ISTANBUL -- Hundreds of Turks have rallied in downtown Istanbul to remember the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Kneeling on the ground in the city's central Taksim Square on April 24, they lit candles and held red carnations to the accompaniment of melancholy Armenian music played on loudspeakers. They then laid the flowers on a big banner that said, "This pain is our pain."
Speakers at the rally -- which was organized by Turkish intellectuals and human rights activists -- read out the names of more than 250 Armenian political leaders, intellectuals, and artists in Istanbul who were rounded up by the Ottoman government on April 24, 1915, and subsequently executed.
Earlier on April 24, several dozen Turkish intellectuals gathered outside an Istanbul museum that served as a prison for the arrested Armenians in 1915.
It was the second public commemoration of the "genocide anniversary" ever held in Turkey's largest city. The first such gathering in April 2010 drew a considerably smaller crowd that challenged the official Turkish version of the 1915 events.
As the Taksim rally was held, a smaller group of Turkish nationalists rallied at the other end of the square to condemn the commemoration and deny that the last Ottoman rulers committed genocide against Armenians.
Riot police were deployed between the two crowds to prevent possible clashes between them.
Armenian officials say up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed between 1915-19, and they describe the killings as genocide. Turkey rejects that charge and says 300,000-500,000 Armenians were killed, but a similar amount of Turks also died in the civil strife that occurred in the final years of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.