For the third consecutive year, President Emanuel Macron of France attended and delivered remarks at an annual dinner hosted by the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France (CCAF), where he lauded his efforts to make April 24 a national day of commemoration for the Armenian Genocide and said Turkey’s “revisionism” on the matter is undercutting history.
The CCAF also honored Turkish historian Taner Akcam for his contributions toward the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and advancing the issue within Turkish academic circles.
In his remarks, Macron touched on France-Armenia friendship, the imperative for Genocide recognition, as well as the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
During last year’s event, Macron pledged that he would begin the process of formally declaring April 24 a day of national remembrance in France, drawing Turkey’s anger and rebuke. On Wednesday, he reflected on the first such commemoration, which took place last year, saying that France was engaged in the Genocide recognition process for almost 20 years.
“The struggle that the Armenians are waging for the recognition of the Genocide is also a struggle against silence, against forgetting,” Macron told the crowd gathered at the at l’Hôtel du Collectionneur in Paris.
He then turned his attention to Akcam, who was being honored, and thanked him for his efforts to combat the denial of the Armenian Genocide around the world.
“You denounced the denial,” Macron told Akcam, who is the author of the book “Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and Armenian Genocide,” saying the book constitutes “the scientific establishment of clear intentionality of organized crime.”
“You brought out what some wanted to plunge into oblivion, Genocide denial,” said Macron. “It is an essential stone in this deeply political debate with the Turkish leaders.”
“We don’t build any great [his]story on a lie, on the policy of revisionism or a denial,” said Macron denouncing “the shadow cast by [Turkey’s] strategy which aims at a new expansionism in the Middle East, deny the crimes and strive to regain the strength of the past, a fantasized past, very largely.”
France is one of the main guarantors for the continuation of peaceful negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Macron said as the president of one of the three co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minks Group, which is task to find a settlement to the conflict.
Macron said he is in regular contacts with both the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan, stating that ensuring the operative connection between the two leaders is one of the key steps to ease tension.
Macron praised Armenia’s continued advancement of democratic principles, pledging France’s support to Armenia on its path to strengthening civil society through reforms.
“France just ought to stand with Armenia taking into account the democracy created by the efforts of a very young state of a millennia-old nation, as well as the achievements that are now being recorded thanks to the recent revolution,” said Macron, referring to the popular movement in 2018 that toppled the former regime.
At the beginning of the event, those in attendance observed a minute of silence in honor of former French President Jacques Chirac, who died in September.
After being presented by the Courage Award by CCAF co-chairmen Mourad Papazian, who is also a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau, and Ara Toranian, Akcam, whose book was presented in France earlier this week, thanked the CCAF for honoring him, saying humbly that he did not deserve the honor.
“It’s not only a great honor for me, but it’s also a turning point in my life. I tell you with all the more humility, even a certain inconvenience, that I know I don’t deserve it fully,” Akcam told the crowd.
Below is the complete text of Akcam’s remarks at the CCAF dinner.
First of all, let me thank the organizers for inviting me to this important reception, and to thank them so much for the award so iconic that they give me tonight.
It’s not only a great honor for me, but it’s also a turning point in my life. I tell you with all the more humility, even a certain inconvenience, that I know I don’t deserve it fully.
This is not false modesty from me. There is really nothing special about my work that deserves to get this reward and I guess you are many tonight to know what I’m talking about. My research is almost ordinary to the point of being even boring. I’m just trying to tell the truth: that the truth and nothing but the truth…
Telling the truth is not—or at least it should not be—an act worthy of such extraordinary praise. But, let’s say it is. Why am I here tonight? And what is the reason for your admiration and your interest in truth?
With irony, the reason why I am here among you refers to the Turkish government and its policy of denial. In the face of turkey’s long-standing and increasingly ridiculous politics of turkey, such an ordinary act that consists of simply telling the truth gives the right to a public celebration and justify an award!
The question is then what we can do to tell the truth finally becomes ordinary and nothing more than an informal act that deserves no reward.
I know, however, it’s not that simple. If you are from turkey, there is often a very high price to pay to tell the truth; sometimes the price of your life.
My dearest friend, was murdered precisely for this reason.
