A French-Armenian protester attacked Turkish Ambassador to France Hakkı Akil on Monday during a talk at Paris’s Descartes University, running up to his podium and drenching him in pomegranate juice.
Turkish news outlet Hurriyet Daily reports that the incident occurred during a talk called “Secularism in Turkey and France,” and gave no indication that the talk involved discussion of the Armenian genocide, a highly contested issue between the two nations. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged that many died during the First World War ordeal, Armenian officials still note that the Turkish government denies the event was a genocide of Armenian people by the Turkish nation.
Despite the nature of the talk at Descartes University, the assailant has been identified as a French Armenian, and authorities note he was detained swiftly after his attack. The incident was caught in full on video:
Today’s Zaman notes that the pomegranate is “one of the most recognizable symbols of Armenia,” which further clarifies the intent of the protest act. Armenians are currently gearing up to observe the 100th anniversary of the genocide on April 24.
Ambassador Akil told Hurriyet that “an increase would not be surprising” in attacked Turkish officials or Turks generally from Armenia, noting that whether there is a likelihood of more attacks as the anniversary approaches is a question that “should be asked to the [Armenian] diaspora.”
The approaching 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide has incensed already-strained relations. In Turkey itself, President Erdogan’s insults at an attempted erection of a monument to the genocide has cost him a civil fine. A court ordered Erdogan to pay 10,000 Turkish Lira to sculptor Mehmet Aksoy for calling his “Monument to Humanity,” an artistic attempt at uniting the Armenian and Turkish people, a “monstrosity.” Erdogan’s distaste for the artwork prompted officials to cancel its erection in an eastern Turkish city.
Tensions between the two nations are so pervasive that they have already tainted this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which is scheduled to occur in May. Turkish Eurovision fans have started a petition to disqualify Armenia from the contest this year, alleging that their entry, a song called “Don’t Deny,” sung by members of the Armenian Diaspora, is unduly political and insulting to Turkey. The song’s lyrics have not yet been published.