EDITORIAL: The Legend of Soghomon Tehlirian

Soghomon Tehlirian, on March 15th 1921, assassinated Talaat Pasha. The trial influenced Raphael Lemkin – the man that coined the term “genocide” after studying Tehlirian’s trial and the organised, systematic massacre of Armenians starting in 1915. With regard to the trial Lemkin is quoted saying “Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?”

Tehlirian witnessed the massacre of his entire village including his family and he narrowly escaped meeting the same fate. He was a first-hand witness of the brutality and, as a result, he took part in executing of Operation Nemesis: a plan conceived to serve the justice and carry out the acts that the military tribunal in Constantinople failed to do. One by one the perpetrators of the Genocide got their comeuppance.

His trial gained much publicity. By German law his actions were illegal but the courts found reasonability and sympathy as Tehlirian revealed his history to the court: the brutal rape of his sister; the butchery of his family, the destruction of his home, the eradication of his community and an attempt to remove Armenian blood from the world.

The legacy of Tehlirian lives on in Armenia and the Diaspora – evidence that the Genocide is a pan-Armenian issue whether ones’ ancestors saw and survived the inhumanity or not. British Admiral John Rebrock foresaw in 1919 that the failure to serve justice for the Genocide would only result in further trouble and concern for the countries concerned. He went further to predict that it would also influence future minds, as is evident in the Holocaust masterminded by Adolf Hitler.

Tehlirian’s legend exists because he decided to do what is right, not only for Armenians but for the principles of human rights. He risked his life and spent the rest of it being chased by Turks. He put himself through endless hardship due to the assassination that defined him and his legacy, but it was a necessary sacrifice for any Armenian of the time to chase and struggle for justice to be served.

— Vahe Boghosian, AYF London

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