A group of Turkish nationalists vandalised an Armenian khachkar in Ixelles district of Brussels, Belgium with racist graffiti and insults against an ethnic Armenian MP in the Turkish parliament, Zartonk Media reported on Tuesday.
The khachkar, or carved stone cross, was erected in the Belgian capital in memory of the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, when the Ottoman Empire issued orders of exile and death marches into the Syrian desert, resulting in the deaths of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians and other Anatolian Christians.
Unknown persons painted three crescents, the symbol of Turkey’s extreme far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and insults directed towards the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP, Garo Paylan onto the genocide memorial monument with paint.
Attackers also crushed flowers recently left by the Armenian and local community at the khachkar on 24 April, the day considered to mark the beginning of the genocide with the first order to exile some 2,200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders.
“This act can only be interpreted as an expression of hostility and an attempt to intimidate Belgians of Armenian origin, most of whom come from families who were victims of the genocide,” Zartonk Media cited the Committee of Armenians of Belgium as saying.
The Turkish authorities promote “strong anti-Armenian prejudice” in Belgium and elsewhere, the committee said.
The act of vandalism was “a call to hatred”, Belgian deputy Michel De Maegd said in a tweet condemning the attack.
Ixelles Mayor Christos Doulkeridis announced an immediate cleanup of the monument, and said the city was “a guarantor of integrity of the Armenian Genocide’s victims”.
The act of vandalism targeted Paylan after the lawmaker submitted a draft bill to parliament on Friday for Turkey to officially recognise the events of 1915 as genocide.
Paylan’s proposal was turned down by the parliamentary speaker Mustafa Şentop the next morning, and the deputy and his party were targeted by government and opposition officials alike for “daring” to use the term genocide.
The racist harassment directed at Paylan started on Saturday, he told Armenian journalist Alin Ozinian on Tuesday, after a tweet by centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP) leader Meral Akşener condemning the Armenian deputy.
Akşener, a former interior minister, was expelled from the MHP in 2016 and established the İYİ Party the next year, with former MHP heavyweights.
On Tuesday, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said Paylan was “rotten”, and that parliament was “no place for non-Muslim minorities to voice defiance”.