Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turkey / Armenian Genocide

Turks, In First, Commemorate Killing of Armenians
Middle East Online, April 25, 2010
"Hundreds of rights activists and artists in Istanbul commemorated the 1915-17 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks for the first time Saturday, breaking a near century-old Turkish taboo. The biggest rally was in Taksim Square, in the heart of modern Istanbul, where several hundred people staged a sit-in, holding red carnations and candles and listening to recordings of Armenian music. Police in riot gear guarded the event and kept at bay a group of counter-demonstrators, journalists saw. Earlier the Istanbul branch of the IHD human rights association organised a rally attended by about 100 people on the steps of the Haydarpasa train station from where the first convoy of 220 deported Armenians left on April 24, 1915. Under the slogan 'Never Again' and, again, the watchful eye of the police, demonstrators carried black and white photos of some of the deportees. Counter-protesters also gathered near the IHD demo, including former diplomats waving the Turkish flag. Forty-two Turkish diplomats were killed by the extremist Armenian Asala organisation in the 1970s and 1980s. Turkish intellectuals and artists signed a petition calling on 'those who feel the great pain' to show their sorrow. Avoiding the term genocide -- which the Turkish government fiercely rejects -- the petition speaks of the 'Great Catastrophe' of the massacres.'
'The genie is out of the bottle,' Cengiz Aktar, an Istanbul academic who backs the petition, said. 'These broken taboos concern not just Armenia, but also other hidden subjects' such as the rights of minority Kurds, he added. He said that despite the police presence, organisers feared a backlash from people opposed to the demonstration. The Istanbul rallies came as tens of thousands of Armenians marked the 95th anniversary of the killings in the Armenian capital Yerevan, amid fresh tensions with Turkey over the collapse of reconciliation efforts. The dispute about the genocide label has poisoned relations between the two neighbours for decades. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed a statement by US President Barack Obama on Saturday which avoided the use of the term and instead referred to 'one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.' 'President Obama has made a statement which takes into account the sensibilities of Turkey,' Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. [...]"

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