Armenians celebrate World War II massacres of Ottoman Turks

Thousands of Armenians flocked on Saturday to a memorial to the Ottoman Turks’ first assassination of their relatives, the bloodbath that US President Joe Biden will reportedly recognize as genocide.

Biden’s landmark moves further inflamed by Washington’s tensions with NATO’s ally Turkey.

Armenians have long sought the assassination of up to 1.5 million of their relatives during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire internationally recognized as genocide.

The claim is supported by many other countries but is strongly rejected by Turkey.

Yerevan has also demanded financial compensation from Ankara and the restoration of ownership of descendants of those killed in the 1915-1918 massacres.

Turkey denies the genocide of the killings and argues that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil war when the Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and put themselves on invading Russian troops.

Biden, who during his decades as a senator forged close ties with Armenian-American and Greek-American societies, promised during his presidential campaign to recognize the Armenian genocide.

‘Big crime’

To date, at least 29 countries – including Russia and France – have acknowledged the atrocities as genocide.

On the “anniversary of the Armenian genocide, my thoughts on Armenia are ravaged by history … We will never forget,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote to his Armenian counterpart Armen Sarkisian on Thursday.

On Saturday, the procession marking the 106th anniversary massacre stretched from central Yerevan to a Tsitsernakaberd hill on a hill where the head of Armenia’s Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin, celebrated a requisition mass.

Armenians celebrate the massacre of their people on April 24, 1915, when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harboring nationalist sentiments and being hostile to Ottoman rule were brought together.

Anger against Turkey simmered among the Armenians as crowds carrying candles and flowers joined the annual procession to remember the victims of the massacres, which the Armenians call Meds Yeghern – the great crime.

Armenia is traumatized by last year’s defeat in a war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, where Ankara supported its ally Baku.

“Old wound bleeding”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the war – which broke out in September and ended six weeks later with a Russian-mediated ceasefire – “Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression trying to wipe out the Armenian trail” in Karabakh.

“Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy and territorial ambitions against Armenia are proof of the resurgence of their genocidal theology,” he said in a statement.

“Armenophobia is essentially in pan-Turkism, and today we can see its most disgusting manifestations in Azerbaijan being promoted by the country’s authorities.”

Arms supplies from Turkey helped Azerbaijan’s army to win a decisive victory in the war.

Under a ceasefire agreement – seen in Armenia as a national humiliation – Yerevan ceded to Baku parts of territory they had controlled for decades.

“The old wound opened and bleeds,” 72-year-old Sonik Petrosyan told AFP, referring to the war that has claimed the lives of some 6,000 people.

“The Armenians must stand united so that our country re-emerges strongly from these difficulties,” the pensioner said as she laid flowers at the eternal flame in the center of the monument in memory of the massacre.

On Friday night, about 10,000 people organized an annual torchlight procession in central Yerevan to celebrate the anniversary, with activists from the nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party – who led the procession – burning Turkish and Azerbaijani flags.

(AFP)

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