Armenia marked on Tuesday the 103rd anniversary of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, with tens of thousands of people silently walking to the Tsitsernakabert memorial and laying flowers there throughout the day.
As always, the annual procession began with a prayer service held by Catholicos Garegin II by the eternal fire of the hilltop memorial overlooking central Yerevan. The ceremony was attended by President Armen Sarkissian, acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian and other senior state officials.
The genocide anniversary commemorations came the day after Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian stepped down amid massive nationwide protests against his attempt to extend his decade-long rule. Sarkisian did not visit Tsitsernakabert.
Karapetian mentioned the dramatic events in Armenia in a written address to the nation released on the occasion. “The Genocide changed the fate of our people and made us suffer many trials and tribulations in the following decades,” he said. “However, we turned out to be stronger than the murderers and were strong enough to return to life, create an independent State and be the master of our destiny.
“Today, we are facing another difficult period in our modern history,” Karapetian went on. “Yesterday, I called on all political forces to refrain from politicizing this day. I am grateful that my appeal was accepted, and today we can show to the world that despite many challenges and unresolved internal issues, we are united around the common cause.”
“We reaffirm our determination to build a solid statehood, a free and civilized society, and nothing can distract us from our way to building the country of our dreams,” concluded the statement.
President Sarkisian’s office publicized, meanwhile, a message which he received from President Emmanuel Macron of France, one of two dozen nations that have officially recognize the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. Macron said France, which has an influential Armenian community, stands with Armenia in remembering the victims of the genocide.
Turkey continues to deny a premeditated government effort to exterminate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Its vehement denials are dismissed by most scholars outside Turkey.
“The historical record on the Armenian Genocide is unambiguous and documented by overwhelming evidence,” the International Association of Genocide Scholars said in 2007.
Pope Francis and his predecessor John Paull II prayed at Tsitsernakabert when they visited Armenia in 2016 and 2001 respectively. They both officially recognized the genocide.