Several weeks have passed since the passing of the law criminalizing the denial of genocide, acts and incitement to racism and fascism in France. During last weeks, that French law has taken a very special place on the agenda of Turkish Foreign Policy.
The leading information in Turkish newsrooms: the reactions of the Armenian community in Turkey, which forms a hostile bloc against France. Besides that, the massacres of Uludere, the arrestations of hundreds of journalists and their prosecutions seem…insignificant.
Armenians in Turkey, in turn, by their writings and comments at all costs try to avoid becoming the whipping-boys of Turkey’s Foreign Policy.
All the agitation created in Turkey about the French law had only a tragi-comic result when it comes to national security to explain the sanctions and restrictions in the area of economic cooperation with France.
Withdrawing Turkish government’s propaganda towards its citizens, the following interview aimed to understand better the Armenian diaspora (as well as the Turkish diaspora
A few years ago, I met Garo, fro Marseilles. He himself knows very well Turkey and travels to Istanbul or to Van each time it is possible.
He is Armenian, migrated to France (because he had to) and is a very sociable person. I like him. He is a fellow of the deputee Boyer with which they worked on the law criminalizing denial.
He has been one of the instigators who has put on the agenda the of the French Senate the so exclaimed law on the criminalization of the denial of genocide. This interview gives ear to him to better understand this issue.
His words are full of learnings and initiate a common path for Armenians and Turks.
1/ First of all, can you tell us about your work and your implication in French political party? What’s exactly your title?
1/ I’m a member of the UMP (I’m in politics since I’m 17, I started at the RPR and then moved to the UMP). At present time, I am Urban District Adviser for the 13/14th Urban District of Marseille with Mrs. Boyer.
2/ You’ve participated to the preparation of this law. Can you give us more details about its composition?
2/ First of all, I’d like to say that there is a total lack of information or misinformation: on the Turkish side, they don’t understand at all what we wanted to do here and on the French side, some deputees and politics close to Turkey say nothing and anything as well as some Historians do by thinking that this law is against freedom of speech while it is only aimed to insure public order.
We have all been sensitive about the law that has been rejected by the Senate a few months ago because of the possible unconstitutionality of its redaction. (reason for which it would have been annulled by the Supreme Court).
Valérie Boyer and some people close to her (including myself) continued the work started by a lawyer of Marseille, Mr. Krikorian, regarding the transposition of a European Council-framework decision. So, we worked on the basis of the Council-framework decision 2008/913/JAI on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law that has been adopted by the Council of the European Union on November 28 in 2008.
What does that directive say?
Article 1 of the council-framework decision has adopted that are punishable by means of criminal law : intentional conduct in a racist or publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group;
Furthermore; the article 3 of the Council-framework decision declares that each Member State shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the conduct referred to in Article 1 is punishable by criminal penalties of a maximum of at least between 1 and 3 years of imprisonment.
In France, several national texts already define and punish genocides, war crimes and crimes against Humanity. Recently, the law n°2001-70 of the 29th January has implemented the official recognition by France of the 1915 Armenian genocide and the law n°2001-434 of the 21st May 2001, establishes the recognition of the slavery and slave trade as a crime against humanity. The law we are talking about today is only the repressive part that is necessary to give the law a real legal value.
To conclude, we are only complying with European directives on the basis of the mentioned Council-framework decision.
That law has been carefully thought through and she will be adopted because she constitutes a protection of the social peace.
And we wanted to remind to all the countries that will recognize the genocide that they also have to do that compliance work, no matter which genocide we are talking about. Some people think the law will not pass, but it would be an aberration as it is the compliance with a European directive. And we thought very much about it: it’s in our national interest and in the interest of social peace for the upcoming years in the field of fighting against discrimination and hatred based on race.
3/ The passing of this law seems precious to the diaspora. As a diaspora Armenian, what does that law represent for you?
3/ I was born in Turkey, but I am French with Armenian origin, so I first think about my actual country: France. Of course, there is a strong implication of French people from Armenian origin in the French society at all levels. And nowadays, you can not make the difference between a French-Armenian and a French-French, especially if he/she doesn’t have a family name ending by “ian”. And as the Turkish Prime Minister was reminding ; there is also about a million French people of Turkish origin that will have their weight in the electoral balance. But that declaration will not change the Parliament’s position as that question unites all the political movements of the Majority and of the Opposition.
