Dozens of people gathered in Istanbul to commemorate the 1915 Armenian genocide Wednesday, in what they saw as a sign of an increasingly conciliatory stance by the government.
For the first time, Armenian diaspora groups from Europe also attended the ceremony at the invitation of the Turkish government.
“Ten years ago, such an event was impossible in Turkey,” said Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Grassroots Anti-racist Movement (EGAM).
“This shows attitudes are changing here,” he said at the event marking Armenian genocide remembrance day.
The crowd mostly made up of Turkish-Armenians congregated in front of the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, which was once a prison where Armenians were held before deportation during World War I.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, was falling apart.
Turkey says 500,000 died of fighting and starvation during World War I and categorically rejects the term genocide.
Some of the activists carried the portraits of victims of genocide and unfurled banners: “The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum was a prison in 1915” and “Armenian intellectuals were imprisoned here before deportation.”