Some 20,000 protestors crammed into Taksim Square, the center of modern Istanbul, last Sunday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack by Armenian troops on ethnic Azeris in the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Baku calls the incursion a genocide.
Several protestors referenced the recent Armenian Genocide bill in France as a motivation to participate in the rally.
Three sentiments were on display at the protest:
1. Turkish Nationalism: The sign below reads “We’re all Turks, altogether”—mocking the circular signs held by participants in demonstrations decrying the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
2. Pan-Turkism: Below, protesters climb the Republican Monument, chanting and bearing flags of Turkic countries, including Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.
3. Anti-Armenianism: The sign below reads “You’re all Armenian. You’re all bastards” – another sign mocking the Hrant Dink demonstrations.
No one has confirmed the identity of the protest’s financiers. The demonstration was followed swiftly by billboards on major highways and numerous posters in public transport hubs echoing the protest’s sentiments. Buses decorated with bannered protest slogans brought students from cities as far as Ankara.
The clearest takeaway from Sunday’s demonstration is that the push to have foreign governments take a position on the massacre of Armenians almost 100 years ago has created a counter-push in Turkey that features ugly brands of Turkish nationalism, pan-Turkism, and anti-Armenianism.