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13 Apr, 2016 09:50

‘Death to Armenian dogs:’ Turkish leader in Sweden steps down after call for killings

‘Death to Armenian dogs:’ Turkish leader in Sweden steps down after call for killings

The deputy head of Sweden’s main Turkish association stepped down in disgrace after calling for death to Armenians. Speaking to a small crowd in Stockholm, Barbaros Leylani urged Turks to awaken, and to kill what he branded "the Armenian dogs.”

Speaking at Sergels Square in the center of the Swedish capital, Leylani also said: “Let us show Sweden, Scandinavia and Europe what Turkey stands for. We do not like blood, but we can let the blood flow when it is needed,” the Swedish publication Dagens Nyheter reported. 

The organization has distanced itself from Lelyani’s comments, saying that its main goal is to work towards equal rights. Leylani issued an apology on Monday on the association’s website saying that he had been misunderstood. 

Armenia claims that in 1915, around 1.5 million of its citizens were massacred by Ottoman Turks. Yerevan has been calling for the international community to recognize this act as genocide. However, the Turkish state firmly rejects these claims. 

The Swedish legal watchdog Juridikfronten said it was aware of the incident and had reported the speech to police for incitement to racial hatred. 

Leylani’s comments have been condemned by numerous groups in Sweden. The head of the Armenian association in Sweden, Garlen Mansourian, told Radio Sweden that there needs to be “zero tolerance” for such remarks, while he also plans to report Leylani to the police. 

Meanwhile, Bahar Cetin, the head of Sweden’s Turkish Youth Association said she was shocked at the comments made after seeing a recording on the internet. She condemned Leylani’s statement as “racist” and said it could negatively affect the 50,000 Turks living in Sweden. 

"It leads to us Turks being painted as racists and fascists in the media and in society," she told Radio Sweden. Cetin added that the Turkish community has unanimously condemned Leylani’s statements. 

Tensions between Armenia and its neighbor Azerbaijan, which is strongly supported by Turkey, escalated rapidly over the last couple of weeks over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is mostly inhabited by ethnic Armenians. 

During the brief escalation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to express condolences over the death of Azeri soldiers on the Nagorno-Karabakh border, while adding: “Turkish people will always be with the people of Azerbaijan.”