The Murder of Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha in the Memoirs of an Armenian Defender

Mehmed Said Halim Pasha was an important statesman who was grand vizier in the Ottoman Empire between the dates 12 June 1913 – 3 February 1917 and one of the important representatives of the movement of “Islamism.” The decisions about the deportations of Armenians were taken during the period when he was the grand vizier. He was taken to Bekirağa Bölüğü prison after being arrested as a war and deportation criminal on 10 March 1919 by the Damat Ferit Pasha government formed after the Treaty of Mondros and he was tried in Divan-I Harb-I Örfi. He was exiled first to Mondros by the British occupying forces on 28 May 1919 and then to Malta. Though the British made great efforts to try the Pasha in their own courts, they could not find enough evidence to require his conviction. He was released from Malta on 29 April 1921 in exchange for British captives (Bostan, 1992: 33-103).

Said Halim Pasha went to Sicily after his release and from there he went to Rome. Though he wanted to come back to Istanbul when he was in Sicily, this was not permitted. He could not also go to Egypt which was under British occupation (Inal, 1982: 1912 ftn.1; Danişmend, 1972: 466-467; Talat Pasha, 1983: 1224; Düzdağ, 1991: XXV). He settled in Rome by renting a mansion in Via Eostollio. He was threatened by Armenians in Rome just as he was in Malta (Gazigiray, 1982: 547; Kutay, t.y.:10275; Bülbül, 2006: 97).

Said Halim Pasha started to be followed by the Armenian terrorist organization Dashnaksutyun right after he was released from Malta. An execution office was founded in Istanbul in 1919 inside the building where Djagadamard, the media organ of this terrorist organization, was being published. A militant was sent to Rome from this office to follow Said Halim Pasha. Then, Arşavir Şıracıyan went to Marseille on 30 June 1921 and from there he went to Rome to carry out the execution (Şıracıyan, 1997: 87, 141, 143, 144-149).

According to the confessions of the Armenian terrorist Arşavir Şıracıyan, the central committee of the Dashnaksutyun Party had condemned to death old administrators of the Union and Progress Party including Said Halim Pasha and Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha, Dr Nazım, Dr Bahattin Şakir, Ismail Canpolat and former Trabzon governor Cemal Azmi Bey by trying them in their absence (Şiraciyan, 1997: 141). As soon as he arrived in Rome, Şıracıyan followed Said Halim Pasha until the beginning of December 1921 with «Yoldaş M» who was sent before to gather information. He gathered detailed information regarding where the Pasha lived, whom he met, by whom he was followed, which meetings he attended, what time he left his mansion and he returned to the mansion, his bodyguard and his servant.

According to the information given by the Armenian defender Şıracıyan, Said Halim Pasha was in strong touch with Bekir Sami Bey, the Foreign Deputy of the Anatolian government. He also informed that the Pasha met authorities coming from the Rome embassies of both the Istanbul and Anatolia governments and his bodyguard, Tevfik Azmi, occasionally went to both of the embassies (Şıracıyan, 1997: 154). Though it is known that the Pasha met Ali Fethi Okyar in Rome (Okyar, 1988: 17), it is also understood that he met Enver Pasha, Dr Nazım and Dr Bahattin Şakir (Şıracıyan, 1997, p. 152-154).

It appears that not only Armenian terrorists, but also Greeks followed Said Halim Pasha in Rome. Şıracıyan writes in his confessions: “Greeks were closely following the representatives and political officers of Mustafa Kemal to be able to gather intelligence for their aims. They had a quite impressive organization; there were more than 20 men only in Rome for this job. They were behaving as if they also wanted to plan an assassination on Said Halim. They had also learnt that this old prime minister of the Ottoman Empire had sent arms and economic help in considerable amounts to Kemalist forces in Anatolia” (Şıracıyan, 1997: 162).

Bekir Sami Bey asked from Said Halim Pasha to “send arms to Anatolia and help Mustafa Kemal by using his economic sources for this purpose.” Şıracıyan writes that he secretly listened to the conversations of Said Halim Pasha’s bodyguard Tevfik Azmi and Rüstem Recep and Münir Bey, and he came to know in these conversations that as a response to this demand of Bekir Sami Bey, Said Halim Pasha stated that he “was ready to help them on the condition that some administrators of the Union and Progress Party who were in exile at the time would be allowed to go to Anatolia first and return to Istanbul after the defeat of Greek army” (Şıracıyan, 1997: 156). It is known that as well as Said Halim Pasha, his brother Abbas Halim Pasha also financially contributed to the Mustafa Kemal government and believed in and supported the movement of National Struggle (Istanbul Harbinden Gizli Kalmış Sayfalar, 1959: 44-45).

