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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Armenians remember mass killings
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Yerevan

Armenians holding torches at a memorial service
Armenia want Turkey to admit the mass killings amounted to genocide
Armenians around the world have commemorated the 90th anniversary of the killings of hundreds of thousands of people by the Ottoman Empire.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians took to the streets of Yerevan to pay their respects to the victims.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian is leading an effort for recognition of the killings as genocide.

But Turkey is resisting the effort, saying the killings were merely casualties of war.

The crowds marched in mourning and remembrance, in a seemingly endless human chain moving slowly up the hill towards the monument to Armenia's most painful memory.

Foreign delegates and politicians were the first to come and go.

Then, it was just people, hundreds of thousands of women, men and children, only a very few of them old enough to remember what Armenians call the first genocide the 20th Century.

It took hours in the unbearable heat to get up to the memorial that honours victims of the massacres that began in 1915.

Ninety years ago, on the night of 24 April, the government of Ottoman Turkey rounded up about 250 leaders of the empire's Armenian community.

Some were deported, others executed.

Over the next two years nearly 1.5 million Armenians were reportedly killed or died during deportations from Turkey.

Open door to genocide

To this day, many Armenians believe it was the killing of their people that paved the way to the Holocaust.

We can't let our children forget what happened - the world does not pay attention to Armenia as it is, so we should do our best to keep reminding them
Borseb Gevorkian, an Armenian from Lebanon

"After all, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians," Hitler has been quoted as saying.

Armenians around the world say it is essential for them to remember.

"We can't let our children forget what happened. The world does not pay attention to Armenia as it is, so we should do our best to keep reminding them," said Borseb Gevorkian, who came from Lebanon to join the march.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Mr Gevorkian's grandparents fled Turkey for Lebanon, a country which is now home to a large part of Armenia's huge diaspora.

"This is an important occasion. After all, it's us - the members of the diaspora whose parents were deported and killed. I think that's why it was important for us to be here." he said.

Demands for recognition

But many will argue that it is the people who live today in the impoverished Armenia that are most haunted by the past.

Ninety years later, Armenia has no diplomatic relations with Turkey and its borders are sealed, hampering much-needed development of Armenia's struggling, post-Soviet economy.

Aerial picture of the memorial in Yerevan
Armenia want Turkey to admit the mass killings amounted to genocide

Armenian President Robert Kocharian says the country does not want financial compensation from Turkey.

What Armenians want is for Turkey, and the world, to recognise what happened as genocide.

An increasing number of governments are already doing so.

France, Russia, Poland and Germany are among 15 nations that say that the genocide did take place. They are calling on Turkey to follow suit.

But Turkey says the numbers of those killed are grossly inflated and that the Armenians were casualties of World War I, not genocide.

As Ankara prepares to start its EU membership talks in October, Armenia hopes for Europe will push Turkey to change its stance as did the thousands of those who marched on Sunday.

They marched not only in commemoration but also in demand for the world to recognise what everyone in Armenia believes, that they suffered the first genocide of the 20th Century.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See thousands of people march in remembrance of the dead



SEE ALSO:
Swiss accept Armenia 'genocide'
16 Dec 03 |  Europe


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