Operation Nemesis is a heroic page in Armenian history and the national liberation struggle. Named after the goddess of vengeance Nemesis, this operation initiated by the Armenian Dashnaktsutyun party was aimed at assassinating the leaders of the Ottoman Empire involved in the Armenian Genocide.
During the operation, some leaders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic were killed as well. They, according to the Dashnaks, had been directly related to the pogroms of Armenians in Baku in 1918.
A brief history of the Armenian Genocide
In 1907, the so-called Young Turks came to power in Turkey. The official ideology of their party Unity and Progress was Pan-Turkism or the theory of the “Great Turan”, which aimed to create a huge Turkish empire from Altai to Bosnia.
The Young Turks had several reasons to hate the Armenians. First, they reminded the alien nomads who was the true master of the Armenian Highlands. Secondly, the Armenians were fully devoted to Christianity.
Thirdly, Armenia split western Anatolia inhabited by Turks, as well as other areas inhabited by Turkic peoples. Finally, the Armenian merchants even under strong oppression continued to occupy significant positions in the Turkish economy and seriously compete with Jewish entrepreneurs.
Under the thunder of WWI, the triumvirate of the Young Turk rulers represented by Talaat, Enver, and Djemal decided to organize mass killings of Armenians. The Ottoman police and troops were ordered to begin massacres and deportation of all Armenians of the empire into lifeless deserts.
The acts of genocide began in 1915 and with small interruptions continued until 1923. During this time, more than one and a half million Armenians were killed. Those who survived became refugees or were evicted to the Arabian deserts where they eventually died from hunger, thirst, and disease.
In 1919, the 9th congress of the Dashnaktsutyun party took place in Yerevan, where Shahan Natali took the initiative to execute sentences against the Young Turk criminals. The congress participants reviewed the candidacies of 650 performers and supporters of the genocide and selected 41 main culprits.
A bureau was established to initiate Operation N, which would be headed by Armenian envoy to the United States Armen Garo, as well as by a special fund under the leadership of Shahan Satchaklyan. Material support for the operation and operational management were provided by Shahan Natali and Grigor Merzhanov. The information about the criminals was collected by the group of Hrach Papazyan who, pretending to be a Turkish student, managed to infiltrate the circles of the Young Turks.
Participants of Operation Nemesis
“Our organization has no plan for extermination. It only punishes those who were convicted in absentia and found guilty of committing massacres. Armenian traitors complemented our list as well,” Arshavir Shirakian recalled.
Operation Nemesis was prepared with great care. Its purpose was clearly defined: to commit an act of just retribution. And it was implemented very effectively: no innocent people were hurt.
Groups of avengers with 3-5 members followed a specific criminal, and then one (less often – 2-3) avenger executed the sentence. Even the fact that the Turks were accompanied by personal bodyguards did not stop the Armenians.
On June 19, 1920, in Tiflis, Fatali Khan Khoysky, former Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, was assassinated. According to the organizers, he was responsible for the Baku massacre of Armenians in 1918. The assassination was carried out by Adam Yerkanian and Misak Kirakosian.
Exactly one month later, Hasan bey Aghayev, deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani National Parliament, was assassinated in the same place.
Who was killed during the Operation Nemesis
A participant of Operation Nemesis Soghomon Tehlirian on March 15, 1921, assassinated the number 1 person on the blacklist – former Turkish Minister of Interior Talaat Pasha. Tehlirian appeared before the European court as a lone avenger.
Eventually, the court acquitted Tehlirian, recognizing that he was under irresistible impulse during the assassination since his family had been massacred during the genocide. However, the legend of the lone avenger which was carefully thought out would have far-reaching, undesirable consequences.
For decades, some researchers have speculated on Tehlirian’s case, downplaying the role of other members of the Armenian Dashnaktsutyun party.
On April 17, 1921, Aram Yerkanian together with Arshavir Shirakian tracked down in Berlin and assassinated Djemal Azmi and Behaeddin Shakir, major figures among the Young Turks.
The Constantinople group of Operation Nemesis which included Misak Torlakian, Harutyun Harutyunian, and Yervand Fundukian received information about the whereabouts of yet another culprit of the Baku massacres Behbud Khan Javanshir, former Azerbaijani Minister of the Interior. On July 19, 1921, his sentence was executed.
On July 25, 1922, Djemal, a criminal responsible for the death of 1.5 million Armenians, was killed in Tbilisi. He was assassinated by Artashes Gevorgian, Petros Ter-Poghosian, and Stepan Tsagikian.
Several Armenian traitors were included in the “black list” of the avengers as well. All of them would be assassinated by their relatives – sons, fathers, or uncles.
It took just three years for the Armenian avengers to find and eliminate about 80 organizers of the Armenian Genocide. Nobody was able to escape the retribution, no matter where they hid or how heavily they were guarded. Several thousand participants and performers of lower rank were also eliminated.
For the honor of the Armenian people
As a result of the magnificently executed Operation Nemesis, the main organizers and instigators of the Armenian Genocide suffered the deserved punishment. The honor and dignity of the people who had gone through the deepest psychological tragedy and all the horrors of mass extermination were restored.
“We fought more than heroically because we wanted to live like human beings. We were worth it more than anyone under the sun,” said Shahan Natalie.
The participants of Operation Nemesis will forever remain legendary heroes who fulfilled the will of an entire people and restored justice, at least partially, when the so-called civilized world preferred to completely forget about the sufferings of Armenians and the crimes of the Turks.