ISTANBUL — More than 10,000 Turks have rallied in Istanbul on the anniversary of the liberation of Khojalu by Armenian forces during the Nagorno Karabakh liberation war in 1992.Azerbaijanis claim that hundreds of civilians were killed , in what they describe as “genocide,” while fleeing the village
“This protest has been supported, promoted and financed by the [Turkish] Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, said Guillaume Perrier, a correspondent for the French daily Le Monde.
The protesters, including members of labor unions and nationalist groups, staged a mass protest in Istanbul’s Taksim square Sunday to denounce Armenia and express solidarity with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan.
Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin made an impassioned speech at the rally. Sahin’s remarks illustrated a prevailing sense of anger reigning among demonstrators who chanted slogans against Armenia. “Murderers, cowards spilled the blood of 613 people in Khojalu, including innocent women and children,” Sahin said. “This bloodshed will not remain unpunished.”
Some western journalists have been shocked by the strong sense of nationalism present in the protests.
“The violence of the slogans and fervor of nationalism are terrifying. A terrible image for Turkey”, said Perrier via the micro-blogging site Twitter, quoting one chant as, “You are all Armenian, you are all bastards”, a disparaging manipulation of a phrase commonly used by supporters of slain Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Ultra-nationalist groups were reportedly distributing rolls of Sarkozy brand toilet paper, produced and sold in Turkey shortly after the French Senate passed a bill outlawing denial of the Armenian genocide.
A similar protest also took place in Ankara.
In Baku some 50,000 Azerbaijanis marched February 26 to commemorate the anniversary.