Armenians mark anniversary of mass killings
Armenians marked the 95th anniversary on Saturday of mass killings under the Ottoman Empire. Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Armenian capital Yerevan. There were also peaceful demonstrations in Beirut, while in Istanbul human rights activists and artists organised a rally at Haydarpasa train station, where the first convoy of deported Armenians left on 24 April 1915.
A constant stream of people laid flowers at a hilltop memoral in Yerevan to pay tribute to the massacres, which Armenians say constituted genocide.
“We thank all of those who in many countries of the world, including in Turkey, understand the importance of preventing crimes against humanity and who stand with us in this struggle. This process has an inevitable momentum which has no alternative,” Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian said in a statement.
Sarkisian had attended a memorial service with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II.
There had been hopes last year of reconciliation between the two neighbours. However the historic accord recently fell apart with Armenia halting ratification of agreements aimed at normalising ties.
“For all intents and purposes the ratification of the protocols had been stalled in both countries,” correspondent Jasper Mortimer told RFI.
Protestors in Yerevan chanted “recognise” and carried Armenian flags, alongside flags of countries who have recognised the massacres as genocide, including Canada, France, Poland and Switzerland.
“Everybody is waiting for what President Barack Obama says today when he issues the traditional White House declaration on the anniversary,” says Mortimer.
Last year Obama avoided using the term “genocide”.
“Both Yerevan and Ankara will be watching to see if he calls those mass killings genocide or not. Turkey has made it quite clear that it objects to that word, it doesn’t believe that the killings were systematic and its threatened to take retaliatory steps against America, if it uses that word,” says Mortimer.
Armenians say that up to 1.5 million people were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was failing apart.
Turkey rejects the label of genocide and says between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks died.