An email from my dearest friend: Ara Manoogian,–Character Assignation Attempt Made on Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian

Ara Manoogian‘s web blog can be found at

Character Assignation Attempt Made on Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian

Dear Friends,

On April 2, 2010 on Open Source Radio, an interview with Armenian decorated filmmaker and documentarian Ted Bogosian was podcasted (see: Beginning in the 9th minute of the show, in a matter of a fact tone, unsubstantiated and defaming claims were made that Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian had engaged in the sales of drugs, arms and had started an Armenian terrorist movement. He was also accused of serving time in prison for masterminding numerous bombings in Europe, including the Orly Airport bombing in France, which took place on July 15, 1983, and resulted in the loss of many innocent lives.

All of the self-appointed “truth seeker” Ted Bogosian’s allegations are simply not true and unfitting for any National Hero. To add insult to injury, the show has been spreading all over the internet, being reposted on well known sites, and is getting rave reviews in the comments section. Basically, Ted Bogosian has rewritten Armenian history to the uninformed world, painting Monte Melkonian, our modern day hero, into a radicalized bloodthirsty terrorist.

I encourage all of you to read an article which was posted at Hetq Online to counter Bogosian’s claims which can be found at: and a version of which follows the body of this message.

The late Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian no longer has his own voice to make objections to his accusers and defend his good name. Thus it is up to all those who appreciate our hero, who lost his life in battle in Artsakh on June 12, 1993, while defending our nation from those who intended to annihilate us. I encourage you to leave a comment regarding your feelings about this unjust situation on any sites where you find the interview posted as well as write or call Ted Bogosian, at his legal counsel Jeffrey K. Techentin of ADLER POLLOCK & SHEEHAN P.C. at (401) 427-6147.

Let us not turn our backs on any of our Armenian National Heroes, and especially Monte Melkonian, who sacrificed his entire adult life for the sake of our well being and our future existence as Armenians. We need to be vigilant and send a disapproving message to ANYONE who would dare try to soil the name and reputation of those who are undeserving of such attacks. Our message needs to be strong and swift, so that others who are contemplating such actions in the future will think twice. By doing this today, we lessen the chances of another character assassination attempt on our Armenian National Heroes.

Please pass this message on to everyone you know, be they Armenian or not, as this is not just an Armenian issue, this is an avoidable human tragedy that could happen to anyone. It is our responsibility as members of civilized society to educate and enlighten the culprits of such crimes that we will not tolerate destructive actions against others.

Respectfully yours,

Ara Manoogian

Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian

By Ara Manoogian

Seventeen years following his martyrdom in Artsakh, Armenian national hero Monte Melkonian is once again a victim of defamation. I came across a very interesting interview on Radio Open Source with an Armenian decorated filmmaker and documentarian Ted Bogosian. The subject of the interview was Ted’s vocation – seeking the truth and telling it.

Open Source Radio host Christopher Lydon introduced Ted Bogosian as a truth hound and put the ‘what is truth’ question to him (see: What I heard in response, less than halfway through the interview, led me to think that Ted may have misheard Christopher, thinking he had been asked ‘what is a lie’ or, for that matter, how to present a lie as truth.

As someone committed to truth seeking, I was at first thrilled to learn about an alternative experience from a prominent Armenian until I heard the following statements made by him:

“In Armenian Journey there is a very important sequence which didn’t make the cut. And that is that I started to pursue an interview with a young man of my age and background named Monte Melkonian. And Monte was born in about the same year, in the central valley of California. And while I was at Duke, he was at Berkeley, and when I went to graduate school, he went to graduate school in Beirut. And he was pursuing the truth about the Genocide in his own way and he became radicalized and he went underground and started selling arms and started selling drugs and started an Armenian terrorist movement. And so while I was making Armenian Journey, he was in jail in France, for having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport and at Turkish embassies and other businesses, where many innocent people were killed. And so, I went to see Monte in prison, and it was quite a moment, because he thought that I was there to kill him since he didn’t know who I was and wasn’t expecting a visitor that day. But I came to start corresponding with him and came to understand his manifesto; and I realized that what he was doing was similar to what I was doing, except in a different theater. And so, my battle was against the media to try to tell the story one way, and his battle was more traditional. So, that didn’t make the cut, because I wouldn’t have been able to get the film on television had I presented that manifesto. But I mention it because I want to say that I think this sort of thing is in the blood, not only of Armenians but of people who want to tell the truth and, that is, they’re willing to go there no matter where it leads.” (The audio fragment is at 09:16-11:36).

Having devoted over a decade of my life researching Monte Melkonian’s brief and thorny path, it was especially saddening for me to hear such irresponsible and defaming statements coming out of the mouth of a “truth seeker” such as Ted Bogosian. His statements manifest shoddiness of research, sweeping generalizations and a self-indulgent distortion of recent Armenian history.

I would like to see one single piece of evidence supporting Ted Bogosian’s claim that Monte Melkonian was a drug dealer, arms dealer and the founder of an Armenian terrorist movement, who masterminded the Orly Airport attack in France. These are the three major things against which Melkonian had been struggling with all his essence, endangering his life in the process. It was the Orly attack that catalyzed the split of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA).

To be more specific, below I have singled out each of Ted Bogosian’s inaccurate claims. Let’s start from the most innocent inaccuracies.

