As a member of the latter organisation, Melkonian was involved in the assassination of several Turkish diplomats. He was arrested and imprisoned in France for possession of falsified papers and carrying an illegal handgun. On his release from prison (1989) he travelled to Armenia and participated in the defence of Armenians against Azerbaijanis over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In “A Self-Criticism” Melkonian reflects on his earlier years in the 1970s and 1980s, starting from the defence of Armenian lines during the Lebanese civil war. Sometimes falling into ideological jargon, his comments are forthright and he gives invaluable insights into one of the most secretive terrorist organisations of the 1970s. Melkonian’s own integrity comes to the fore in these accounts and he allows us to unravel some of the myths and realities of the so-called Armenian armed struggles of the 1970s, especially ASALA. One can see that the number of participants in the latter organisation was smaller than one might have expected, and the rank-and-file much more ideologically driven and dedicated to broader struggles against western imperialism. Melkonian’s work suggests that ASALA was a rigid organisation, even a dysfunctional one.
One does not have to endorse or oppose Melkonian’s words, but there is value in reading his views. A Self-Criticism is the sort of key text that history is made up of and, as such, it is bound to lead to much debate and controversy. The highly anticipated A Self Criticism will be followed up by Melkonian’s Reality, which is due in the New Year.
Monte Melkonian, A Self-Criticism, translated by Seta Melkonian, edited by Gregory Topalian, London: Gomidas Institute, 2010. 66 pp., ISBN 9781903656266, UK£10.00 / US$ 14.00.
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