Arshavir Shirakian – The Assassination of Said Halim Pasha – Operation Nemesis

Arshavir Shirakian - The Assassination of Said Halim PashaArmenian avenger and national leader Arshavir Shirakian (1900-1973) is second in the honorary row of the participants in the Nemesis retribution operation after Soghomon Tehlirian, who in 1921 assassinated the former Interior Minister of the Young Turk government and one of the main organizers of the Armenian Genocide Talaat Pasha.

In the same year, Arshavir Shirakian assassinated another executioner of Armenians, the prime minister of the Young Turk government Said Halim.

The years between 1920 and 1922 in Shirakian’s life were stormy and reminiscent of an adventure film. He described this time period in the autobiographical book “The Will of the Martyrs” (Armenian: Կտակն էր Նահատակներուն, Ktakn er Nahataknerun) published in 1965 for the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In those difficult years, he was morally supported and inspired by a girl named Gayane — the love of his young years — who would later become his wife.

Arshavir and Gayane, children of Armenians respected in Constantinople, had known each other since childhood. Over time, their youthful friendship grew into a stronger feeling, a feeling that they would carry through half a century.

In March 1920, Arshavir carried out the first act of retribution. At the assignment of Dashnaks responsible for Operation Nemesis, in broad daylight on one of the crowded streets of Constantinople, Shirakian assassinated Vahe Ihsan, a traitor who had compiled lists of representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia arrested in 1915.

After punishing the traitor, Arshavir left for Yerevan, the capital of the newly-established independent Armenia, where he applied for service in the police. Soon, Arshavir, along with his new friend, avenger Aram Yerkanian, received a new assignment to assassinate Young Turk leaders Enver Pasha and Khalil Pasha who were at that time in Baku.

However, on the way to Tiflis, Shirakian and Yerkanian were unexpectedly arrested by the Georgian police. However, they did not stay in prison for long: their escape was soon organized. Arshavir again left for Constantinople. There, he would wait for a new mission.

On December 5, 1921, in Rome, 21-year-old Arshavir brilliantly carried out the assassination of the former prime minister of Ottoman Turkey Said Halim. The operation lasted a few seconds: Arshavir, perfectly prepared physically, jumped on the footboard of the carriage with Halim inside and shot him in the temple. As a result, a high-ranking Young Turk official, a passionate enemy of Armenians, and a state criminal was eliminated.

In 1915, the entire administrative apparatus of the Ottoman Empire had been in the hands of Halim. He had been the chief “architect” of the monstrous plan aimed at the extermination of Armenians in the provinces of Turkey.

Before the operation, Arshavir promised his girlfriend that he would propose her if his important mission ends in success. He also promised that he would return to Constantinople safe and sound.

And so it happened: returning from Rome, Arshavir visited Gayane’s parents and asked their daughter’s hand. Gayane’s parents agreed. They even appointed the engagement day, but it wouldn’t take place.

The Dashnaks received reliable information that there were two other state criminals in Berlin – Behaeddin Shakir and Cemal Azmi, also crucial contributors to the Armenian Genocide. On April 17, 1922, in Berlin, Shirakian and Yerkanian successfully carried out yet another act of retribution.

The name of Arshavir was widely known, and it was not safe for him to reside in any European country. So, in a hotel in the Bulgarian city of Varna, Turkish secret agents prepared a trap for him. Shirakian was surrounded at arrival in the hotel, but he managed to escape thanks to a policeman. Not without difficulty, he returned to Constantinople.

Arshavir and Gayane married in October 1922, and in 1923, they left for the United States where they had to start from scratch. They settled in New York where their daughter Sonia would be born.

The Shirakian family would open an oriental carpet shop and successfully engage in business. During the following years, Arshavir Shirakian would be engaged in social activities as well, actively participating in the interior life of the Armenian community of America.

Shirakian died on April 12, 1973, and was buried in the cemetery of New Jersey.

Ruben Shukhyan

Arshavir Shirakian
Gayane Shirakian
Mother of A. Shirakian Vergine, Arshavir Shirakian, Gayane Shirakian and their daughter Sonia

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