“The mission of ASALA was not to obtain international recognition of the genocide committed against Armenians, but also to return Western Armenia.”
Vazgen Sislian, the head of the “Van” operation, often says this in his interviews.
Vazgen Sisiyan was born on October 20, 1956 in Burj Hamoud, a suburb of Beirut, into a family of Genocide survivors. In 1986, he graduated from the Sorbonne University in Paris with a major in linguistics. Vazgen Sislian is fluent in Armenian, English, French, Arabic and Turkish.
During the Lebanon War, young Sislian, along with the self-defense team, defended Armenian neighborhoods. A few months before taking hostages at the Turkish consulate, Sislian and his comrades made themselves known in Beirut by sending a publication to the editors of the “Armenian Magazine”. On September 24, 1981, at the age of 25, he led a group of fighters from the “ASALA” organization (Hakob Julfaian, Gevorg Guzelian, Aram Basmajian) with the aim of seizing the Turkish Consulate in Paris.
During the operation, Consul Kai Inal and two soldiers were seriously injured, 56 people were taken hostage and held in the consulate building for 16 hours. Vazgen Sislian and Hakob Julfaian were also seriously injured and transported to the “Hotel Dio” hospital, where Vazgen remained unconscious for 5 to 6 days. After publishing their claims in the media, the fighters voluntarily surrendered to the French authorities.
The “VAN” operation and the political trial that followed it played a major role in bringing the Armenian issue to the international political arena, globalizing the territorial claim and the violated rights of the Armenian people, creating a new wave of condemnation of the reality of the Armenian genocide, strengthening the pride and spirit of struggle among Armenians, why not also concerning the renewal of the ranks of ASALA with members and sympathizers.
The long trial of the battle group was in itself a great anti-Turkish war. The trial of “VAN” turned into a trial of the Turkish government.
The famous director Henri Verneuil, Meline Manushian, the widow of the French national hero Missak Manushian, the famous singer Charles Aznavour, the lawyer of the “VAN” group and politician Patrick Devejian and other famous Armenians expressed their unconditional support for the trial of the ASALA heroes.
The benevolent attitude of the president of the court was remarkable, who throughout the trial urged the audience to refrain from labeling the action of ASALA as “terrorism” and the heroes of the brigade as “terrorists”.
The French-Armenian community and the youth organized strong and consistent demonstrations and various actions and supported the fighters to the end. The best lawyers in France defended the freedom fighters during the trial, and several Armenians who survived the genocide had the opportunity to testify in court.
After some time, Vazgen Sislian moved to Armenia, where he participated in the Artsakh War. In early April 2016, Vazgen Sislian assembled a team and defended Artsakh during the escalating conflict with Azerbaijan. “Artsakh is Armenian land, and the Turks and Azerbaijanis will not be able to take it away from us. Now they are on the attack. We all have to unite and unite to defend Artsakh. We must all gather here to protect Artsakh. This has always been the Armenian land, and nobody can take it away from us,” he said in one of the interviews.