On January 23, the French Senate approved a bill which acknowledges that some 1.5 million Armenian Christians were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks during the First World War. The denial of this historical truth in France, under the legislation, will bring a year in prison or a fine of up to 45,000 euros (just over £40,000) for those convicted. The bill awaits the signature of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Turkey, an ally of both the United States and France, sees the measure as an insult to its national honor. The largely Muslim country has already suspended all military, economic and political ties with France.

Calling the legislation both "racist and discriminatory", Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Sarkozy not to sign the bill, offering unspecified “retaliatory measures” if he does. "For us it is null and void," said Erdogan, who leads an Islamist party. "We still have not lost our hope that it can be corrected." Turkey's Foreign Ministry also condemned the Senate vote in a statement, saying it should not be ratified so as “avoid this being recorded as part of France's political, legal and moral mistakes.”  The statement added that “we will not hesitate to implement, as we deem appropriate, the measures that we have considered in advance."

The headline in Ankara's Hurriyet newspaper today read that Sarkozy 'massacred democracy', while the Sozcu daily read: 'Sarkozy the Satan.” The National Turk website opined, “Relations between France and Turkey, the two NATO allies are at its lowest and Ankara’s ambassador in Paris states he’s ready to return to Turkey, after France shamelessly uses poor Armenian conscience as a cat’s paw for the upcoming France elections by approving the Armenian Genocide Bill in the French senate.” The website substitutes ‘Sarkozyan’ for the French president’s real surname in an allusion to his sympathy with Armenia. Armenian surnames frequently end with ‘-yan.’
Reacting to the decision, author Taner Akçam, a professor at Clark University in Massachusetts, said "I cannot judge the practical implication of this law for the French society, but this is definitely a huge victory for those who fight genocide denial on the international level.”

Akçam, who originally hails from Turkey, added "If we want to prevent genocides and mass crimes; if we want to increase the awareness against the crimes of Genocide and crimes against humanity, we should not allow the denialist regimes to bully the democratic nations in the international arena. Turkey must understand that bullying and threatening others is not the behavior of an international actor. Turkey cannot continue with repressive domestic policies toward its own history and minorities. It cannot threaten other countries in expressing their thoughts on 1915 and at the same time pretend to be a member of democratic countries of the world.”
"My hope is Turkey has learned a lesson from the French decision. Instead of threatening France, Turkey should do its homework and investigate the mastermind of Hrant Dink's murder, mostly state officials, who are still free."



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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