From Hürriyet, Armenians in France Celebrate Passage of the Bill
The French lower house has passed a resolution making it a crime to deny that the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I constituted genocide. The resolution passed by a margin of 106-19, though the large majority of the legislature's 557 parliamentarians did not show up. The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet ran a headline suggesting that France had chosen "stupidité" instead of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" [thanks again to Anne for helping me with Turkish verbs!]. French President Jacques Chirac had previously expressed his disapproval over the vote, calling it "redundant and unnecessary," since France already recognizes the Armenian Genocide. But the law means that those who argue that the killings, while regrettable, were not genocide are liable to face the same kind of punishment as those who deny the Shoah - one year in prison and fines up to 45,000 euros.
The bill was proposed by the Socialist Party but also supported by UMP legislators. Indeed, its most prominent advocate was MP Patrick Devedjian, who is close to presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy. Turkish leaders were voiciferous in condemning the resolution in the lead-up to this vote, threatening serious consequences for Franco-Turkish relations. In light of the bellicose rhetoric emanating from Anakara, which apparently hoped to scuttle passage of the bill, Chirac might think twice before officially signing the resolution into law. The resolution might have significant repercussions beyond France, as many Turks see this as a larger European or even Western conspiracy against their country - there are already theories to the effect that the vote was timed to coincide with the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Orhan Pamuk on Thursday. Pamuk is one of Turkey's most critical voices, who has challenged the taboo on the Armenian genocide and suffered accordingly for his dissent.
At this point, it seems impossible for Turks to accept this as anything but an insult delivered specifically at them, together with the recent slights by various EU members who seem ever more wary of admitting the country to their club. That opposition, of course, is not based on moral concerns about Turkey's failure to confront its past but on much greater European anxieties about this non-Christian other.
One question is how Turkey will actually be able to respond in the short term. Will France suffer economic consequences? If so, how significant will these really be? But the more important problem is what effect this will have on Turkish society and politics. Who will gain, and how will the country's orientation to the rest of the world change?
See also earlier coverage by Kishkushim of this bill's pre-history (it was shelved in May).