France to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide

Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan

French president Nicholas Sarkozy's party has introduced legislation in that nation's legislature that would make illegal the denial of the infamous genocide perpetrated against Armenians and other Christians by the government of Turkey during the First World War in 1915. This would make it a crime on par with denying the historicity of the Holocaust, perpetrated by the Germany's National Socialist government before and during the Second World War. Historians estimate that approximately 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Turks, at the time ruled by the last of the Ottoman rulers. This was a planned and concerted effort by the erstwhile government of Turkey that was overthrown by Kemal Ataturk and replaced by a nationalist and secularist government. Turkey continues to deny that it ever happened. Turkey has long been plagued by irredentist nationalist movements, especially on the part of ethnics Kurds, even while the government appears to become ever more Islamist in cast.

(child victim of Armenian genocide)

The now before France's National Assembly will be debated on December 22. It is believed by sources in the French capital that the bill will be passed. The new law would call for one year of prison and fines of as much as 45,000 euros for those who deny the historicity of the Armenian genocide. This punishment would be on par for that is exacted for denial of the Holocaust. It was in 1990 that the Holocaust-denial bill was passed.

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan severely criticized the proposed legislation. At a press conference in Ankara, Prime Minister Erdogan suggested that France should limit itself to looking into its own history of massacres in Algeria and Rwanda.

France is firmly opposed to extending EU membership to Turkey, due it the latter's supposed "democracy deficit." This deficit has actually increased under Turkish prime minister Erdogan. Besides Turkey's reiterated insistence that the megadeath of Armenians occurred within the context of a civil war in which the Ottomons were ejected, rather than a planned genocide, France has noted that Turkey continues to allow persecution of minority groups such as the Kurds, as well as Greek and Armenian Christians. Sources in Ankara warn that should the bill be passed by the French National Assembly, Turkey will retire its ambassador to Paris.

Over the last few years, the fears of Christians living in Greece has been piqued by the murder of a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister. It was a Turk who attempted to murder Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, while in the 1950s Turkish mobs ransacked the homes of Greek Christians living in Istanbul. It was also Turkey that invaded the island of Cyprus in the 1970s, seizing half the island as well as property abandoned by Greek Cypriots and then handing it over to Turkish settlers.

Turkey is a NATO ally of both France and the United States, but that relationship - forged during the Cold War - has been strained of late, especially since the effective chilling of relations between Turkey and Israel.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under turkey, greece, france, eu, nato, Europe


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