During the debates at the National Assembly, the necessity of that law has been reminded by a deputee who talked about something that happened in his district, in Sarcelles. A French-Turkish association was preparing a public demonstration to defend the murderer of the Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink. The demonstration has been forbidden to prevent public disorder. That kind of demonstration can not take place in France, and the law has its full meaning by preventing that kind of propaganda on our territory.
4/ In Turkey we have very different information about the content of that law. It has passed already once at the French Senate, but it didn’t create such big emotion before. According to you, why has it become such a big issue this time?
4/ The excessive reactions of the Turkish leaders shows two things, according to me. First, Mr. Erdogan wants to attract his population’s attention against France as he did about Israel. Second, I think this law is essential as if tomorrow Turkey wants to be included in the European Union, it will have to adopt that kind of laws. The aim of the law is to prohibit incitation to hatred.
5/ During the vote at the French National Assembly, you were in Paris, as well as many Turkish officials who were there to prevent the passing of the law. You know many of them. When you left the Assembly, you lived a very uncomfortable moment. What do you mean?
5/ I don’t want to go further in details, but you know my point of view. I want that law for several reasons, but first for the sovereign interest of France and of Turkey. Also,politically, I think it’s time for Turkey to accept France’s position about the genocide. I’d like the relations between the Armenian diaspora and Turkey to become more peaceful.
The declaration of the Prime Minister of Turkey about the events that took place in Dersim gives me hope that Turkey will act the same way regarding the 1915 genocide.
6/ According to some people, this law has been put in frontstage because Sarkozy is trying to get Armenian votes in France. What do you think about that affirmation? How many French citizens from Armenian origin are there in France? Do the Armenians have such a strong influence on French politics?
6/ I was telling you oftenly to watch the tv debate of Mr. Eric Raoult, Deputee in Raincy where there are more Turks than Armenians. But Mr. Raincy has voted the law and some of our deputees really defend the Republic’s values and the President has just reminded that there is penal and legal hole in our law texts regarding the law of 2001 : « France publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide ». But after that, there is a legal and penal hole that we have to fill in.
Ok, there are more Turks than Armenians in France, officially. But we are not able to know who is from Armenian ascendance in France as they started to arrive in 1890’s and after 1900’s and with all the mix weddings, we are not able to know their exact numbers… take Segara, Fiori, Villeneuve, Legitimus, etc. as examples. They are from Armenian origin, but from such a long time…
7/ Why do the Turks living in Turkey not have such a big influence as Armenians in France, according to you?
7/ I think that it is not a Turkish problem, no matter if they are implicated in the political life or not. Today I’m like you, UMP has voted the law, tomorrow at the Senate, it will be the PS (Social Party). So, I’m asking you: are you going to tell the Turks to not vote for Sarkosy or not vote for Hollande ? Or, are you going to tell them to vote for the FN as they adore Turkey like Mrs. LePen does… But as Aznavour was saying: “we are 100% French, show us if there are Turks who died for that country, but also, we carry Armenia in our hearts…”
8/ What do you feel about Turkish reactions about the passing of the law?
8/ Let me finish by saying one thing : I love Turkey. I have plenty of Turkish friends that I adore. But I think that Turks merit to have a better leader than Mr. Erdogan who thinks that he is at a football match by talking about our President and also, he’s trying to legitimate the genocide. It’s not politics anymore! I just wanted to tell him: “Mr. Erdogan, you are putting your intellectuals in jail (cf. Mr. Zarakoglu), your journalists, more than 5000 Kurds, you have that 301 article, and let’s not talk about the Hrant Dink case, etc.
There a big dynamic in Turkey, but Turkey has to pay attention and not jeopardize its’ population’s life. There are more than 100 000 people working for French societies, each year French tourism in Turkey brings more than one million euros, each year there is more than a million euros subventions from France to Turkey… Turkey forgets to talk about that…
So, I think that if we don’t send electrochocs about that questionTurkey will never have the courage to take a look back, honestly on its own History. Together, we have to build up the future.Almost a hundred years or denial; it’s enough. Neither Turks, neither Armenians deserve this.