Editor’s note: March 15, 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Talaat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin. The Armenian Weekly asked Dr. Khatchig Mouradian to curate a selection of newspaper clippings from around the globe. We feature those clippings here, alongside a brief introduction by Dr. Mouradian.
“High Mogul of Turkey Assassinated!” “Dramatic Confession, An Armenian’s Revenge, Waited Ten Years for his Chance,” “Why Talaat was Killed,” “Armenians Here Defend Student,” “Slayer of Former Grand Vizier of Turks Acquitted.” These are some of the headlines in newspapers from America to Australia in the aftermath of Talaat Pasha’s assassination 100 years ago.
In the absence of a Nuremberg trial equivalent for the Armenian massacres, the survivor generation took justice into its own hands. Trials had been held in Allied-occupied Istanbul sentencing perpetrators to death in absentia, but most leaders from the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) were beyond reach, having fled the country (many to Germany), while those imprisoned by the British in Malta were released as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) decided in its 9th Congress held in Yerevan in 1919 to assassinate the perpetrators. By 1922, the ARF had gunned down—in Berlin, Rome and Tiflis—Ottoman Turkish leaders implicated in the genocide: Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, Ottoman Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha, Minister of Navy Cemal Pasha, CUP founding member Bahaeddine Shakir and Trebizond governor Cemal Azmi. The project, dubbed “Operation Nemesis,” made headlines around the world and helped influence Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” and paved the way to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Reading about Talaat Pasha’s murder in the newspapers of the day, Lemkin felt that Soghomon Tehlirian, the Operation Nemesis assassin, “upheld the moral order of mankind.” He wrote:
But can a man appoint himself to mete out justice? Will not passion sway such form of justice and make travesty of it? At that moment, my worries about the murder of the innocent became more meaningful to me. I didn’t know all the answers but I felt that a law against this type of racial or religious murder must be adopted by the world.1
Lemkin’s search for answers culminated in the coinage of the term “genocide” in 1943 and his lifelong struggle to pass a law against it.
1 Donna-Lee Frieze, ed., Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 20.