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Lebanese-Armenian Protesters Trap Turkish Ambassador in Beirut Theater

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Lebanon, History, International Relations, Politics, Protest
Lebanese-Armenian Protesters outside the movie theater. Image from AztagDaily

Lebanese-Armenian Protesters outside the movie theater. As the Daily Star reported [1], they were shouting slogans such as “Truth will triumph” and “We remember”. Image from AztagDaily [2]

Around 60 members of Lebanon's Armenian Tashnag Party [3] trapped the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon inside a movie theater on Wednesday, protesting the Turkish Government's official stance on the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire. Ambassador Suleiman Inan Oz Yildiz was attending the premiere of “Son Mektup,” a Turkish movie set during the Battle of Gallipoli (1915-1916) [4]. The incident was also reported on the Official Centennial's Commemoration's Website [5].

The time chosen to promote a movie set during the same year as the Armenian Genocide isn't being interpreted as a coincidence. Indeed, in a statement released online [2] on Lebanese Armenian Daily “Aztag”, the Turkish government was accused of trying to distract the world's attention from the Armenian Genocide Centennial, which will be commemorated worldwide on April 24th of this year.

The statement, published in Armenian [2] and Arabic [6], was summarized for Global Voices by Lebanese-Armenian activist Yeghia Tashjian:

“The main goal of the film was to shift the attention from the Armenian Genocide to the Battle of Gallipoli, despite the fact that the Turkish government has not commemorated the Battle in public events in the past. The Turkish government has recently decided to finance and promote events pertaining to the battle to distract the world's attention from the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Therefore the Tashnag Youth and Student Association (Tashnag) took the initiative to once again remind the world of the history and the sufferings of Armenians and Arabs under Turkish rule. As a result the Turkish Embassy's security guards clashed with peaceful protesters in front of the cinema. The guards started to shout “Erdogan, Erdogan” while the protesters responded “Genocidal, Genocidal”.

The Centennial Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide holds particular importance in Lebanon with Lebanese Armenians comprising around 4 per cent of the country's population. Numerous events are planned for the days leading to April the 24th anniversary, such as a talk by The Independent's Robert Fisk [7] entitled “One Hundred Years and a Day [8]” hosted by the American University of Beirut's “Lebanese Armenian Heritage Club [9]” as well as a National March organized on the day itself.