Tens of thousands of people marched to the Tsitsernakabert memorial in Yerevan and laid flowers there on Wednesday as Armenia marked the 104th anniversary of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.
As always, the annual procession began with a prayer service held by Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, by the eternal fire of the hilltop memorial overlooking the city center. The ceremony was attended by President Armen Sarkissian, Prime Minister Prime Minister Nikol and other senior state officials.
“It is the day to recall once again the tragedy of our compatriots who had suffered ferocities and had been expelled from the land of their ancestors … to tell the world once again about the Genocide -- the most hideous crime against humanity -- and to call for soberness and a fight against denial,” Sarkissian said in a written statement issued on the occasion.
“Impunity that followed the Armenian Genocide had opened the doors for other grave crimes against humanity and genocides: remember the Holocaust, the tragedies in Cambodia and Rwanda,” he said.
A separate statement released by Pashinian noted not only the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians but also the destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in the Ottoman Empire.
“We were consistently deprived of the land on which Armenian culture and Armenian identity were formed and developed over thousands of years,” read the statement. “The cultural heritage that constitutes the Armenian identity -- thousands of schools, churches and monasteries -- was erased from the face of the earth.”
Pashinian also recalled the World War One-era massacres of hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. Armenia officially recognized them as genocide in 2015.
Both the president and the prime minister made clear that Yerevan will continue to seek greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Turkey continues to deny a premeditated government effort to exterminate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. 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, as did more than two dozen nations, including France, Germany and Russia.