Talaat Pasha: A criminal recently rebranded a hero in Turkey
Last week, Bogazici University’s Turk Studies Society (BUTAT, est. 2015) shared a post on their official Twitter account:
“We commemorate the guarantor of the Turkish existence in Anatolia and modern Turkey, the hero of freedom, the great Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, with endless respect and gratitude on the anniversary of his martyrdom by an Armenian terrorist in Berlin.”
“The guarantor of modern Turkey?” “Hero of freedom?”
What had Talaat Pasha guaranteed? That only Turks in Turkey would be safe?
Ironic, since we have seen that even Turks are not safe in Turkey for the past five years. This system has no pity for even Turk-Sunni people if it is not to their advantage. The point is not just “the eradication of the giaour,” “the pillaging of the giaour’s property,” or “the seizure of the giaour’s wife and daughters.”
The process of eradication could be used for everyone who foiled their plans, because there were no consequences for the action.
Why was Talaat a hero? Was it because he extirpated the Armenians from their motherland?
Hrant Dink used to say, “Genocide is such a weighty crime, that I understand people’s unwillingness to accept it…” Hrant Dink good-hearted. Perhaps he did not want to see the people who say, “It’s not that we didn’t do this. We did it because they deserved it.”
What was Talaat’s business in Berlin on those days? Who was “the Armenian terrorist in Berlin?” Was he sentenced after shooting Talaat?
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire felt the need to come to terms not only with the great destruction, but also with the perpetrators of the massacres. One of the reasons why those who had dragged the country into war and destruction were put on trial was that they had also exiled and massacred Armenians, who were Ottoman subjects.
With the establishment of the Ottoman courts-martial (Divan-i Harb-i Orfi) in Istanbul in 1918, the Unionists began to be prosecuted on charges of bringing the country into war, corruption, and slaughtering Christian citizens en masse, especially Armenians and Assyrians. The leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress, whose photos are being proudly shared, fled abroad.
Even though the trials fell through and were swept under the rug in the construction of official Turkish history, important documents and witnesses that were recorded in the trials regarding deportation and genocide are still referenced today.
When the trials which had begun on April 28, 1919 ended on July 5, 1919, Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha and Dr. Nazim were sentenced to death. In addition, a total of 20 death sentences were given as a result of approximately 63 lawsuits filed on charges of Armenian deportation and massacres.
Three of these executions were carried out, and the remaining 17 were given in absentia due to the fact that the defendants were on the run.
In short, it was in these lands that the process of acknowledging and punishing the persecution to which Armenians had been subjected was first initiated. However, the fact that most of the political, administrative, and military staff of the Ottoman Empire had been involved in this collective crime resulted in inadequate trials and punishments.
A number of people who had been implicated in this crime took positions in the staff establishing the new republic, not much changed with regard to mentality, but were the Unionists who had fled from the justice of their own countries able to live happy and fulfilled lives abroad after their “escape?”
What were the Armenians, who today are threatened with “we cut them down once, we can do it again,” doing back then as courts were established and as perpetrators went unpunished?
In 1918, the Democratic Republic of Armenia declared is independence. After the tragedy of 1915, this was a valuable achievement for Armenians. Avenging the Armenians who had suffered a genocide was among the top priorities for the Dashnaks, the first government of the country.
During the 9th Congress held in 1919 in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, the issue of the perpetrators of the genocide was debated. The politician Shahan Natali from Harput proposed a plan for vengeance.
The plan, which was not immediately accepted and caused controversy, was accepted when it was understood that the Malta tribunals would not play a role in punishing the offenders. Since the British could not mete out the necessary punishment to the Ottoman rulers, the responsibility fell to the Armenian government.
A list of 650 people who had contributed to the deportation was compiled, and 41 people were noted as the "kingpins.” At the top of the blacklist were Talaat, Cemal, and Enver Pashas, the triumvirate of the Committee of Union and Progress who had made the deportation decision. The operation was named after Nemesis, the goddess of revenge in mythology.
Sentenced to death in their own country but allowed to escape, Talaat Pasha was killed by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin on March 15, 1921, Enver Pasha was killed by an Armenian on August 4, 1922, in a conflict with Red Army units in Central Asia, Cemal Pasha was assassinated on July 25, 1922 by Petros Ter-Poghosyan and Artashes Gevorgyan in Tbilisi.
When the lionized Soghomon Tehlirian, who was 24 years old at the time of the murder, was asked in the German court whether he had killed Talaat Pasha, he said, "I killed a man, but I am not a murderer,” stressing that he did not regret his action and relaying his experiences during the deportation. Thus, the Tehlirian Trial quickly morphed into the Talaat Pasha Trial.
Three famous defense lawyers who had been hired with money collected by Armenians living in Europe and the US, skillfully removed Tehlirian from the defendant’s seat and put Talaat Pasha and the Unionist mentality in his stead.
A jury of 12 listened to many witnesses who had experienced the deportation. Tehlirian was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was acquitted. Perhaps afraid of this crime which it would accept 100 years later, Germany might have made a political decision under the assumption that it too could be found culpable.
In actuality, Tehlirian was a hitman who had committed the murder calmly, was not the least bit insane, and was drunk with vengeance. It is said that101 Unionists on the list and the Armenians who had worked with them were also assassinated by hitmen as part of Operation Nemesis.
It is just as problematic to commemorate the genocidal pashas as it is to mention their deaths while brushing over the details.
The genocide perpetrators are memorialized by evading knowledge about the details of their murders and how the trials came to an end.
Why? Do they fear that confronting the fact that the "heroes" who massacred the Armenians were killed by Armenians may cause a quick awakening from the fantasies of national history?
*A long-time analyst on regional issues, Alin Ozinian holds a BA in International Relations and Diplomacy and an MA in Turkish Studies. She is currently a PhD researcher at YSU's Faculty of Political Science. Ozinian has worked at the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and has served as the Regional Coordinator of International Alert's Caucasus Development Network, based in London, and as a regional analyst for the Armenian Assembly of America, based in Washington DC. She served as press secretary for the Turkish-Armenian Business Council. In 2018, she received the Jampruk Research Award on migration issues, announced by the United Nations Association. Since 2021, Ozinian has been the executive director of the Arti Media.