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100 people go on hunger strike on Downing Street to commemorate the Armenian Genocide

This afternoon, 100 people will go on hunger strike on Downing Street to commemorate the Armenian genocide, London 24 reports. 

The hunger strike is also a vigil for the million or more people who were killed in the Armenian genocide 100 years ago – and a protest against Turkey’s continued insistence that the deaths never happened.

In 1915, Ottoman forces in Turkey began systematically slaughtering the Armenian Christian minority.

Turkey has never accepted that the murder of half of the Armenian population was genocide.

Now, a century later, Turkey has moved the annual commemorations of the battle of Gallipoli – which are usually held on March 17 and April 25 – to April 24, which clashes with the annual commemoration of the Armenian genocide.

Vigil organiser Bernard Nazarin believes that this change is deliberate, and is condemning the UK’s decision to take part in the Turkish celebrations:

“We believe the British government should know better. Other European leaders are ignoring the Turkish invitation.”

Mr Nazarian, who helped to organise the vigil and hunger strike said it is ‘outrageously insensitive’ that “the British Government is sending Prince Charles to Istanbul without question”.

World leaders who have rejected Turkey’s invitation include Russia’s President, French President Hollande of France, and the Pope. Instead they are commemorating the centenary of the genocide in Armenia’s capital.

The ethnic cleansing of between one million and a million and a half Armenian people by Turkish forces in WWI is often compared to the Jewish Holocaust in WWII, and Mr Nazarian said the two tragedies stir up similar emotions.

“When people speak about it there is nothing but pain and sorrow. I as a human being and Armenian feel the pain as I do for the Jewish Holocaust in Germany – but at least the perpetrators of that Holocaust have been punished.”

‘I know many people, close relatives who were affected. My uncle’s family escaped from Van in the east of Turkey,’ Mr Nazarian said.

The vigil and hunger strike is taking place today opposite 10 Downing Street until 4pm on Saturday April 25. There will also be a vigil outside the Turkish Embassy on Friday April 24 from 1pm to 7pm.

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