Şıracıyan records that he saw a group of Turks, including Bekir Sami Bey, intensely discussing and when he secretly listened to them he heard that the conversations were revolving around “the debt of two million pounds which Said Halim Pasha was trying to obtain for Kemalists” and “they were in agreement with the idea that arms should be sent to Anatolia as quick as possible” (Şıracıyan, 1997: 178-179).

When Said Halim Pasha was returning to his mansion in his carriage with his bodyguard Tevfik Azmi Bey at around 16.00 on 5 December 1921, he was killed with a single bullet by Arşavir Şıracıyan who jumped on his carriage in Estaki Street. Şıracıyan was able to escape the place without being caught. Şıracıyan confesses that he attempted to kill Said Halim Pasha twice before, but he could not do so as the conditions were not available (Şıracıyan, 1997: 177-178).

The murder of the Pasha brought unrest to some groups in Italy. The assassination happened in a period when the Pasha had come to the stage of agreement in his attempts to buy arms from Italian arm factories. It is stated that in the first days after the assassination Italian media “had an inclination of justifying the murderer” but in later days, they started to change attitude “when it was revealed that the murder of the wealthy pasha damaged financial interests of some Italian banks and left various commercial agreements at stake” (Şıracıyan, 1997: 199-201).

Despite all of these, it is seen that there was no serious attempt by the police to arrest Arşavir Şıracıyan who walked around freely in Rome more than 20 days after the assassination and who even spent his last days with Armenian students in Rome. The murderer, consequently, went to Vienna on 29 December 1921 by train. Şıracıyan tells that the Greeks got very happy about the assassination of Said Halim Pasha and “when they went to the house of Greek Consul with terrorist Varantian, the consul vehemently embraced him then honoured him with a medal and slipped an advisory letter in his hand” (Şıracıyan, 1997: 190-213). Armenian defenders, on the other hand, declared Arşavir Şıracıyan as a «national hero» (Gazigiray, 1982: 548).

The body of Said Halim Pasha could come to Istanbul only 19 days later than the arrival of his murderer Şıracıyan in Istanbul. Şıracıyan describes the atmosphere when his body was being taken from his waterside residence in Yeniköy: “more than ten thousands Turks including ministers and high ranked soldiers followed the cortege. Even the foreigners had come to salute in front of the coffin of this murderer. While the police and soldiers of the Allied Forces were ensuring the security, the French and Italian warships in the harbour had half-masted their flags. Only the British were in a formal silence”(Şıracıyan, 1997: 216-220). The body of Said Halim Pasha was buried next to the grave of his father in the garden of the Sultan Mahmud II Tomb.

Just like Talat Pasha, Said Halim Pasha was also killed by hired Armenian defenders. It is thought that the power who ordered these assassinations was the British Intelligence Service (Bostan, 1994: 2). According to the words of Galip Kemali Bey (Söylemezoğlu), it is understood that Said Halim Pasha’s detailed letter which he wrote to three Presidents and explained the Armenian issue when he was in exile in Malta, had a great impact on American President and General Harbord who was instructed to establish the Armenian State was warned after this letter. Said Halim Pasha had the persuasive skill and necessary equipment to be able to get his opinions accepted by authorities. As the old prime minister told Eşref Kuşçubaşı, America was not aware of the game of European countries. For this reason, Said Halim Pasha, released from Malta, was killed by the British, as they feared that he would tell the American public of his realities (Kutay, 1970:16; Düzdağ, 1991: XXV-XXVI).

These questions are still to be solved here. Why was Halim Said Pasha killed just the day before he was going to sign a contract for two million pounds with Italian banks to send arms to Anatolia? Why didn’t the British occupying forces which were very harsh on Unionists arrest Arşavur Şıracıyan who stayed in Istanbul for about one and half month after murdering Said Halim Pasha in Rome? While the French and Italian warships half-masted their flags when the coffin of Said Halim Pasha was being carried, why didn’t the British warships accompany them?


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