Thousands of Armenians mark genocide anniversary

Thousands of Armenians mark genocide anniversary

Thousands of Armenians staged a procession to a hilltop memorial above the capital on Tuesday to mark the 97th anniversary of the genocide of their kin by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

From early morning, crowds of people joined the annual procession, carrying candles and flowers to lay at the eternal flame at the centre of the monument commemorating the mass killings.

Among the mourners was 75-year-old Tsovinar Tumasian, who said that her father had fought to save women and children from Turkish attacks.

She urged other countries to pressure Turkey to accept that the killings were genocide.

The procession was broadcast throughout the day on all Armenia’s national television channels, accompanied by sombre music, documentary footage about the massacres and eyewitness accounts from survivors.

The night before the commemoration, more than 8,000 people led by the youth wing of the nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party held a torch-lit march through central Yerevan, where a group of activists staged their now-traditional burning of a Turkish flag.

Turkey strongly denies the genocide allegations and the annual commemoration comes after the dispute between the neighbours was reignited by an attempt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to bring in a law criminalising denial of the mass killings as genocide.

After a diplomatic row with Turkey erupted, France’s top court struck down the law in February on the grounds that it infringed freedom of expression.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, a claim supported by several other countries.

Turkey argues 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.