BEIRUT: Thousands of Armenians marched through Beirut Wednesday, calling on Turkey to recognize the genocide that resulted in 1.5 million of their ancestors being systematically killed nearly 100 years ago.
Draped in Armenian red, blue and light orange, over 10,000 people marched across east Beirut until they reached Martyr’s Square in Downtown. Families sung their national anthem and carried banners condemning the Turkish government while pausing to stomp on Turkish flags spread along the road ways.
“Erdogan Don’t Forget: Eastern Turkey is Western Armenia,” read one banner directed at Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Armenian groups claim large swaths of land in Turkey are owed to them after they were killed and forcibly displaced during the partition of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916 at the end of World War I. Many Armenian families took refuge in what is now Lebanon during the Ottoman attacks.
“ Turkey should recognize the genocide and take action for restitution,” said goldsmith Paul Halebian, at the rally. “It’s our right, our land, our dignity.”
During a mass rally in Martyrs’ Square commemorating the 98th anniversary of the massacre, Lebanese of Armenian origin and supporters held signs and chanted slogans against Ankara which maintains that the death of nearly 500,000 people were not a result of genocide.
“Turkey: It’s time for recognition and repatriation,” one of the signs at the demonstration read. “Justice and restitution for the Armenian Genocide,” another said.
There are around 200,000 Lebanese of Armenian origin in the country.