Monday, June 15, 2009

Thank you, France?!

On the Armenian Genocide, politics, and games



Published in Defacto on October 17, 2007


The French Parliament passed a bill last Thursday making it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide in France. According to the proposal, anyone breaking the suggested law would have to pay a 45,000-Euro fine and face one year in jail. Armenians all over the world are grateful now. Fair enough? Well, Turkey and others in the EU seem to be very upset about it, and the reason is apparent.


Turkey still denies the Genocide of 1915-1922, dismissing it as mere “deportation” and inevitable “collateral damage” in the course of World War I. I do not intend to argue upon the accuracy of these events, but I simply want to see some justice. It is funny though- can there be justice in politics?


Several countries in the EU seem rather too anxious to see Turkey among them. Others are not.


The clause, demanding Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for joining the EU, has been dropped recently. While Turkey had to drop its law that made it a punishable crime to “revise” the established interpretation of history, called “insulting Turkishness.”


Slow, but steady movement towards democracy.


And then suddenly one of the prominent members of the EU intends to pass a law abridging the freedom of speech, that is the fundamental principle of democracy. Double standards. I can see the reason for Turkey’s anger.


However, why does not anyone challenge the same law that made the denial of the Holocaust a crime in many of the European states? Holocaust is a widely recognized historical fact. The Armenian Genocide is not.

In 2003 the European Court of Human Rights said, “Denying or minimizing the Holocaust must be seen as one of the acutest forms of racial slandering and incentives to hatred towards the Jews.” It claimed that the freedom of speech argument cannot and should not be used to dispute crimes against humanity.


The Article Two of the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948, defines genocide as acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” France has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, along with such countries as Russia, Canada and Uruguay, to name a few.

What is more, in 1987, by the resolution numbered Doc. A2-33/87 the European Parliament has stated that the “tragic events involving Armenians living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire constitute genocide within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly.”


In France the Genocide is considered a historical fact, just as the Holocaust. Then why cannot a country, which believes a crime against humanity had been committed, introduce a law, similar to one that already exists about Holocaust?


There is a large Armenian community in France, numbering to about half a million - a living proof of the brutal past of the nation. Many analysts, and particularly Turkey’s, claim they see vested political interests in this bill.


I agree. Politics is all about interests.


With elections coming up next year, the French politicians burn to attract as much support as possible. With this bill they would appeal to the large number of ethnic Armenians, as well as to the nationalist majority of the public that bitterly opposes Turkey’s accession to the EU.


It seems the French give no regard to the “serious economic blow” their country might suffer as a result of the sanctions Turkey promised to introduce as revenge to the new Genocide law.


In any case, I see all this as a blunt theater play - a mere political maneuver. In order to become law the bill has still to be approved by the upper house and President Chirac himself. Judging by their recent comments, I think they will not approve it.


And the outcome?


Those seeking political support in France have gained it - for the effort at least. Armenians have once again been excited without a palpable reason of being so. Turkey’s relations both with France and Armenia became tenser again.


While a monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide in a Paris suburb was stolen at night. So much for the generous politics...

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