Damad Ferit Pasha

Mehmed Talat

Mehmed Talat (Mehmet Tâlât) (1874-1921) also known as Talat Pasha was one of the first important members of the Committee of Union and Progress. He played an increasingly important part in Ottoman politics becoming deputy for Edirne, minister and finally in 1917 Grand Vizier . He left the empire with Enver and Chemal Pashas in 1918. He was assassinated in Berlin in 1921 .

Mehmed Talat was the interior minister who ordered the arrest of Armenian leaders with a Circular on April 24 1915 and sent a request for the Tehcir Law on May 29 1915, which initiated large scale genocide of the Ottoman Armenians. He is reported to have said "Kill every Armenian man, woman, and child without concern for anything" a quote from the "Andonian Telegrams".

Early life

Mehmed Talat born in 1874 in Kırcaali town of Edirne Province from a family of junior civil servant working for the Ottoman Empire. His father was from a village in the mountainous south-eastern corner of present day Bulgaria. He had powerful build and a dark complexion . His manners were bluff, which caused him to leave the civil preparatory school without a certificate after a conflict with his teacher. Without earning the degree, he joined the staff of the telegraph company as a postal clerk in Edirne. His salary was not high, so he worked after hours as a Turkish language teacher in the Alliance Israelite School which served the Jewish community of Edirne.

At the age of 21 he had a love affair with the daughter of the Jewish headmaster he worked for. He was caught sending a telegram saying "Things are going well. I'll soon reach my goal." With two of his friends of the post office, he was charged with tampering with the official telegraph and arrested in 1893. He claimed that the message in question was to his girl-friend. The Jewish girl came forward to defend him. Sentenced to two years of jail, he was pardoned but exiled to Salonica as a postal clerk.

Between 1898 and 1908 he served as a postman, on the staff of the Salonica Post Office. Eventually, having served 10 years at this postal unit, he became the Head of Salonica Post Office.

Young Turk Revolution

In 1908, he was dismissed for membership in the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the conspiratorial nucleus of the Young Turk movement. After the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, however, he became deputy of Edirne in the Ottoman Parliament, and in July 1909, he was appointed Minister of Interior Affairs. He became Minister of Post and then the Secretary-General of the CUP in 1912.

After the assassination of the Prime Minister Mahmud Sevket Pasa in July 1913, Talat Pasha once again became Minister of Interior Affairs. Talat, along with Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha formed a group called the Three Pashas. These men formed the triumvirate of the Ottoman government until the end of war in October, 1918.

The Armenian Genocide

On April 24 1915, Talat issued an Circular on April 24 1915 to close all Armenian political organisations operating within the Ottoman Empire and arrest Armenians connected to them, justifying the action by stating that the organisations were controlled from outside the empire, were inciting upheavals behind the Ottoman lines, and were cooperating with Russian forces. Thie order resulted in the arrest on the night of 24/25 April 1915 of between 235 to 270 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople, including politicians, clergymen, physicians, authors, journalists, lawyers, and teachers. Although mass killings of Armenian civilians had begun in the Van vilayet several weeks earlier, these mass-arrests in Constantinople are considered by many commentators to be the start of the Armenian Genocide.

Talat also issued the order for the Tehcir Law of June 1 1915 to February 8 1916 that allowed for the mass-deportation of Armenians, which academics define as the vehicle of the Armenian Genocide.

Talat, as minister of the interior, bears much of the responsibility for the deportation of the Armenians from the empire's eastern provinces to Syria. Most historians blame him for the barbarity of the operation and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Although Talat was the minister of the interior, many historians argue that Enver Pasha deserves equal blame for the extermination of the Armenians. He is reported to have said the following to Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story

Grand vizier, 1917

In 1917, Talat became the grand vizier, but he was unable to reverse the downward spiral of Ottoman fortunes in his new position.

Over the next year, Jerusalem and Baghdad were lost and in October 1918, the British shattered both Ottoman armies they faced. With defeat certain, Talat resigned on October 14, 1918.

Exile 1919 - 1921

Talat Pasha fled the Ottoman capital in a German submarine on 3 November 1918, from Istanbul harbour to Berlin. Just a week later the Porte capitulated to the Allies and signed the Armistice of Mudros.

Public opinion was shocked by the departure of Talat Pasha, even though he had been known to turn a blind eye on corrupt ministers appointed because of their associations to CUP . Talat Pasha was known as a courageous and patriotic individual, and he would willingly face the consequences. With the occupation of Istanbul Izzet Pasha resigned. Tevfik Pasha took the position of Grand Vizir the same day that British ships entered the Golden Horn. Tevfik Pasha lasted until 4 March 1919, replaced by Ferid Pasha whose first order was the arrest of leading members of the CUP.