Hrant [Dink] was just asking for simple and very harmless things. He wanted historical truths to be known and recognized, and that as an Armenian citizen of turkey, he could live in his own country without a doubt, enjoying the same legal and civil rights as other citizens. Hrant also dreamed that one day the walls of mistrust and hatred between the two countries, Turkey and Armenia, will collapse and their common border will open, and that Turkey and Armenia can live side by side as friends and neighbors.
As a close friend of Hrant, I asked myself several times: what should we do to achieve his vision?
Hrant fought the darkness, darkness that the century of revisionist policies of turkey has caused to wrap their nation and cloud the vision of his people. But it is not only the eyes that were blind by these policies of denial: hearts have also become hard. What Hrant accomplished was to create a small opening in the wall of denial, a breach through which rays of light could reach the eyes and hearts closed.
And that’s when I found the answer to my question. My task—the one I am working toward—is to expand this gap and allow the passage of more light. I consider myself forced to fight the denial of the genocide that covers turkey and clouds the details around the murder of hrand
There are two false perceptions around the denial of genocide—false perceptions that create major obstacles in the fight against this denial and in the process preventing its return. First, denial is often considered to be an acceptable, though wrong, political attitude towards the horrors of mass crimes. The second mistake, linked to the first, assume that facing denial is only to establish a “moral” attitude towards this crime, which has long disappeared in the pages of history. Any connection with the present is indeed impossible. These false perceptions are a logical result of what I call “time compartmentalization,” which it is a trend to place the past and present in different categories and ignore their interwoven aspect. In reality, the links between denial and current political problems are strong and cannot simply be ignored.
This is something most European and North American political leaders do not understand and that is why most western states pay tribute to the recognition of the genocide of Armenian while continuing their business-as-usual relationship With Turkey. This reminds me a little of the mafia bosses who go to church every Sunday—they may sincerely repent for their sins—while continuing their criminal activities as they leave the religious building. It’s not just a hypocricy. This is a mistake and it has to change.
Denial is not only about an ideological approach to the past, nor is the demand for recognition of historical crimes is simply an expression of moral conviction about past events. Denial is a structure that cannot simply be reduced to yesterday’s horrors. The denialist structure has produced and continues to promote real state policies.
To this end, it would be appropriate and reasonable to compare Turkey’s denial with the racist system of South Africa. The System, state of mind and institutions of the system were built on race differences. The denial of the Armenian genocide has similar roots. It is based on the discrimination and the exclusion of religious-religious minorities and believes that the democratic requirements of these groups pose a threat to national security, which must therefore be eliminated. One of the main reasons why turkey cannot solve its internal problems related to democracy and human rights and continues to carry out an aggressive foreign policy towards its neighbors is precisely this very denial of the Armenian genocide.
Ending the denial and acting in favor of the recognition of the genocide of the Armenians is not simply an academic judgment, nor simply a “moral” question about a historic event. Rather, it is a must-have condition that must be continued in the Middle East. Recognizing this genocide is vital for turkey, because this recognition is necessary for the development of a truly democratic and free society, in which the regime is forced to recognize the civil rights of its citizens.
Turkey’s recognition of the crimes of its previous, the Ottoman Empire, is a pre-condition for its people to live in peace and tranquility, not only with each other, but also with the other peoples of the region. As long as the Turks continue to deny the genocide, Arab, Kurdish, Christians and others in the region will continue to consider them as the potential and potential authors of new “ethnic cleansing.” Turkey’s revisionist policies are a clear and Obvious threat to regional security.
If we really want peace and stability in the region, if we really want to see democracy thrive in turkey, if we want to see turkey and Armenia maintain friendly and good-neighborhood relations, if we want to see Armenians and Muslims live as full and equal citizens, with why not hope to see a Turkey where the Hrands are not being murdered on the streets, then we must raise the fight against this denial to the scale of current major political problems like other contemporary issues.
For me, this is the meaning of this special prize that you are giving me: a recognition of the fight for truth and justice against denial. It is the only way to respect the victims, to get out of this jacket and to ensure a future of democracy and peace in the Middle East.
I am deeply honored, humble and grateful to have been considered a person worthy of receiving this award. Thank you.