Armenia centenary: 'I remember and demand'

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Media captionArmenians on why they want recognition for the victims of the killings

At the Anteb restaurant in Yerevan, run by Syrian Armenians, all tables are booked, and there is a queue of people waiting outside.

They do serve good food here but the reason the place is packed is because there are many visitors in town.

They are diaspora Armenians from different parts of the world who have come to mark the centenary of what they call Meds Yeghern or the Great Catastrophe - the mass killings of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Most of them are descendants of the survivors of the 1915 killings.

Image caption Krikor Krikorian with his wife in Yerevan. People of Armenian descent have travelled from all over the world

Krikor Krikorian, in his 70s, is from the UK and is dining with his English wife.

"The Armenians are like Irish, there are seven million of them living outside the country and just over two and a half million here," he says.

"My grandmother was from western Armenia, eastern Turkey. She had it extremely badly, she lost all her family, they were slaughtered.

"Two of her children were dying and she threw them over the bridge into the Euphrates river. They could have never walked to Syria - they could not have survived."

Krikor's grandmother did survive but on her deathbed she was still remembering Armenia.

"'If you ever make any money, don't forget Armenia,' these were her words to me."

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Media captionThe Armenian Apostolic Church has canonised the victims of the mass killings, reports Rayhan Demytrie

Krikor fulfilled that pledge and is now involved in a charitable organisation that helps Armenian families in need.

"You can't find an Armenian family which did not suffer as a result of the events of 1915," says the Yerevan-based journalist Mark Grigorian.

"I am doing a TV programme now in Yerevan, I could not have imagined how many stories came out about the families that moved, that were trying to escape from genocide.

"It is still a huge trauma, we are talking about third, fourth generations of those who survived and even they are burning from this trauma deep inside."

Image caption Armenians young and old are attending the ceremonies

'I demand'

The purple forget-me-not is the symbol of the centenary. It can be seen everywhere in Yerevan: from shop windows and windscreen stickers, to lapel pins that many are proudly wearing.

There is also a centenary slogan which reads: "I remember and demand".

But what is it that the Armenians are demanding? I asked some of the people in Yerevan's Mashtotz Avenue.

"We demand fairness from the world community, that's it," says Sergey Martirossyan.

Image caption The purple forget-me-not is the symbol of the centenary commemorations
Image caption 'I remember and demand' is written on these banners, in Russian, Armenian and English

"But for me personally it won't make any difference, what we actually need in Armenia is for the government to take serious steps towards economic growth."

Fourteen-year old Natalia is wearing a black T-shirt with giant 1915 digits in red and a slogan in Armenian.

"The slogan says that our wounds are still bleeding," she says.

On Friday, tens of thousands pay their respects at the memorial in Yerevan. A few days ahead of the commemoration ceremonies, there was already a sea of flowers, and people kept coming with more.

They are young and old, diaspora Armenians and locals - all united in their collective memory of injustice. And time has not healed their wounds.

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