In another great leap for human rights after proclaiming full head covering illegal, the state of France under Sarko is planning to make saying the wrong thing equally illegal within its borders: ‘French parliament has assured that the bill on criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey will be put to the vote as planned on December 22, despite Ankara’s pressure. The bill envisages one year prison term and a fine of 45,000 euros for anyone who denies the fact that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in Anatolia a century ago. Turkey has threatened to recall its ambassador and freeze ties with Paris if French lawmakers approve the bill. This is the second time the French parliament is attempting to pass a bill on criminalizing the denial of the genocide. French MP and author of the bill, Valerie Boyer, represents the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to Boyer, the bill in 2006 was failed because it had some conflicts with the French constitution, but the new version is in line with the country’s constitutions and EU norms. Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey’s past Ottoman Empire. France, which has a large population of Armenian descent, has recognized the event as genocide since 2001. Turkey refuses to call the 1915-16 killings a genocide and says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces’.
The phrase refers to a policy of ethnic cleansing enacted by the Ottoman government during the Great War, which subsequently became known as the First World War (1914-18). At the time, the Ottoman heartland, Anatolia, had a population which was an uneven mix of many religious groups, with the Muslim section being in the majority. These Muslims were however not all Turks, even though they constituted a slim majority. Anatolian Muslims consisted of Kurds, Arabs, Lazes, Muslim Georgians, Greek-speaking Muslims, Albanians, Macedonian Muslims, Pomaks, Serbian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Tatars, Circassians, Abkhazes, and Daghestanis among others. In the course of the ongoing war, possibly as a result of a perceived security threat, or, maybe to construct a more homegeneously Islamic population composition, the Ottoman authorities decided to forcibly relocate the ‘entire Armenian population of the war zone to Zor [Deir-ez-Zor or Dayr-az-Zawr] in the heart of the Syrian desert’ (E.J. Zürcher). As a result, the government issued a ‘Temporary Law of Deportation’ (Tehcir Kanunu) on 29 May 1915, which remained in effect till 8 February 1916. In the course of the execution of this officially-approved exercise in ethnic cleansing, many Armenian Ottomans perished, the historian Erik J. Zürcher estimates that “[b]etween 600,000 and 800,000” individuals died, a number he calls “most likely”. Problems arise now when people try to apply the term ‘genocide’ to these events. The United Nations’ Convention against Genocide, adopted in December 1948 and put into effect in January 1951, defines genocide as follows: ‘[t]his convention bans acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group’. It seems to me that the government of the Republic of Turkey will never ‘recognise’ the Armenian genocide as a result of the inclusion of these four words – ‘with the intent to’. In addition to a whole host of other issues that would make the Turkish authorities most uneasy.
Turkey is now foaming at the mouth at French impudence, people are calling for a general boycott of all things French and for retaliatory measures, for instance, placing the spotlight on French atrocities in Algeria . . . The pro-AKP Today’s Zaman reports that ‘Ankara has warned France of the “irreparable damage” that could ensue should France’s latest move to criminalize denying that an alleged Armenian genocide took place in Turkey in 1915 be passed next week in the French parliament. “Turkish efforts and contact [with French officials] are ongoing at the moment,” Turkish officials told Today’s Zaman on Monday, [12 December] as they recalled statements from Ankara that urge France not to politicize a historical matter that is very sensitive for both Turks and Armenians. “The French administration is well aware of the sensitivity of this issue [of the Armenian genocide] for our country. We hope that no steps that could cause irreparable damage will be taken at a time when Turkey and France have entered a stable phase that could increase opportunities of cooperation at bilateral and international levels,” a statement released by the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, [9 December] as Ankara repeated once more that it regarded such attempts as “reoccurring events” ahead of elections in France. Turkey’s reaction to the move has been revived as the French parliament readies to vote a legislation that could make denying the 1915 events that took place in Turkey as genocide punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros, the Anatolia news agency reported on Monday. The voting, however, is not the first time France has mulled over criminalizing the denial of the events as genocide, as the French National Assembly adopted a bill in 2006, proposing that anyone who denied the “Armenian genocide,” would be punished, but the bill was dropped the same year before coming to the senate. Since France officially recognized the genocide in 2001, stirring up heated but short-lived tension between France and Turkey, French governments have attempted to introduce penalties for denying the alleged Armenian genocide several times, all of which were turned down before gaining full force’.
At the same time, Ankara is now hosting the leader of another persecuted nation: on Monday, 19 December, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the Anatolian city of Konya where the Reform Monitoring Group (RMG) held a meeting. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu took the opportunity to say something: “Turkey supports the right of its Palestinian brothers to establish a state . . . We will stand by our Palestinian brothers, and we support the Palestinians in their struggle”. Abbas next went to Ankara to meet President Gül and PM Erdoğan. On Monday, the Hamas leader İsmail Haniyeh announced his intention to visit Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar and Tunisia in the near future.
 “Ankara warns Paris of ‘irreparable damage’ if genocide bill approved” Today’s Zaman (19 December 2011). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-265521-ankara-warns-paris-of-irreparable-damage-if-genocide-bill-approved.html.
 “Turkish FM says Turkey supports Palestinian cause” Xinhua (20 December 2011). http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90777/7682090.html.
 “Ismail Haniyeh announces visit to Turkey as Abbas arrives” Today’s Zaman (19 December 2011). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-266153-ismail-haniyeh-announces-visit-to-turkey-as-abbas-arrives.html.