On Sunday, the president of Uruguay strongly criticised the Turkish foreign minister, who made the hand sign of Turkish far right groups at Armenian protestors during his visit to Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo.
On 23 April, the date which marked the 107th anniversary of the historical mass arrests heralding the beginning of the Armenian genocide, Turkish minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the hand sign of a wolf’s head, a symbol of the Turkish racist political organisations, at a group of Armenians who were protesting around his car.
The gesture is considered a symbol of affiliation by Turkey’s racist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and supporters.
Speaking to the press, the president Luis Lacalle Pou denounced Çavuşoğlu’s attitude, and said:
“That gesture, by a member of a ruling party to a community yesterday, must be strongly criticised. As soon as we heard about what happened, we talked to Bustillo [Francisco Bustillo – the Uruguayan Foreign Minister], and tomorrow he is summoning the Turkish ambassador.”
The president also added that the Armenian community in Uruguay ‘is hurting, and rightly so.’
The Armenian Genocide
The Armenian population of 1.5 million, which constituted at least 10% of the total Ottoman population in 1915, was wiped out within a matter of months, when all Armenians were forced to relocate after the first mass arrest of prominent Armenian intellectuals and politicians in Istanbul on 24 April 1915.
It eventually became clear that the relocation order was actually an order for total annihilation. Hundreds of thousands were massacred on the journey by gangs affiliated to the Ottoman secret service Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, coordinated personally by the Ottoman interior minister. Ordinary peasants also took part in the slaughter.
A fraction of the Armenian population managed to survive what became known as the the ‘death march’ and to reach the final destination, Deir ez-Zor in Syria, many of whom were only to perish there in the desert.
An unknown number of survivors, mostly young children, were taken in by families to be adopted and raised as Muslims. A further small number of people managed to escape and settle in various countries across the world.