Thursday, May 18, 2006

Legislative Stalling Prevents Vote on French Bill against Genocide-Denial

A protest in France against Turkey's admission
to the EU, September 2005 (courtesy of AP-Photolur)

Some of you may know that France is one of the few countries that officially recognizes the Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkish soldiers and irregulars during World War I. Following on that law, which was passed in 2001, when the PS (Socialists) had a majority in the Assemblé Nationale, opposition politicians proposed a bill outlawing the denial of the genocide. Such a law is currently on the books with regard to the Shoah; the fine is 45,000 euros. However, it seems that the ruling UMP (Gaullists) deliberately limited time for discussion of the bill, preventing legislators from voting on it yesterday. As a result, the resolution has been shelved until October. This followed French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy's public opposition to the bill, reported by AFP:
"If adopted, this text would be seen as an unfriendly gesture by the great majority of the Turkish people," he told lawmakers, warning its adoption would have "serious political consequences and weaken our position not only in Turkey but across the entire region."
As I have mentioned before, Israel unfortunately does not recognize the Armenian genocide. You can probably imagine how important it is for the Armenian people to have Jewish and Israeli support for recognition. Perhaps we can make it happen, soon and in our days.

In a recent interview, the Executive Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Professor Israel Charny remarked that
"There are three people in our state, who openly speak of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. These are Professor Yair Auron, Yossi Sarid and I. All others keep silent due to political considerations. Israel is in an Islamic circle and most importantly it depends on Turkey in water supplies. Proceeding from this the Israeli Government is silent on the events in 1915. Though Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger visited Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan and in fact recognized the tragedy in 1915 as a genocide, which is a good precedent. The chief rabbi has much influence, but he does not represent the Israeli Government."


Derek said...

This is a major issue in the Boston area, where Watertown, MA has one of the largest Armenian populations in the country...

John said...

Well let's hope we can some day achieve some progress on this issue and get some official recognition by the US Congress. Stephen Harper, the new Canadian Prime Minister recently raised the ire of the Turkish government because he referred to the Armenian genocide. I read recently that the French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy opposed new recognition efforts (I don't know what measure exactly) and said that they would alienate the Turks. If only everyone could get onside and be united, they wouldn't have a choice. As it is, though, individual countries, are too afraid to jeopardize their ties with Turkey.

Amos said...

Exactly, my brother. We need a united front on this issue. If Turkey is going to threaten changes to bilateral relations, let's make it a multilateral issue. I think the Europeans are in the best position to achieve that. I find it a bit crazy that the Turks have been allowed to wield so much influence on this matter. Germany, France, and maybe Poland, could present themselves as countries who have attempted to confront their past critically and made this self-reflection a part of their national memory and political culture.

I don't like this victim-complex either. It's screwed up - you can see the effects in the distorted Turkish public discourse (not to mention school curricula) on the genocide.

Anyway, I think the Europeans (not to mention the US) also have a historical responsibility here. The European powers stood by idly while the genocide took place. They owe it to the victims to preserve their memory, and they owe it to themselves to pursue the fight for truth and justice.