More than 10,000 Turks have rallied to mourn the anniversary of a notorious attack that Azerbaijanis say killed hundreds of people during the 6-year war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
"This protest has been supported, promoted and financed by the [Turkish] Ministry of Foreign Affairs", said Guillaume Perrier, a correspondent for the French daily Le Monde.
The protesters, including members of labor unions and nationalist groups, staged a mass protest in Istanbul's Taksim square Sunday to denounce Armenia and express solidarity with Turkey's ally Azerbaijan.Turkish interior minister was also reported to have taken part in the protest. Some western journalists have been shocked by the strong sense of nationalism present in the protests.
"The violence of the slogans and fervor of nationalism are terrifying. A terrible image for Turkey", said Perrier via the micro-blogging site Twitter, quoting one chant as, "You are all Armenian, you are all bastards", a disparaging manipulation of a phrase commonly used by supporters of slain Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Ultra-nationalist groups were reportedly distributing rolls of Sarkozy brand toilet paper, produced and sold in Turkey shortly after the French Senate passed a bill outlawing denial of the Armenian genocide.
"The 600 victims of Khodzhaly serve as a pretext for this outpouring of anti-Armenian hatred. Embers of 1915 are still burning", Perrier said.
A similar protest also took place in Ankara.
Azerbaijani authorities say 613 Azerbaijanis were killed when Armenian troops rushed into the village of Khodzhaly on Feb. 26, 1992.
Turkey has demanded the withdrawal of Armenian troops from theArmenian-occupied enclave Nagorno-Karabakh to reopen their border,which was closed by Turkey in 1993 to protest Armenia's war with Azerbaijan.
Photo credit: Guillaume Perrier