judge to kiss the four young Armenians on the forehead. Mrs. Meline was allowed to do so as an exception.

Then were read the letters of Charles Aznavour and Ashot Malakian (Henri Verneuil) exposing the anti-Armenian genocidal policy of the Turkish authorities. The French justice sentenced all four Armenians to seven years of imprisonment.

Three of the four freedom fighters made it through the years of imprisonment – Aram Basmajian committed suicide in 1985. He was buried in Paris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Vasken, Kevork, and Hagob were paroled on August 5, 1986. Later in the same month, they returned to Lebanon.

Years later, they settled in Armenia. During the years of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Kevork Guzelian was the commander of the detachment “Metsn Murad.” Vasken Sislian also fought in the war.

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