Turkish Courts-Martial of 1919-20

Following the occupation of Istanbul by the Allied Powers, the British exerted pressure on the Sublime Porte and brought to trial the Turkish leaders who had held positions of responsibility between 1914 and 1918, for having committed, among other charges, an 'Armenian Massacre, the ones who were caught were put under arrest at the Bekiraga division and subsequently exiled to Malta under the name of Malta exiles. The courts-martial were designed by Sultan Mehmed VI to punish the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) for the Empire's ill-conceived involvement in World War I. The Pashas who had held the highest positions in the administration and whose names were at the top of the execution lists of the Armenian assassination teams could be condemned in absentia because they had gone abroad.

By January 1919, a report to Sultan Mehmed VI accused over 130 suspects, most of whom were high officials, including Talat. The courts announced that "In accordance with the stipulations of the Law the death penalty against Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim".

However, the British were determined not to leave Talat alone. The British had intelligence reports indicating that he had gone to Germany, and the British High Commissioner pressured Damad Ferit Pasha and the Sublime Porte to demand from Germany to return to Ottoman Empire. As a result of efforts pursued personally by (Sir) Andrew Ryan, a former Dragoman and now a member of the British intelligence service, Germany responded to Ottoman Empire stating that it was willing to be helpful if official papers could be produced showing these persons had been found guilty, and added that the presence of these persons in Germany could not as yet be ascertained.

Aubrey Herbert interview, 1921

The last official interview Talat granted was to Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert, a British intelligence agent. It was nine days before his assassination. The interview was short meetings with him during three days in a park in a small German town. The interview gave chance to Talat explain the policies of Ottoman Empire During the last 10 years.

These meetings corroborated earlier intelligence to the effect that Talat Pasha was seeking support from Muslim countries to form a serious opposition movement against the Allied Powers, and that he was soon intending to take refuge in Ankara, which Turkish national movement was forming. Furthermore, Talat Pasha also dared to make the threat that he was going to incite the Pan-Turanist and Pan-Islamist movements against England, unless she signed a peace treaty favorable for Turkey.

During this interview Talat maintained on several occasions that the CUP had always sought British friendship and advice; but Britain was in no mood to offer any assistance whatsoever.

Assassination, 1921

Before the assassination, the British intelligence services identified Talat in Stockholm where he had gone for a few days. The British intelligence first planned to apprehend him in Berlin where he was planning to return, but then changed its mind because it feared the complications this would create in Germany. Another view in the British intelligence was that Talat should be apprehended by the British navy in the sea while returning from Scandinavia by ship. At the end, it was decided to let him return to Berlin, find out what he was trying to accomplish with his activities abroad, and to establish direct contact with him before giving the final verdict. This was achieved with the help of Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert.

Their intelligence service established contact with its counterpart in the Soviet Union to evaluate the situation. Talat Pasha's plans made the Russian officials as anxious as the British. The two intelligence services collaborated and signed among them the 'death warrant' of Talat. Information concerning his physical description and his whereabouts was forwarded to their men in Germany.

It was decided that Armenian revolutionaries carry out the verdict. Arab journalist Mustafa Amin's contention is that the British intelligence itself was behind the assassinations of exiled Young Turk leaders in the early 1920s: such as Talat, Jemal Pasha. As a matter of fact, Talat was assassinated with a single bullet on 15 March 1921 as he came out of his house in Hardenbergstrasse, Charlottenburg by an Armenian Revolutionary Federation member from Erzurum named Soghomon Tehlirian. .

The assassination was claimed to be part of a bigger operation "Operation Nemesis."

Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian

Even though Soghomon Tehlirian did conduct the murder, he was found Innocent by a German court. This was one of the few times the defendant admitted to murder, and was found innocent.

The trial examined not only Tehlirian’s actions but also Tehlirian's conviction that Talat Pasha was the main author of the Armenian Genocide, based on the "Talat Pasha telegrams." The Memoirs of Naim Bey (Talat Pasha telegrams) were read by the defense lawyer to the jury, although not introduced as evidence in court as the defense lawyer canceled his motion. Reading of these letters by the defense attorney in court helped acquit Tehlirian.

Posthumous Memoirs

In a very short time after the assassination of Talat on March 1921, the "Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat" was published on October volume of The New York Times Current History. In this memoir, he accepted that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. He claimed that in the region there was hatred among the Armenians and Kurdish which had their bitter history. He also claimed that there were officials who abused their authority. He also states that region became unlawful and people took preventive measures into their own hands. He accepts that the duty of the Government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities. He claimed that as the minister of interior, he ordered to arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law.


He was buried into the Turkish Cemetery in Berlin. In 1943, his remains were taken to Istanbul and reburied in Şişli. His war memories were published after his death.

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