ARMENIA MARKS CENTENARY OF MASS KILLINGS BY OTTOMAN TURKS

1 hour ago
24/05/15

Ceremonies are being held in Armenia and around the world to mark the
centenary of the start of mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

The presidents of France and Russia joined other leaders for the
memorial in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million people died, a figure disputed by
Turkey.

Turkey strongly objects to the use of the term genocide to describe
the killings and the issue has soured relations between the nations.

Turkey accepts that atrocities were committed but argues there was no
systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people. Turkey
says many innocent Muslim Turks also died in the turmoil of war.

A memorial service was held in Turkey on Friday and its prime
minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the country would "share the pain"
of Armenians. But he reiterated Turkey's stance that the killings
were not genocide.

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Media captionFergal Keane recorded the voices of some of the remaining
survivors of the Armenian massacre

Turkey is on Friday also hosting ceremonies to mark the 100th
anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli.

However, the actual fighting there began on 25 April, and Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan has accused Turkey of "trying to divert
world attention" from the Yerevan commemorations.

'Never Again'

After a flower-laying ceremony in Yerevan, Mr Sargsyan addressed
the guests, saying: "I am grateful to all those who are here to once
again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing
is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember."

In his address, French President Francois Hollande said: "We will
never forget the tragedies that your people have endured."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "There cannot be any
justification for mass murder of people. Today we mourn together with
the Armenian people."

Elsewhere:

In Lebanon - home to one of the largest Armenian diasporas - tens of
thousands of people took part in a march and a commemoration service
in the capital Beirut In Jerusalem, Armenian priests held a two-hour
mass in the Old City.

Posters were hung outside the church calling on Turkey to recognise the
mass killings as genocide And in Tehran, hundreds of Armenian-Iranians
attended a rally which began at an Armenian church and ended outside
the Turkish Embassy

At the scene: BBC's Rayhan Demytrie in Yerevan

The purple forget-me-not is the symbol of the centenary. It can be
seen everywhere in Yerevan: from window shops and windscreen stickers,
to lapel pins that many are proudly wearing.

There is also a centenary slogan which reads "I remember and demand".

But what is it that the Armenians are demanding? I asked some of the
people in Yerevan's Mashtotz Avenue.

"We demand fairness from the world community, that's it," said Sergey
Martirossyan, "but for me personally it won't make any difference.

What we actually need in Armenia is for the government to take serious
steps towards economic growth."

'I remember and demand'

Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the day the Ottoman Turkey
authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in
Constantinople, today's Istanbul, most of whom were later killed.

Armenians regard this as the beginning of the Ottoman policy of mass
extermination of Christian Armenians suspected of supporting Russia,
the Ottoman Empire's World War One enemy.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese-Armenians marked the centenary with a
march in BeirutCeremonies were held at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial
in YerevanFrance, represented by Francois Hollande, has been a strong
advocate of recognising the killings as genocide

US President Barack Obama issued a carefully worded statement for
the anniversary, referring to "one of the worst atrocities of the
20th Century", without using the term genocide.

During his 2008 presidential election campaign, then senator Obama had
vowed to "recognise the Armenian genocide" and in his new statement
said: "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915,
and my view has not changed."

However, his phrasing has angered Armenian Americans.

Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America,
said in a statement: "President Obama's exercise in linguistic
gymnastics on the Armenian genocide is unbecoming of the standard he
himself set and that of a world leader today."

President Vladimir Putin also attended and addressed the
guestsArmenians around the world, like here in Jerusalem, insist the
killings were genocide

German MPs are meanwhile debating a non-binding motion on the genocide
issue, a day after President Joachim Gauck used the word to describe
the killings.

This month, Turkey recalled its envoy to the Vatican after Pope
Francis also used the word genocide in a reference during a Mass.

France has been a strong advocate of recognising the killings as
genocide and President Hollande has pushed for a law to punish
genocide denial.

In Turkey on Friday, the media largely focused on Gallipoli, but one
of Turkey's oldest newspapers, Cumhuriyet, carried a surprise headline
in Armenian - "Never Again".

"The wounds caused by the events which took place during the Ottoman
Empire are still fresh. It is time to face up to this pain which
paralyses the human mind, the feeling of justice and the conscience,"
it said.

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Media captionArmenia's mass killings - explained in 60 seconds

What happened in 1915?

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the
Ottoman Turks, whose empire was disintegrating.

Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions
where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands also died in
massacres.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million people were killed. Turkey says the
number of deaths was much smaller.

Most non-Turkish scholars of the events regard them as genocide - as
do more than 20 states, including France, Germany, Canada and Russia,
and various international bodies including the European Parliament.

Turkey rejects the term genocide, maintaining that many of the dead
were killed in clashes during World War One, and that many ethnic
Turks also suffered in the conflict.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32443266