Armenians commemorate 1915 genocide

Agence France Presse
April 24, 2004 Saturday

Armenians commemorate 1915 genocide



Armenians commemorated Saturday the 1915 genocide in which up to 1.5
million of their countrymen are reported to have died, with the
country’s president calling on the world to recognise and condemn the
extent of the slaughter.

“As we bow before the memory of the innocent victims, we confirm our
determination to obtain a general recognition and a condemnation by
the international community of this crime against humanity,”
President Robert Kocharian said in a message to the nation.

“Unpunished crimes can give birth to new tragedies and the aim of the
world community is to do everything to rule out the repetition of
such happenings.”

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were massacred in
orchestrated killings and during deportations by the Ottoman empire
between 1915 and 1917.

Turkey categorically rejects claims of genocide and says that between
250,000 and 500,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in
civil strife during World War I when the Armenians rose up against
their Ottoman rulers.

The United Nations, the European Parliament, Belgium, France, Greece
and Russia have recognised the Armenian genocide. Canadian lawmakers
voted a few days ago to recognise the massacre, calling it a “crime
against humanity”.

“Armenia wants to put itself above feelings of bitterness and
vengeance and is ready to establish normal relations with all the
states in the region, inluding Turkey,” Kocharian, who heads to
France on Sunday to meet with French counterpart Jacques Chirac,

“The presidents… will discuss bilateral and regional cooperation
during their meeting,” presidential spokesman Asmik Petrosyan said.

France, along with Russia and the United States, is a co-chair of the
Minsk Group, a 13-nation grouping within the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that has been seeking to
mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan in their dispute over the
Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Thousands of people, some representing the large Armenian diaspora
outside this nation of three million, climbed to the memorial to the
genocide victims on top of Yerevan’s Tsitsernakaberd hill throughout
the day.

Radio and television played somber music and played documentaries of
the genocide.

Seventy-year-old Pogos, whose father survived the attacks, planned to
climb to the memorial in the evening with his grandsons.

“My father… told us thousands of times how in the morning armed
Turks came into the village and began to burn houses, kill men, women
and children and, not allowing people to take food or water, began to
herd them toward the desert,” he said.

Pogos’s father spent the rest of his life searching in vain for his
mother, whom he lost during the forced resettlements.

Some 20,000 survivors of the genocide remain worldwide, 900 of them
in Armenia, Lavrenti Barsegyan, director of a genocide museum in
Yerevan, said.

“Each year there are fewer and fewer eye-witnesses… and fewer and
fewer people can tell of the evil deeds of the Turks,” he said.

Armenians held demonstrations in the Iranian capital Tehran, where
2,000 people held a rally outside a church after being forbidden to
approach the Turkish embassy, and in Greece where hundreds paraded in
Athens and Salonica.