Armenia alters genocide commemorations due to lockdown

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Armenia will turn off street lights nationwide to mark the WWI-era genocide by Ottoman Turks as traditional ceremonies have been cancelled due to a coronavirus lockdown, officials said Tuesday.

In the capital Yerevan, a torch-lit procession traditionally held on April 23 each year will be cancelled “in the interests of citizens’ safety and health,” government spokesman Eduard Agajanyan said.

Instead, street lights will be switched off and church bells will peal across the country on Thursday evening to mark the 105th anniversary of the tragedy, he said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the head of the Armenian Church, Catholicos Garegin II, will lay flowers at a hilltop genocide memorial in Yerevan.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, a claim supported by many other countries.

Turkey fiercely rejects the genocide label, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

Last month, Armenia — which has reported 1,401 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths — declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the infections.

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