EDITORIAL – December 2011

Recent news concerning Armenia has been swamped by the developments in Paris and, additionally, Ankara’s response to these. The Lower House of the French Parliament has, on 22 December 2011, approved legislation criminalising denial of the Armenian Genocide. If approved by the French Senate, it will become a fully-fledged law. Those found to be in breach of this law will be subject to one year imprisonment and a hefty fine of €45,000. By comparison, France penalises denial of the Jewish Holocaust with a one month to one year imprisonment or a fine. Switzerland has, on several occasions, convicted people of denial of the Armenian Genocide under their anti-racism laws. Notably, in 2007, Dogu Perincek, the then head of the leftist-nationalist Turkish Workers’ Party, was sentenced in this manner after branding the events of 1915 as “an international lie”.

In the days leading up to the 22nd, Turkey was scrambling to derail the discussion of this topic in the French Parliament for fear of precisely this kind of result. France, with the passing of this milestone, has sent yet another clear message to Turkey: that Turkey has a dark history which, whether or not they themselves decide to acknowledge, France will not forget. But further to this, France states that they advocate a moral code and do not fear standing up for the truth.

On the passing of this legislation Turkey, predictably, pulled their ambassador from Paris for consultations. They also declared a cut in all political and military ties with France. Turkey reacted in much the same manner in 2006 when France’s Lower House approved similar legislation. On that occasion, Turkey also blocked Gaz de France SA’s participation in the €7.9 billion Nabucco Pipeline project. This time, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threw personal abuse at Nicolas Sarkozy, accusing his father of being involved in the so-called Algerian “genocide”. Not only is this a juvenile backlash, but it is also erroneous as those events cannot be classified as genocide because there was no intent from the outset to eradicate the people.

Turkey dislikes developments of this nature, particularly coming from countries of stature such as France, because of their fear that other countries may follow suit. We Armenians must commend Paris’ boldness and honour in sensitive matters such as this, as well as the Armenian citizens of France for their driving support in this victory.

Conversely, one must wonder whether deteriorating ties between France and Turkey may negatively impact Armenia. In any case, this potential de-jure change grants more attention to the fact that is the Armenian Genocide and, furthermore, exposes Turkey’s aggressive reluctance to acknowledge history.

— AYF London Newsletter Sub-Committee

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