Turkey stirs trouble with diary clash on day marking genocide
Turkey is hosting commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli a day earlier than the actual start of fighting, drawing bitter accusations it is trying to overshadow ceremonies remembering the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman forces.
Armenians are incensed that Turkey brought forward the anniversary date for the key World War I battle by a day to April 24 from April 25, which is when Allied forces began their doomed land offensive for the peninsula on the Dardanelles Straits. President Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia has accused Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of deliberately “trying to divert world attention” from the commemorations that are to be held in Yerevan on April 24.
The clash has put statesmen across the globe in a tricky position of choosing which ceremony to attend, with leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia keen to avoid offending either side for economic and political reasons.
“The Kremlin has been compelled to balance between Ankara and Yerevan and consider the possibility of the Russian leadership taking part in two different memorial events at exactly the same time,” commented Russia’s Kommersant daily.
The looming anniversaries are of tremendous importance for the young modern states of Turkey and Armenia — which were only founded in 1923 and 1991.
For Turkey, the Battle of Gallipoli is said to have given birth to a na- tional consciousness and marked a key step in the creation of modern Turkey as the Ottoman Empire crumbled.
Many of the commanders who fought in the grinding almost 9-month battle — considered one of the Allies’ most significant defeats — would play a key role in the founding of the Turkish Republic, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
But 1915 has a far darker resonance for Armenians, who say 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in a campaign of genocide by the Ottoman security forces aimed at eradicating them from Anatolia, in what is now eastern Turkey.
Turkey’s decision to hold the main Gallipoli ceremonies on April 24 emerged in January when Erdogan sent invitation letters to 100 world leaders, including Sarkisian.
The Armenian leader spat back that Erdogan had not bothered to reply to his invitation to attend the Yerevan ceremonies.
“This is yet another example of political posturing and political rhetoric ahead of the 100th anniversary,” said Richard Giragosian, director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center.
‘Provoke and promote over
“This is a stubborn and emotional cycle where each side tends to provoke and promote over-reaction,” he added.
The controversy over the dates is adding to tensions as Turkey reaffirms its rejection that any genocide took place with additional vehemence after Pope Francis used the word at a memorial mass for the victims.
Jason Warnock, left, pulls Mathew Sitko to safety from an SUV stopped by a chain link fence just short of a 30-foot (9.14-meter) vertical drop onto Bryden Canyon Road in Lewiston, Idaho on Wednesday, April 15. The 23-year-old driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to authorities. The photo was released by the AP on April 18.