Sideline: Remembering Col. Atilla Altikat, twenty seven years after his assassination in Canada’s Capital

The 27th Altikat Commemoration Ceremony

One minute silence on Sunday, August 23, 2009

One minute silence on Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lale Eskicioglu

Lale Eskicioglu

Story and photos contributed by Lale Eskicioglu, shown at left. She is Executive Director of Council of Turkish Canadians. Ms. Eskicioglu also takes a keen interest in world literature and has a website http://www.readliterature.com/

Canadians of Turkish origin and their friends gathered once again in Ottawa on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the intersection of Ottawa River Parkway & Island Park Drive, to mark the 27th anniversary of the assassination of Colonel Atilla Altikat, the first victim of international terrorism on Canadian soil.

Col. Altikat was the military attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Ottawa. On the morning of August 27, 1982, while driving to work, he was shot at point blank range and died instantly. The next day, Toronto Star published a news item titled “Brutal Death Rocks Quiet Capital,”  written by Carol Goar:

The scene of yesterday’s stomach-wrenching murder of a Turkish diplomat is an oasis of parkland in the middle of the city. It is the kind of place that symbolizes everything Ottawans love about their city – its green space, its bicycle paths, its secure, unhurried atmosphere.

But it was all shattered at 9 a.m. when a terrorist pumped 13 bullets into 45-year-old Colonel Atilla Altikat, a military attaché on his way to work at the Turkish Embassy. Armenian terrorists have claimed the responsibility for the killing.

The two suspected terrorists vanished after the attack and officials at the Turkish Embassy condemned the killing as “callous, cowardly and ignominious.”

This is the second shooting of a Turkish embassy official in Ottawa in less than five months. The first victim, Kani Güngör, 50, commercial counselor at the embassy, is making a slow recovery in hospital after being shot in his car on April 8.

In both cases, Armenian terrorists telephoned news agencies to claim responsibility for the attacks. 

During the 1970s and 80s, many Turkish diplomats around the world lost their lives as results of similar Armenian terrorist acts and Canada was the scene of some of these attacks. Before the murder of Colonel Altikat, the Turkish Honorary Consulate in Toronto had been bombed and received extensive damage in January 1982. In April 1982, the commercial attaché of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Kani Gungor, was gunned down and seriously wounded in the parking lot of his residence in Ottawa. He was permanently paralyzed.

In March 1985, three heavily armed Armenian terrorists stormed the Turkish Embassy, killing a Canadian security officer during the attack. The Ambassador, Mr. Coskun Kirca, was wounded but he survived this ordeal. The family members of the support staff, who were living in the basement apartment of the embassy, were taken hostage and owe their lives to the failure of the hand-grenade that was thrown onto them. A few weeks later, another Armenian terrorist organization made a bomb threat on Toronto’s subway system, creating chaos in the city during the rush hour. By 1986, over 30 Turkish Diplomats had been killed by Armenian terrorists around the world.

Turkish Ambassador, His Excellency Rafet Akgunay, speaking at the ceremony

Turkish Ambassador, His Excellency Rafet Akgunay, speaking at the ceremony

It was a traumatic event for the well-integrated peaceful Turkish community to lose a friend to a violent killing. He was an honorable officer doing his job and a beloved husband and a father. It was through Colonel Altıkat’s assassination that Canadians learned what terrorism was: killing of innocent people for political purposes.

It is very unfortunate that the murderers of Col. Altikat were never caught and never brought to justice. Turkish Canadians have not been able to find closure. Their wound is still open.

Community gathers at the spot where their friend was killed

Community gathers at the spot where their friend was killed

Members of the Turkish community spoke at the commemoration ceremony on Sunday, repeating their plea to the authorities to do whatever it takes to find the perpetrators of this crime, who remain to be at large.

“While we continue to remember Colonel Altıkat every year, we do not have feelings of vengeance or enmity in these solemn ceremonies. We hope, however, our gathering will serve to remind the relevant agencies and our political representatives of the need to stand firmly against extremism and hate propaganda. The Altikat commemoration is an occasion for all peace-loving people to come together and say NO to terrorism in Canada. Hate and fanaticism have no place in our peaceful country”  was the message from the Turkish community.

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