Is France Trying To Define Turkey’s History Through Legislation?

The French Senate has proposed controversial legislation to impose criminal penalties on anyone who denies a genocide occurred in Ottoman Turkey. Turkey denies that an Armenian genocide occurred in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Under the legislation being voted on, anyone denying the deaths were genocide would face jail and a fine of $58,000.

Armenians and scholars argue that in 1915, Turks committed genocide, when more than a million Armenians were massacred before the Ottoman Empire fell. The Turks deny that genocide occurred. They explain that the Armenian Christians and Muslim Turks died from intercommunal violence, disease and general chaos. They claim that it was not genocide because it was not a planned event. They argue that genocide only applies if it was a plan to exterminate people.

What do you think qualifies as genocide?

Roughly 500,000 Armenians live in France and support the legislation. Some say that President Sarkozy is trying to gain the Armenian vote and gain an advantage in the upcoming election. A huge population of Armenians will be voting. Of course, Sarkozy’s party denies any political motivation.

The question is how will this bill affect France and Turkey’s relationship? Currently Twenty countries recognize the Armenian genocide. The United States is not one of these countries, but it has been heavily debated and Congress has repeatedly tried to pass a resolution which would formally recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians. Turkey has already recalled its ambassador from Paris and cancelled bilateral visits between the two countries after the French lower house passed the bill in December. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned, “this is only the first phase.” Turkey does not like that another country is defining their history and has fired back that France committed its own genocide during the war in Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s. Erdogan goes on to say that in Algeria and estimated 15% of the population was subject to the French massacre and Algerians were burnt in ovens and martyred mercilessly. Erdogan warned that if France continues with the bill, they would initiate more measures towards France. Sarkozy said that France does not need an OK from another nation to develop its policies.

Do you think France has a right to declare this genocide? What type of things do you think Erdogan will do to retaliate?

One comment

  1. Even though the bill was passed by both houses of the French Parliament, a group of senators have asked for review by France’s Constitutional Court. The petition against the bill has gained the support of 76 left-wing senators, which apparently was more than the minimum of 60 required for review by the Council. The Constitutional Council could annul the bill before it is even presented to President Nicolas Sarkozy for final review. However, given this constitutional challenge, Sarkozy has not backed down. He continues to support the bill. Just recently he stated: “Turkey, which is a great country, would honor itself to revisit its history like other great countries in the world have done.” I’ve been trying to think of a legitimate reason why Sarkozy would want to have this bill passed, but I just can’t. I agree that the bill should be challenged since if it is passed, it would have many dire political and economic consequences.

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