T. Bogosian’s claim #1: “And Monte was born in about the same year.”

Ted Bogosian was born in 1951, whereas Monte Melkonian was born in 1957, thus not “a young man of my age,” as Ted is claiming.

T. Bogosian’s claim #2: “…and when I went to graduate school, he [Monte Melkonian] went to graduate school in Beirut.”

Monte Melkonian was admitted to a graduate school at Oxford, but chose to give up his academic career in favor of a trip to Beirut at the onset of the second phase of the Lebanese Civil War, when he joined the defense of Bourj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter of the city.

T. Bogosian’s claim #3: “…and [Monte Melkonian] started selling arms and started selling drugs…”

All the accounts of people who knew him, whether interviewed by me or other researchers, including those who spoke up at their own initiative, indicate that Monte was adamantly opposed to drugs, be they for use or for sale. Throughout my research, I haven’t come across any evidence of Monte being involved in arms or drug dealing.

According to one of Monte’s brothers-in-arms, once Monte, already a Commander of the Martuni Defense Region, of the newly self-declared Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh, refused Samvel Babayan, Commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army, to promote an officer only because he smoked marijuana. He had even banned his soldiers from using alcohol, which was common practice in other detachments.

More importantly, Monte earned himself highly influential enemies after burning lucrative cannabis fields in a noble attempt to shut down the local drug trade. This deed was followed by a few attempts on his life. One might assume that Monte could use the proceeds from supposed drug sales to feed and equip the poorly armed fighters under his command. All evidence indicates that he had ignored any such compromise.

T. Bogosian’s claim #4: “…he [Monte Melkonian] started an Armenian terrorist movement.”

This is an outright false statement. ASALA, to which Ted Bogosian refers, was founded in 1975 in Beirut, Lebanon, during the first phase of the Lebanese Civil War by Harutiun Takoshian, alias Hagop Hagopian. This was three years before Monte arrived in Lebanon for the first time in his adult life. Monte was recruited by ASALA in 1980, after serving in an Armenian militia group in the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud helping defend the Armenian population during the Lebanese Civil War.

Furthermore, based on the accounts of both supporters and opponents of ASALA, Monte played a pivotal role in the violent split of the organization in 1983 – into those who supported the despotic leader Hagop Hagopian and those who disapproved his methods of struggle exactly because it took innocent lives, as well as distracted the attention from the cause, for which the attacks were supposed to raise awareness.

T. Bogosian’s claim #5: “…he [Monte Melkonian] was in jail in France, for having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport and at Turkish embassies and other businesses, where many innocent people were killed.”

A sweeping generalization. Monte Melkonian was arrested and eventually charged with possession of a falsified passport and an illegal handgun in Paris on November 28, 1985. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but served only three and a half.

The Orly Airport attack, which took place on July 15, 1983, in which many innocent people were killed and wounded, was masterminded by Monte’s already arch-enemy, Hagop Hagopian, and carried out by the latter’s supporters in Paris. The only people tried for the Orly Airport attack were Varadjian Garbidjian (also spelled as Varoujan Garabedian, life sentence; released after serving 17 years), Soner Nayir (15 years), Ohannes Semerci (10 years).

Parallel to the preparation of the Orly Airport attack, inner turmoil was in progress within ASALA due to the widening gap between the members of the organization over H. Hagopian’s despotic leadership, the methods of struggle and, specifically, the implementation of the Orly attack. Monte was in the opposition wing. But despite his efforts to cancel the Orly tragedy, it was implemented, accelerating the final split of ASALA.

“If we lose Karabakh, then we will turn the final page in the history of the Armenian people,” once Monte Melkonian famously said in an interview in Karabakh. Who knows? Considering Monte Melkonian’s indispensable contribution to the overall victory of the Armenians against Azerbaijan, Karabakh war could have been a lost cause, had he been the mastermind of the Orly Airport attack and therefore sentenced to life in prison.

Melkonian was arrested twice. In his court documents there was neither evidence, nor were there allegations supporting Mr. Bogosian’s announcement regarding his participation in the attack in any form, as well as arms and/or drug dealing. It would have been convenient for the French authorities and to Monte’s enemies to find such evidence, but there was none to be found.

T. Bogosian’s claim #6: “I went to see Monte in prison, and it was quite a moment, because he thought that I was there to kill him…”

Okay, let me try to get this straight. Monte thought that Mr. Bogosian came to the prison to kill him? So, Mr. Bogosian is saying that Monte thought an Armenian-American filmmaker was going to walk into Fresnes Prison, a maximum security correctional facility, formerly a Nazi concentration camp, armed guards watching his every move, and kill him? What about checking for weapons prior to entering the facility and the multiple checkpoints before getting to the telephone booth sized visiting area that has thick glass separating the visitor from the detainee? Ted Bogosian makes it sound like Monte was in a health spa in the South of France.

I provided my arguments as accurately as I could and am willing to embrace supporting evidence that proves Mr. Bogosian’s claims. Otherwise, as a friend of mine put it, Mr. Bogosian’s interview is more like “Ted talking about Ted – not the truth.” I welcome facts, as they will enrich our knowledge about who Monte Melkonian really was. With that said, I invite Ted Bogosian to set the record straight by exchanging his recollections with evidence and facts. Otherwise a public apology from Ted Bogosian is in order.

Ara Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia, as well as a member of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA)

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