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Armenians remember victims 100 years since mass killings

Armenia's government, joined by foreign leaders from Russia and France, marked 100 years since the first mass killings by Ottoman Turks in 1915; in total, an estimated 1.5 million people were killed. In Brussels, Lebanon and Los Angeles, people marched in memory, and to demand that Turkey acknowledge that the acts of its forebearers amounted to genocide. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Throughout much of the world, today was a day of gathering and reflection, as many marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of mass killings, which eventually led to the deaths of more than one million Armenians.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It was a somber ceremony on a cloudy, gray day in Armenia's capital city, Yerevan. Government officials and foreign dignitaries marked 100 years since the first mass killings by Ottoman Turks in 1915, during World War I.

    An eternal flame burned today at the heart of a memorial complex, surrounded by flowers honoring the estimated 1.5 million victims. The leaders of Russia and France took part, with President Francois Hollande rejecting those who refuse to call it genocide.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    France fights against nihilism, revisionism, the wiping out of evidence, because to ignore or pretend to ignore what happened in history is to repeat the massacres.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In 1915, Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire, and was later absorbed into the Soviet Union. Today, an independent country, its border with Turkey, to the west, remains sealed. The Turkish government has always denied that what happened a century ago amounted to genocide.

    Just yesterday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again rejected the term.

  • RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Prime Minister, Turkey (through interpreter):

    I have always said that we are ready to open our archives at every meeting I attended. In fact, I will take it a step further. I say, we're ready to open our military archives. We have no fear, no worries on this subject. Our ancestors didn't persecute.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The Turks today upbraided Russian President Vladimir Putin for using the word.

    And, last week, they recalled their ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Francis referred to it what happened as — quote — "the first genocide of the 20th century."

    There were protests today in Istanbul on both sides of the issue. But, around the world, demonstrators demanded that Turkey acknowledge what its Ottoman forebears did to Armenians.

  • WOMAN (through interpreter):

    I am here to remind that we are here, we didn't die with the others. And to be able to grieve, we also need to be recognized to move on. It would allow Turkey to move forward if they recognized it, and it would allow us to create new relations together.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Thousands rallied in the streets of Brussels, along a highway in Antelias, Lebanon, and through downtown Los Angeles, insisting that what happened 100 years ago be called by its real name.

    President Obama did just that when he initially campaigned for the White House. He has not done so since taking office, referring instead to — quote — "mass atrocities" against Armenians.

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