18:30, 25 April, 2013
YEREVAN, APRIL 25, ARMENPRESS: An annual demonstration commemorating the Armenian genocide was greeted by a group of Turkish protesters at Turkey’s embassy in Ottawa Wednesday.
As reports Armenpress, referring to Ipolitics.com, a group of approximately 1,400 Armenian-Canadians, mostly from Ontario and Quebec, marched from Parliament Hill to the embassy, calling on the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. As the sea of Armenian-Canadians marched toward the Turkish embassy holding signs and flags, they were greeted by a much smaller gathering of approximately 200 Turks. The groups exchanged some booing and verbal confrontation, but no clashes broke out. Police, who lined a barrier positioned between the two groups, said there were no problems during the event.
The mass killing by the Ottoman Turks commenced in 1915 and continued for a decade, leaving an estimated 1.5 million Armenians dead. The Turkish government has never recognized the mass killings as genocide, saying those killed were victims of a civil war. Turkey also says the death toll of the 1.5 million people around the time of First World War is an exaggerated number.
Shahen Mirakian, a member of the Armenian National Committee of Canada who traveled from Toronto for the demonstration, said that until the Turkish government recognizes the mass killings as a genocide, the Armenian-Canadian community will continue to protest in front of the Turkish embassy every April 24.
“More than anything else, the reason that we come is there’s a policy of state-sponsored denial by the current Republic of Turkey. They don’t want to recognize the genocide,” said Mirakian.
Canada’s House of Commons recognized the killings as genocide in 2004. Today, more than 20 countries have done the same.
Mirakian said this is the first time in recent memory that Turkish-Canadians have organized a demonstration during the Armenian genocide commemoration in Ottawa. He has attended the annual event since the 1980s.
“I guess this is a recent development. I’m not sure why they’re here,” said Mirakian.
While Mirakian said the Turks technically had the right to come to the demonstration, he pointed out that, unlike the Armenian-Canadian marchers, their permit to demonstrate was denied by the city.
The Armenian-Canadian marchers waved the orange, blue and red Armenian flag as they listened to music and speeches commemorating the genocide. They had their backs to the Turkish protesters, who occasionally booed, for the duration of the demonstration.
David Warner, former speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly and outspoken supporter of recognition of the genocide, wrapped up the event with a speech.
“What I can’t understand is what on earth Turkey is waiting for. It’s not as if other countries haven’t had to apologize for atrocities,” said Warner to the crowd of cheering Armenian-Canadians. “It takes courage, it takes fortitude, it takes commitment to human rights to stand up and say when you’re wrong.”
The event ended with a somber ceremony in which hundreds of red flowers were laid under a statue recognizing the genocide.
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