KUDOS TO FRANCE: It’s about time somebody called the Turkish Muslim genocide against 1.5 million Armenian Christians what it is: ‘GENOCIDE’
Todays Zaman France took the first step on Thursday to criminalizing the denial of genocide, including the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, prompting Ankara to recall its ambassador for consultations.
Despite strong protests by Turkey, French lawmakers in the National Assembly — the lower house of Parliament — voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, which will now be debated next year in the Senate. The bill makes denial of the alleged Armenian genocide a crime punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Wednesday on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rival, the Socialist Party, to re-evaluate the step the ruling party took and “correct the mistake” in the Senate, so that “relations can go back to their usual rhythm soon enough.”
However, Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande made it clear earlier that his party was in favor of the denial bill when it was around in 2006 and would still display the same attitude this time around.
Prior to the French vote, thousands of Turks gathered in downtown Paris to protest the French Parliament over the denial bill, a movement organized by hundreds of Turkish-French civil society organizations. Protestors interviewed by the Reuters news agency before the voting started told the agency that they regarded the vote as an attempt at censoring their freedom of expression, as they expressed their belief that such rhetoric emerged whenever elections were held in France.
In 2001, France recognized the so-called genocide, creating a crisis between Turkey and France, as French export levels dropped by 40 percent in the aftermath, as international media speculated that it was Ankara’s unofficial messages that discouraged Turkish companies from getting involved in business deals with their French counterparts. When a similar denial bill was brought to Parliament in 2006, Turkey froze military relations with the country and suspended over flight rights, but the 2006 bill was dropped earlier this year by the French Senate.
The disputed genocide of 1915 has been a matter of a fuming discussion between Turks and Armenians, as Armenians claim that Ottoman Turks carried out a systematic and mass murder of Armenians with the aim of eradicating them in the country. Turks say the Armenians were deported when they took up arms against the state at a time of chaos as the Ottoman Empire crumbled and modern day Turkey’s founders were fighting a political and armed war against foreign forces that tried to take over the country.
Turkey also recalled its ambassador in Paris as “the initial reaction” against French Parliament approval of the bill, a previously announced response to the possible approval of the bill.