BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For nearly a century, Turkey’s leaders have tried to hide the monstrous crime of the Armenian Genocide by covering up what really took place in the killing fields of the Syrian desert, then part of the Ottoman Empire. The powerful Turkish state has committed its considerable financial and diplomatic resources to the nefarious cause of genocide denial.
Turkish leaders do not seem to realize that as they deny and lie, and vainly proclaim their innocence, they actually help publicize their dastardly act to an incredulous worldwide audience.
Furthermore, even though today’s Turkish officials were not the ones who committed the genocide of 1915, they foolishly associate themselves with their criminal predecessors, thus making themselves accessories after the fact by lying about it and concealing the evidence.
With each passing day, the Turkish leadership is further submerging itself in a mire of its own making. Let’s take a closer look at its sordid behavior in the French government’s decision-making process.
Over ten years ago, when the French legislature was adopting a law recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government used its usual bag of tricks in a failed attempt to undermine that effort. After the Parliament and Senate recognized the Genocide, Pres. Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on January 29, 2001, signed the following law: “France publicly recognizes the Armenian Genocide of 1915.”
Even though the French law had made no mention of Turkey or the Ottoman Empire as perpetrator of the Genocide, Turkish officials exhibited a guilty conscience by their exaggerated claims of innocence; hence identifying themselves as the culprits in this heinous crime, while no one was pointing a finger at them.
The long arm of the Turkish state interfered in French domestic affairs once again in 2006, when lawmakers in Paris attempted to establish a penalty for those violating the law passed in 2001, applying the same sanctions to those denying the Holocaust. Regrettably, the French government succumbed to Turkish threats and hysterics and blocked the measure, until the Senate finally approved it on January 23, 2012.
The French public is now facing yet another egregious attempt of foreign interference in their domestic issues. The Turkish Union of Chambers of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges hired a French lobbying firm last week to pressure legislators into filing a legal challenge to the law banning denial of genocides recognized by French law — the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. So much for Turkish threats to boycott French companies!
Pres. Sarkozy has 15 days from January 23 to sign the new law, unless 60 members of the French Parliament and Senate act first by petitioning the Constitutional Court to rule on its legality. The Turkish Ambassador, contravening a foreign diplomat’s mandate not to meddle in French domestic matters, has used all possible means of pressure and “inducement” in a desperate attempt to secure the necessary 60 signatures.
The Turkish government may be making a serious mistake by assuming that the court will necessarily find the new law to be unconstitutional. Turkish officials could be undermining their own interests should the court decide that the law is constitutional, thereby precluding any future legal challenges from Turkish denialists who would be arrested for denying the Armenian Genocide, once the law goes into effect.
In recent days, Turkey’s leaders have made utterly ridiculous statements about the new law. Prime Minister Erdogan accused France of following “the footsteps of fascism.” How can the leader of a country that is one of the biggest violators of human rights dare to blame France for fascism? Pres. Gul jumped into the fray by accusing France of “limiting freedom of expression.” Has the Turkish President checked his own country’s jails where dozens of journalists are languishing for months without trial for simply writing articles critical of the government? Has he read Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code — “insulting Turkishness” — which bans all public references to the Armenian Genocide? Foreign Minister Davutoglu may have gotten it right when he complained that the French law is an attempt to “Nazify Turkey,” except that this is being done not by France but by his own government which continues to associate itself with the crimes of a now defunct Ottoman Empire.
The most laughable statement, however, was made by Turkey’s brash Minister of European Affairs Egemen Bagis during his recent visit to Switzerland. He dared Swiss authorities to arrest him for denying the Armenian Genocide, since Switzerland, similar to France, has a law banning genocide denial. Minister Bagis is fortunate that he cannot be arrested or prosecuted because of his diplomatic immunity. Nevertheless, he could and should be expelled from Switzerland as persona non grata!