Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is challenging nations that label the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide, saying they should inspect Turkey’s Ottoman-era archives and that “we have nothing to hide,” The Associated Press reported.
Marking April 24, 1915, considered the start of the massacre of the Armenians, Erdoğan said nations that accuse Turkey of genocide have a “bloody past.”
Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed around World War I, and many scholars see it as the 20th century’s first genocide. Turkey disputes the description, says the toll has been inflated and considers those killed victims of a civil war.
Erdoğan said, “When you dig into massacres, genocides [and] torture, you will find those who cry ‘genocide, democracy, freedom’ against us.”
France, which is home to an estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians, officially recognized the World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide in 2001. At least 22 other countries, including Germany, have taken a similar step.
Armenia says the mass killings were one of the first examples of genocide in modern history, predating the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany against more than 6 million Jews during World War II.
Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned, systemic effort by the Ottoman Empire against the Christian minority.