Monday, April 25, 2005. 6:32am (AEST)
Armenians remember 90-year-old killings
Hundreds of thousands of people clutching tulips, carnations and
daffodils climbed a hill in Armenia’s capital on Sunday to lay wreaths
and remember the 1.5 million they say were killed 90 years ago in
>From the top the crowds could see the heights of Mount Ararat, now in
eastern Turkey, the region where Armenia says its people were
slaughtered in a deliberate genocide during the chaos surrounding the
disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
The mountain is a potent symbol for the Christian nation but it lies
out of reach across a fortified frontier.
Local families mixed with members of Armenia’s diaspora, who had flown
from Europe and the United States to remember friends and relatives
who had died between 1915 and 1923.
“I am happy that I, my husband and my two sons are here in Yerevan
today. A large part of my husband’s family died in the genocide,” said
Rubina Peroomian, a 66-year-old teacher from Los Angeles.
Armenia wants Turkey and the world to admit that what happened was
Turkey denies this, saying Armenians were among many victims of a
partisan war that also claimed many Muslim Turkish lives.
Turkey’s October 3 start date for European Union entry talks has
ratcheted the argument up the political agenda.
France in particular, home to an influential, 400,000-strong Armenian
community, has promised to seek a Turkish admission of genocide.
In Istanbul, a 30-year-old Turkish engineer Bulent Aktug said: “I
think it is wrong to describe what happened in 1915 as a
genocide. There was a lot of killing by both sides at that time.”
The commemorations in Yerevan began on Saturday night when thousands
of people held a torchlight vigil at the hilltop memorial, a granite
obelisk where a flame has burned since 1965.
The organisers have said they expect 1.5 million people, equivalent to
half the ex-Soviet republic’s population, to join Sunday’s
“Today we bow our heads in remembrance of those who died, filled with
grief, but also in the certainty that the Government of Armenia is a
guarantee of the safety and eternal nature of Armenians,” said a
statement from Armenian President Robert Kocharyan, who laid a wreath
on Sunday morning.
Armenia believes a Turkish admission of genocide is important not only
from a moral point of view but also to guarantee regional security.
The two states have no diplomatic relations. Turkey shut the border in
1993 out of solidarity with Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan during its war
with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.