Events in Yerevan commemorate massacre of up to 1.5 million that began in 1915 during last years of Ottoman rule.by Al Jazeera
Armenians are marking the centenary of the massacre of up to 1.5 million of their people allegedly by Ottoman forces, with world leaders holding a minute’s silence in the capital, Yerevan.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and First Lady Rita Sarkisian laid a wreath at a hilltop memorial at the start of a solemn ceremony commemorating the mass killings that began in 1915 during World War I.
He expressed hope that recent steps to recognise the massacre as genocide will help “dispel the darkness of 100 years of denial”.
Each foreign diplomat held a yellow rose to put into the wreath laid at the foot of a monumental 44-metre needle, symbolising the nation’s rebirth.
French President Francois Hollande and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who are among a handful of world leaders to visit for the anniversary, then joined the ceremony.
“We will never forget the tragedy that your people went through,” Hollande said.
The annual April 24 commemorations mark the day when about 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up in what is regarded as the first step of the massacres.
The event is widely viewed by historians as genocide but modern Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman empire, vehemently rejects the charge, saying that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians will later join a procession to the mass killing memorial carrying candles and flowers to lay at the eternal flame.
Members of the Armenian diaspora that came into existence as a result of the mass killing that went on until 1917 were also to commemorate the sombre anniversary in cities around the world.
Many foreign leaders shied away for fear of upsetting Turkey which disputes the Armenian version of the event.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, issued a message of condolence earlier this week ito the descendants of the victims, without calling the killings genocide.
On the eve of the centennial, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his nation’s ancestors never committed genocide.
Turkey has said up to 300,000 people were killed, but mostly due to war and starvation, and rejects the use of the term “genocide”.
On Wednesday Turkey recalled its ambassador to Vienna in response to Austrian legislators’ decision to condemn the massacre as “genocide”.