Armenians Worldwide Proudly Proclaim: "Vive La France!"
by Harut Sassounian
The bill adopted by the French Parliament last week with a vote of 106 in favor and 19 against, making it a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide, has more to do with a political tug of war between the denialist Turkish government and French Armenian activists, than with freedom of expression.
The score in France is now: Armenians 4, Turkey 0. The three goals were scored when President Chirac in 2001 signed into law a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide, after it was approved by the Parliament and the Senate.
Back then, Turkey tried to block that law by threatening France with economic and political reprisals. The Turks withdrew their Ambassador, only to send him back meekly in a few of weeks. They also said they were going to boycott French products, but Turkish imports from France actually jumped from $2.3 billion in 2001 to $5.9 billion in 2005. The French politicians were right not to take the Turkish threats seriously. The Turkish bark was worse than its bite!
Last week, the same scenario played itself out. The Turks made the same threats and the French Parliament ignored them once again.
This David and Goliath battle pitted a powerful country that marshals unlimited resources to propagate lies, against Armenian activists who are armed with nothing more than the truth.
It is simply amazing that the Turks, of all people, are accusing the French of repressing freedom of speech when they themselves have been prosecuting for years anyone who dares to even utter the words "Armenian Genocide!"
Various Turkish leaders and journalists tried to deceive world public opinion last week by stating that France has lost all credibility after the passage of this bill. None of these statesmen and journalists, including the pro-Turkish European Union officials who so readily condemned the French Parliaments action, had the decency of acknowledging the following basic facts:
- France and a score of other European countries have for years banned the denial of the Jewish Holocaust.
- The European Court on Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that such a prohibition is not a repression of the freedom of speech.
Those who criticize the French bill on the Armenian Genocide do not seem to have the minimal courage to criticize the similar law banning the denial of the Holocaust adopted in 1990. They have no explanation as to why the victims of the Armenian Genocide do not deserve equal protection under French law as the Jewish victims of the Holocaust?
Furthermore, many Turkish leaders and EU officials have shamelessly proclaimed that the French ban of the denial of the Armenian Genocide would prevent reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia and delay the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. In other words, they are opposed to this bill out of their deep concern for Armenia's interests! They are simply trying to trick the Armenians into giving up their historic rights for dubious economic and political relations with Turkey! As prominent British journalist Robert Fisk pointed out in his October 14 column in The Independent, such statements are akin to telling the Jews, "no more talk of the Jewish Holocaust lest we hinder reconciliation between Germany and the Jews of Europe."
It is the height of hypocrisy for the leaders of Turkey, a country that has violated the most basic rights of its citizens for years, to be screaming about lack of freedom in France! As the Bible quotes Jesus saying: "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye!"
Once again the Turkish government has a serious credibility problem. If it does not carry out its announced threats against France, it will be the laughing stock of the entire world. Unfortunately for the Turkish government, all of its contemplated measures have serious drawbacks:
- Withdrawing its Ambassador from France. Problem: When the ambassador is eventually returned to Paris, Turkey would look foolish, as his withdrawal would look like an empty gesture that did not accomplish anything.
- Boycotting French products. Problem: Boycotting the products of French companies operating in Turkey would result in tens of thousands of Turkish workers losing their jobs.
- Canceling all French tenders for Turkish military contracts. Problem: To win such bids, the French companies must have offered a better product at a lower price than that of their competitors. If their offer were to be rejected for political reasons, Turkey would then be forced to accept the bid from a non-French company, paying a higher price for an inferior product. Furthermore, rather than isolating France by such boycotts, Turkey would be isolating itself from a powerful country that has a major influence over Turkeys application for EU membership. The more irrational the reaction is to this bill, the more Turkey risks antagonizing the French public which would eventually decide in a referendum whether Turkey is qualified to join the ranks of civilized European nations!
- Threatening to pass a resolution accusing France of committing genocide in Algeria. Problem: This would backfire on Turkey by validating all of the resolutions on the Armenian Genocide adopted by two-dozen countries and undermine the Turkish claim that parliaments should not legislate history. Another problem is that Turkey would look foolish by doing so, as the Algerian Parliament itself has not passed a resolution accusing France of genocide.
- Pulling out of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon in order to avoid bringing Turkish troops under French control. A Turkish dilemma: How to score diplomatic points for participating in the UN effort to "bring peace to Lebanon," without putting Turkish soldiers under French command?
The only thing the Turks are doing successfully is continuing to repress their own Armenian citizens, who, as hostages, are forced to make statements against the French law and even deny that their own family members had been the victims of genocide.
The Turks are simply 5 years too late in fighting the battle that they lost when the French government first adopted the law recognizing the Armenian Genocide. This new bill basically assigns a punishment (one year in jail and up to $56,000 in fines) for those breaking that law. Disobeying every law must have a consequence. Why shouldn't this one?
The Armenian-Turkish political match is not yet over. In the coming months, Armenians will hopefully score a couple of more goals when the French Senate would consider this bill and then send it to the President for his signature.
In the meantime, sit back and watch Turkey humiliate itself with each passing day. You can counter the Turkish boycott by buying a lot of French bread, drinking a lot of French wine, and engaging in a lot of French kissing!