BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Turkish leaders routinely proclaim that they are not afraid of facing their country’s past. Yet, the minute someone reminds them of the darkest chapters of their history, they panic and overreact.
The most recent example of Turkish officials’ irrational behavior is their reaction to French initiatives to adopt a law criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. Despite Turkish threats and retaliatory measures, the bill was adopted by the French Parliament on December 22, 2011 and the Senate is expected to approve it on January 23, 2012.
Here are a few examples of outrageous Turkish overreaction to France and all things French:
- Prime Minister Erdogan accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s father of participating in the Algerian atrocities, while serving in the French Army. Sarkozy’s father shot back by admonishing Erdogan to read his biography, telling him that he had never set foot in Algeria.
- To justify his own country’s genocide of Armenians, Erdogan accused France of committing “genocide” in Algeria. Yet, Erdogan was shocked when Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia rebuked him for playing politics with Algerians’ blood. Ouyahia also blamed Turkey for the deaths of countless Algerians by providing ammunition to France during the colonial period for which former Turkish Pres. Ozal apologized to Algeria.
- The Mayor of Ankara announced last week that the City Council had decided to change the name of “Paris Street” to “Algeria Street,” rename “Charles De Gaulle Street” in honor of a yet to be named Algerian hero, and erect a monument dedicated to the Algerian “massacres” in front of the French Embassy in the Turkish capital.
- Turkish factories have been busily manufacturing toilet paper, trash bags, and baby diapers carrying Sarkozy’s name, and condoms with the picture of French Deputy Valerie Boyer. Meanwhile, a gang of Turkish hackers attacked the websites of French lawmakers and threatened to rape Mrs. Boyer and murder her children.
- Prof. Oya Akgonenc wrote a hilarious article titled, “Armenian Events in the Triangle of Armenia, France and America.” She identified three “dangerous attackers” of Turkey whose last names start with S: “Sarkozy of France, Sargsyan of Armenia, and Sassounian, head of the Armenian lobby in the United States!”
- Although Turkey called for a boycott of French products and services, Turkish flights to Paris were fully booked, as the number of Turks visiting France during the holidays increased by 10% compared to last year. Similarly, trade between the two countries increased by 30% after the 2001 French recognition of the Armenian Genocide, despite the Turkish boycott of France.
- French-Algerian businessman Rachid Nekkaz, who proudly declared during a recent visit to Turkey, “I feel like I am a Turk,” announced setting up a million euro ($1.3 million) fund to pay the fine for any Turk arrested in France for denying the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Nekkaz failed to inform potential Turkish denialists that the pending French law also carries a sentence of one year in jail which his fund would be unable to prevent.
- The head of a Turkish news agency called for the closing down of French schools in Turkey and banning the teaching of French in Turkish schools.
Such nutty statements are likely to multiply after the French Senate approves the bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide and Pres. Sarkozy signs it into law, in view of the fact that the two largest French parties have expressed their support for the Armenian bill. Imagine the whining of Turkish leaders, when Turks are arrested in France for breaking the upcoming law on genocide denial.
Turkish protests will reach a crescendo when the French government proposes to the 25 other states of the European Union a similar anti-denial law which would lead to the arrest and punishment of Turkish denialists throughout Europe.
Turkish leaders have no one else to blame but themselves for their embarrassing and demeaning predicament. Yet, Turkey is in no position to give lectures about freedom of expression to anyone, given its draconian laws that violate the basic human rights of its own citizens. In France, it is illegal to lie about genocide, while in Turkey it is illegal to tell the truth!
Instead of blaming the French Senate or the three men “whose last names start with S,” Turkish leaders could get out of their century-long quagmire by acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and making amends to the descendants of dispossessed victims.