A far-right Turkish politician wants his government to expel tens of thousands of Armenian nationals residing in Turkey in retaliation against France for declaring a remembrance day for victims of the World War I era genocide of Armenians. President Emmanuel Macron said this week, France would mark April 24th as a “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide.” Turkey’s government, which denies the killing amounted to a genocide, has vigorously condemned the decision. “There are 100,000 Armenians here who came from Armenia and are illegally filling their stomachs. I’m saying we should expel them. Why are we letting them stay? While they lobby against Turkey, we continue to feed them,” Mustafa Destici, who leads the small Great Unity Party (BBP), said at a campaign rally on February 7th. Destici’s hardline party only receives a few hundred thousand votes in Turkish elections but retains an outsized influence at a time of heightened nationalism in Turkey. In June, BBP joined President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s electoral alliance, along with a larger rightwing group, in parliamentary and presidential polls, earning one seat in parliament.
Erdogan has in the past suggested kicking out undocumented Armenian nationals in response to moves by other nations to recognize the genocide. In 2015, he said Turkey could “deport” them if it wished, evoking the Ottoman Empire’s deportation of hundreds of Armenians to the Syrian desert during World War I.
Destici’s remarks were unlikely to spar any concrete action, but illustrate rising nationalist sentiment during a severe economic downturn in Turkey, which also hosts four million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.