News channel CNN Türk aired a special segment on Saturday evening, showing a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) flag as evidence of cooperation between an Armenian group and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
In the photo CNN Türk used, a FARC flag appears hanging from a table, where acting leader of the PKK Murat Karayılan is seated.
The caption says, “Armenian terrorist organisation: ASALA / 77 people, including 58 Turks, martyred by Armenian terrorism.”
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, was active from 1970s until 1990s, and is known for the several dozen Turkish diplomats it assassinated during that time.
ASALA trained with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Beirut, while the PKK was situated in camps in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley for a while. The groups are believed to have crossed paths, but there is little evidence of actual cooperation or collaboration between them.
In 1988, ASALA founder Hagop Hagopian was assassinated in Greece. The group is believed to have lost the majority of its support even earlier, in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon and 1983 when ASALA targeted France’s Orly airport.
The PKK was founded in 1978 in Turkey, and carried out its first armed attack in 1984.
Last week, after accusations were brought against Turkey and Azerbaijan that the former was sending Syrian mercenaries to aid the latter in the erupting conflict with Armenia over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Turkey, Khazar Ibrahim, told Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency that Armenia had brought in members of ASALA and PKK, armed them and sent them to the disputed area.
The next day, Anadolu reported that militia trained by the PKK attacked Azerbaijani civilians. The Turkish agency cited unnamed sources, who said some 300 PKK members had been brought in.
ASALA carried out its last two actions in 1991, when the group claimed an attack on the Turkish ambassador in Budapest, and a bombing of the Turkish embassy in Brussels in 1997, for which some affiliated with the group deny involvement.
On Friday, Ambassador Ibrahim told reporters that ASALA had issued a call to arms against Azerbaijan on social media. “That spread, and they tried to erase it,” Ibrahim said, adding that there were “French speakers and representatives of PKK” among those fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as some who had been involved in the fighting in Lebanon and Syria.
In an interview with Kurdish Fırat News Agency, Karayılan said the allegations of PKK involvement were deliberate and planned by Turkey and Azerbaijan.
“Before this most recent war started, they ran reports that 300 PKK guerrillas went to Armenia,” Karayılan said. “They first prepared the foundations, and then they launched the attack. This is a planned, organised attack against Armenia.”
In an article detailing the involvement of Turkey and Syrian Turkmen groups in the conflict, Russian critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta mentioned Syrian Armenians, saying “information appeared” that Armenian supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad were going to Armenia to support the country, accompanied by other Armenians from Lebanon.
Armenia has always embraced the PKK, retired Turkish ambassador Uluç Özülker told CNN Türk. “It would not be a surprise that PKK was brought there over Iran,” he said.
Kanal D, owned by Erdoğan ally Demirören Holding, had run the same CNN Türk story on Friday.
The thumbnail image used for a video of the segment uploaded to YouTube showed the same photo with the FARC flag, with the caption “The bloody history of ASALA and JCAG terrorism,” referring to the militant organisation Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide, which was active between 1975 to 1987.