Armenians Mark Genocide Centennial, March for Recognitionإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Lebanon's Armenians held a protest on Friday to mark the 100th anniversary of when some 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up by Ottoman Turks as the first step of the genocide against them.
The protesters marched from the Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia to the town of Bourj Hammoud to demand the recognition of the genocide that was committed around the time of World War I.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, in the first genocide of the 20th century.
The protesters, some hoisting Armenia's flags, held banners calling for recognition and justice.
“We will not forget and we will not forgive,” one protester told Naharnet by telephone. “We will keep fighting until Turkey recognizes the genocide.”
Speaking at a mass rally commemorating the occasion in Bourj Hammoud, MP Hagop Pakradonian of the Tashnag Party called on the Arab states to “acknowledge Turkey's responsibility for the Armenian Genocide.”
“We refuse to give this issue a religious dimension, because it is not related to religion,” he added.
“We are the victims of international silence and the interests of the nations that speak of democracy and justice as they continue their occupation and killing,” Pakradonian went on to say.
He also urged Turkey to “recognize its responsibility” in order to “fulfill justice,” demanding “moral, political, financial and geographic compensations.”
Ahead of the protest, Prime Minister Tammam Salam telephoned the head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, Aram I, to express sympathy with Armenians.
Salam appreciated the role that Armenian confessions have played in Lebanon to consolidate the country's unity.
Aram told the protesters gathering at the Catholicosate that Armenians don't ask for “condolences” from Turkey.
“We want recognition … and justice,” he said.
“We tell the world that we emerged victorious in the genocide because our people lived,” he stated.
Aram urged the Arab world to support the Armenian people for the sake of justice. “What are the nations that haven't yet recognized the Armenian genocide waiting for?” he asked.
Aram asked the young generation to continue its fight until it achieves justice and a “new dawn.”
The main commemoration of the genocide was held in Yerevan where world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande, attended the ceremony at the memorial complex on a hill that looms over Armenia's capital.
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian and Education Minister Elias Bou Saab represented Lebanon at the commemoration.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi was also in attendance.
Bassil met with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian on the sidelines of the ceremony, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Nalbandyan thanked Bassil and the Lebanese government for their “support to Armenia,” it said.
Other commemorations marking the genocide centennial are expected to draw millions in Paris, Los Angeles and beyond. They will come a day after a service near the Armenian capital, which conferred sainthood on those massacred by Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917.
The event outside Armenia's main cathedral, Echmiadzin, was believed to be the biggest canonization service in history.
But Turkey has long held that the death estimate is inflated and says that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide.
More than 20 nations, including France and Russia, have recognized the genocide against the Armenians despite fierce lobbying by Turkey to prevent the recognitions.