A group of people holding a commemoration to mark the 104th anniversary of the Armenian mass killing on Wednesday called for “facing the reality” of the incidents that occurred in 1915 in Ottoman’s Istanbul.
Istanbul’s Sishane square hosted a commemoration by the April 24 Remembrance Platform on the day of what is called in some countries Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day or Armenian Genocide Memorial Day.
But Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan continued his hard stance against recognizing the killings as genocide on Wednesday.
“Our attitude on the Armenian issue has been clear from the beginning. We will never accept the accusations of genocide,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Germany recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2016.
“We see that those who try to lecture Turkey on human rights and democracy over the Armenian issue and fight against terror have a bloody history. Neither Turks nor the Muslims are responsible for the killing of four million people in the period of crusaders. Those who talk about genocide seem to have forgotten [their] concentration camps,” said Erdogan.
The commemoration event turned into a press conference, as the Istanbul Mayorship Office has not allowed the platform to hold a rally in Sultanahmet square, in front of the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, which, in 1915 was a prison to keep the Armenians until they were exiled.
“The struggle to face with [the reality of] April 24 [which marks the beginning of the mass killings] should continue. It should, because the lack of confrontation with the 1915 [incidents] lies on the basis of [Turkey’s] temporary democracy, which has been appearing as if it will come, however, later disappearing,” the group said in a statement released during the event.
The platform has defined the process which began on April 24, 1915, as a dagger dug into the [Ottoman’s] culture of living together.
“Today, it is inevitable to face the reality, if we want to emphasize on together living,” the group said, calling for Turkish society to confront the 1915 incidents.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire arrested tens of Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul and later deported them to eastern Anatolia.
There previously settled Armenians were soon forced to join the “death marches” through the Mesopotamian desert. During the marches, Armenians were exposed to attacks by Ottoman killing squads, committing massacres.
According to Armenians and historians, only some 400,000 Armenians were left in Turkey by 1922, down from two million in 1914.
Some 20 countries and some parliaments recognized the incidents as genocide. Turkey has long denied to do so. Turkey’s official argument has been that it was a brutal process during which whole society suffered great losses, referring to the tough times during World War I.
Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron recognized April 24 as a national commemoration day of the Armenian genocide, causing a diplomatic row between the two countries.