Turkey Fails to Defeat French Bill Despite Threats and Blackmail

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Despite Threats and Blackmail

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

May 25, 2006

At the request of the French government, the Speaker of the French Parliament, Jean-Louis Debre, resorted to crass manipulation and shameful delay tactics last Thursday, to postpone the vote on a bill that would have banned the denial of the Armenian Genocide. The Speaker blocked the measure for now, realizing that the overwhelming majority of Parliament members were ready to vote for it.

The Turkish government had sought to defeat the bill outright by exerting extraordinary political and economic pressure on France including threats, blackmail and boycott of French products. The Turkish Foreign Ministry, therefore, expressed its disappointment at the postponement of this bill, as it could be reconsidered by the French Parliament next November.

The bill’s supporters now have 6 additional months to counter Turkish pressures on the French government and garner wider public support for the proposed law. Ankara, on the other hand, has to go to the trouble of re-enacting its elaborate lobbying campaign and marshalling all its resources for this purpose all over again. There is a good chance that the French public and government officials would get fed up by Turkey’s repeated bullying tactics. The continuous Turkish threats not only could backfire on Ankara for this particular bill, but also increase the French public’s opposition to Turkey’s admission to the European Union. In addition, the six-month delay would put the reconsideration of this bill that much closer to the upcoming French Presidential elections, making the parliamentarians more responsive to the wishes of their constituents.

Here is a list of seven major actions the supporters of this bill could undertake in the next 6 months in order to improve the chances of its adoption:

-- Explain to the public that the proposed law does not infringe on freedom of _expression, since Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows certain restrictions which are also approved by French courts.

-- Point out that the bill simply seeks to complete the law on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide that was adopted in 2001, by designating a punishment for those who break that law.

-- Explain that the threatened boycott of French companies and goods by Turkey is not only morally reprehensible, but also an empty bluff. In 2001, when France recognized the Armenian Genocide, Turkey initially cancelled some French business deals, only to have mutual trade resume as normal and even exceed the levels of the previous years.

-- Establish direct contact with the media, explaining the rationale for the proposed law and pointing out that there should not be a double standard on banning the denial of the Holocaust, but not the denial of the Armenian Genocide.

-- Contact a large number of French historians, professors and legal scholars asking them to sign a joint statement in support of the proposed law. Publicize widely such a statement, explaining that this law would not hinder the work of historians, but sanction the liars and denialists.

-- Explain to prominent French Jewish intellectuals that unless they throw their support behind the Armenian Genocide bill, certain historians and advocates of free speech would next campaign for the removal of the law against the denial of the Holocaust. The Union of Jewish Students of France (UJSF) has already issued a statement supporting the proposed law on the Armenian Genocide. The UJSF said that blocking this bill "for the sake of political and economic considerations is offensive to the memory of 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and their descendants." The list of similarly supportive Jewish organizations should be expanded in the coming months.

-- Make maximum use of the French government sponsored "Year of Armenia in France," which begins in September, to present a comprehensive image of Armenian history and culture. This unique opportunity could sensitize the French public and government officials to the unique heritage of the Armenian nation.

It took several decades for the French government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The supporters of this bill can surely wait a few more months or even longer until it is finally adopted. All the while, the proposed law would be hanging like a Damoclean sword over the head of the Turkish denialist state, forcing it to expend untold energy and resources to continuously fight against its passage!

A member of the Turkish Parliament proposed last week that the Turkish legislative body adopt a resolution that would condemn France for committing "genocide" in Algeria and make its denial a crime! This is one threat that Armenians hope the Turkish state would carry out because it would create such a backlash in France that it would virtually guarantee the adoption by the French Parliament of the proposed ban on the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, the adoption of such a resolution by the Turkish Parliament would help silence once and for all Turkish critics who have been claiming that parliaments have no business recognizing the Armenian Genocide and should not legislate history. A second member of the Turkish Parliament proposed making any reference to the Armenian Genocide a crime in Turkey. If adopted, such a law, on top of other existing draconian laws, would make it virtually impossible for Turkey to join the EU.

With parliamentarians like these, Turkey does not need any enemies on the outside!

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