ANKARA—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said anti-Armenian banners unfurled during an Istanbul rally held on Feb. 26 reflect the feeling of some “raving racists,” not those of the Turkish people, reported Today’s Zaman on Tuesday.
“These banners do not reflect the feelings of Turkey but those of a few raving racists. … Necessary [legal] action has already been taken. But it is unjust to overshadow the rally marking the massacre by a few worthless banners. Nobody has the right to damage the image of Turkey based on these exceptional scenes,” Erdoğan said.
Some 20,000 to 50,000 people participated in the anti-Armenian protests on Februaru 26, with professionally printed signs that read, “You are all Armenians, You are all bastards,” and “Today Taksim, Tomorrow Yerevan: We will descend upon you suddenly in the night.” Among the speakers at the demonstration in Turkey’s famous Taksim Square was Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin, among other leaders of Erdogan’s AK Party.
According to statements issued by the protest organizers, similar demonstrations have been planned in more than 50 cities in Turkey.
The Armenian National Committee of America, sharply criticizing the government-sanctioned anti-Armenian demonstrations held throughout Turkey on Feb. 26, called on U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone to forcefully condemn this latest attempt by Ankara to foment hatred and violence against Armenians.
“Today’s anti-Armenian demonstrations in the streets of Istanbul—with the interior minister and prominent political parties at the helm—were clearly aimed at inciting increased racism and renewed violence against Turkey’s own Armenian citizens and neighboring Armenia,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “These are not simply the violent echoes of a post-genocidal state, but the determined actions of a pre-genocidal Turkish society that is angrily lashing out at its imagined enemies and seeking out its next target. We urge U.S. Ambassador Ricciardone to immediately, forcefully, and publicly condemn this government-sanctioned incitement to violence.”
A statement released by the Turkish Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it is impossible to justify “some slogans and banners” during the rally, referring to the offensive banners. The statement added that legal proceedings have been launched to find these people and groups, adding that the Istanbul Governor’s Office is working to identify these people, reported Today’s Zaman.