The upcoming 100th anniversary of the Medz Yeghern, or the “Great Catastrophe,” is highlighting the mixed feelings that Turkey’s tiny ethnic Armenian minority has for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration.
On April 24, Armenians around the world will mark the World-War-I-era deaths of hundreds of thousands ethnic Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey. It is a tragedy that for many historians and analysts constitutes an act of genocide.
Turkey denies the claim of genocide. On April 12, Ankara withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican after Pope Francis termed the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Ankara’s official position is that the number of reported deaths is exaggerated and that the victims died during a wartime attempt to put down a domestic uprising.
Until recently, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) seemed increasingly open to public acknowledgement of the massacre. For example, for the past five years at Taksim Square, in the heart of Istanbul, hundreds of ethnic Armenians and Turks held an annual vigil on April 24 to commemorate the slayings.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.