‘A Sacrifice at the Altar of Freedom’: Lisbon 5 at 34

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Remembering the Lisbon 5

Remembering the Lisbon 5


“This is not suicide, nor an act committed by insane people. This is a sacrifice at the altar of freedom.” So read a statement issued by the Armenian Revolutionary Army on July 27, 1983, after five of its members—Setrag Adjemian, Sarkis Aprahamian, Vatche Daghlian, Ara Kerdjelian and Simon Yahneian—made the ultimate sacrifice for the Armenian Cause when they blew up the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon Portugal, saying, “we have decided to blow up this building and remain under its rubble.”

“The note from the ARA said it had resorted to ‘armed struggle’ because peaceful means for ‘the pursuit of our just cause’ had failed. ‘The wall of silence build around our cause was too thick to be pierced.’ The ARA said it carried out the attack because ‘Turkey and its allies refused to recognize the Genocide of Armenians,’” Asbarez wrote in its July 30, 1983 issue in covering the Lisbon 5 news.

On social media, pictures of the Lisbon 5 with a note saying “we will never forget” or “your memory will always shine” are abound. On this day, we bow our heads to these heroes and proclaim our unwavering commitment to their ideals and beliefs.

July 30, 1983 issue of Asbarez reporting on the Lisbon 5

July 30, 1983 issue of Asbarez reporting on the Lisbon 5

Perhaps, however, this day should serve as an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the sacrifices we have made for our nation and our cause and assess our efforts—individual and collective—in advancing the just aspirations of the Armenian Nation. After all, theirs was the “ultimate sacrifice.” While most of us are not inclined to take such drastic steps to advance the Armenian Cause, the Lisbon 5 should serve as an impetus to make a sacrifice, for without it nothing can be achieved.

A recent humbling experience, which rendered me speechless, took me back to July 27, 1983, when topping the evening news was the story of our heroic Lisbon 5, which sent chills down my spine, while, at the same time, filling me with pride and conviction.

That experience happened this past April when I visited our soldiers on the frontlines in Artsakh. They, too, were the same age as Sarkis, Setrak, Ara, Simon and Vatche; and they, too, were making the ultimate sacrifice at the altar of freedom, saying that they would serve in their posts “as long as it was necessary.” These soldiers are not merely protecting the borders of Artsakh. They are defending our homeland—our entire nation. Four months later, I have not been able to put into words and share with my readers that particular experience in Artsakh, but I have had to report on way too many soldiers being killed by Azerbaijani fire. While I don’t know whether any of them were the soldiers I encountered on the frontline, I do know that each of them is now part of the vast and storied pantheon of our national heroes, along with the Lisbon 5 and all those others who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.

July 27 always gives me pause. It is a date that brings out all the weighty issues and forces me to take stock of my actions and my sacrifices for our cause. What I do, or have done, pales in comparison to the “ultimate sacrifice” of the Lisbon 5 or the peril our soldiers on the frontlines face on a daily basis. But their actions provide the impetus for me to do more.

Almost three and a half decades later, the ultimate sacrifice of the Lisbon 5 is still seared in our memories, forever shaking us to our core and humbling us as we go about our daily lives. While we know that their sacrifice was not in vain, let us commit ourselves to make more sacrifices in the name of our cause and the Armenian Nation.

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  1. Arman Kaymakcian said:

    I read this article and it is amazing to me. I am a proud Armenian and cannot believe that you are praising the actions of misguided youth, our youth that took their own lives and the lives of a young mother and a police officer. All seven of these people were mothers, fathers, sisters brothers and they will never again return home to thier families. When people take the lives of themselves for the cause of Islam it is disgusting and they bring about shame upon themselves and their families and their religion, and when they take innocent people’s lives they are entering into a sacred realm that only God has a right to enter. So to is the murder of people made in the image of God whatever the cause. Ara I say this to you in truth and with all sincerity after reading many of your article I can see that you are a man whose thoughts have been warped by a sinful world, you are being decieved my brother and I pray that you would receive Jesus into your heart and be transformed And your mind would be refreshed and renewed,
    Sincerely Arman Kaymakcian

    • Albert said:

      I have been saying the same thing (maybe in slightly more drastic words, hence the censorship) every year since Ara decided to write about this distasteful incident again. I will give him this: unlike the last articles (where he was basically just writing how these guys were heroes and role models), at least this time the piece comes with a very compelling analogy. While both (1) the intent of the Lisbon 5 and (2) the poor execution that cost innocent lives* should not be glorified in my view, the picture he draws of a desperate attempt at “creating justice” is somewhat understandable.

      * not allowing the argument that all supposed targets were innocent – they represent a rogue state, a country that is built on purposeful literal genocide and as such are tainted. Their life and work and legacy is that of extending unspeakable injustice into our time. The Portugese policeman on the other hand – imagine being his mother?

  2. Avo Avedissian said:

    Lisbon 5, Your heroism is carved in our hearts. Your Ultimate Sacrifice carried the Torch of Martyrdom like Stepan Zorians, Christapor Mikaelians, Simon Zavarians, Karekin Njdehs, Papken Suineys, Aram Gaydzags, Zoravar Antranigs, Soghomon Tehlirians, …..
    Lusbon 5, You will always be in our memories.

  3. Armen Harutunian said:

    Lisbon 5 and every other armenian from the beginning of our history to the current soldiers in Artsakh that has lost their life in the defense of the Armenian nation should be considered a National HERO. It is tragic that some innocent people lost their lives in Lisbon that day. No doubt, the innocent included the Lisbon 5. The wheels of justice turn very,slow in the case of the Armenian Genocide they were at standstill for so many years and we needed the help of GOD to unlock that wheel. So, GOD was present with the boys of Lisbon 5 and others. And guess what, GOD is present in the pen of Ara Khachatourian.