George Clooney attends Armenian genocide memorial
George Clooney led thousands of Armenians on a march to a hilltop memorial in Yerevan
Hollywood star and rights advocate George Clooney on Sunday led thousands of Armenians on a march to a hilltop memorial in Yerevan to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the World War I-era Armenian genocide.
A staunch advocate of the massacre’s recognition as genocide, Clooney arrived in the ex-Soviet nation on Saturday to take part in the hugely symbolic ceremonies.
Clooney and the French singer of Armenian origin Charles Aznavour joined President Serzh Sarkisian and thousands of Armenians to lay flowers at the eternal flame at the imposing Tsitsernakaberd memorial as requiem services for the victims were held in churches across the country.
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.
Clooney co-chairs the selection committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity which was established on behalf of the survivors.
The genocide “is a part of Armenia’s history, it’s also a part of the world’s history, it’s not the pain of one nation only,” the US actor and director said upon his arrival in Yerevan.
The Hollywood heavyweight will name an inaugural recipient of the Aurora Prize during an award ceremony in the city later Sunday.
The laureate will be given a $100,000 grant and will nominate organisations to receive a $1 million award.
“Today, we commemorate the sacred memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide,” Sarkisian said in a statement.
Turkey’s “policy of denial... has not changed, as has not changed its hostile stance toward everything that is Armenian,” he added.