Azeris mark 20th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre in Istanbul
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square to remember the victims of the Khojaly (Hocalı) Massacre. AA photo
Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre in which hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians were killed.
Among the crowd were Azerbaijani citizens who came to Turkey just for the march while protesters from all over Turkey came to Istanbul via buses today morning.
“I want to scream as loud as I can that Armenians killed my people. All the world talks about the so-called Armenian genocide but nobody mentions what happened in Khojaly just 20 years ago,” said one protester who wanted to remain anonymous.
The protest was heavy with ultranationalist sentiment, with some groups in the crowd promising “revenge,” shouting “We are all Turks, what about you?” referring to those who protested the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink with the slogan “We are all Armenians.” One banner carried by dozens of protestors said, “You are all Armenians, you are all bastards.”
Nationalist associations such as the “Ülkü Ocakları” (Idealist Hearths), a youth organization with links to the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the Alperen Ocakları, the youth wing of the Islamist Great Unity Party (BBP), attended the protest with a large number of members carrying Azerbaijani and Turkish flags.
Some protesters, however, said they had no problems with Turkish-Armenians but added that they were marching to draw attention to the Khojaly Massacre, whom they blame on the Armenian state.
“It is Armenia, not the Armenians, to blame for the massacre, not the Armenians,” said one Azerbaijani student who lives in Ankara.
Security forces took extreme measures around the Greek and French consulates, which were located on the route of the march.
Muharrem Yıldız, the president of the Serhat Boyları Derneği, one of the organizers of the march, said was a turning point for the commemoration of the massacre.
“I used to understand why [Western countries] ignored Azerbaijan’s tragedy, but I was never able to understand why Turks did not support our goal. Now I can see that this has changed, tens of thousands gathered. This was late,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.
During the massacre, hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijanis – the majority of whom were women and children – were killed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to international observers, the killing of 613 civilians was committed by ethnic Armenian armed forces, reportedly with the help of Russian soldiers.