By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
ANKARA, Turkey – On Tuesday, 20 December, Turkish President Abdullah Gul asked France to drop a proposed parliamentary bill that criminalizes Turkey’s denial that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was genocide. Turkey warned France would jeopardize the countries’ friendship for “small political calculations” if the French National Assembly passed the bill on Thursday. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated the countries’ ties “are sufficiently strong to overcome challenges.”
The bill presented by the French lower house of parliament includes a one-year prison term and a $59,000 fine for Ottoman Turks who deny the Armenian killings. If the bill passes as expected, France would criminalize any genocide, war crime, or crime against humanity recognized by French law. This proposed legislation parallels how the French treated the denial of the Holocaust, which the French banned in 1990.
French spokesperson Valerie Pecresse stated the bill is “very broad in a way that it can apply to all genocide recognized by France in the future.” She added the bill includes slavery and does not target the Armenian genocide.
In October, President Sarkozy asked Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide as part of its history as a “gesture of memory” similar to France’s participation in the Nazi deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.
President Gul stated, “It is not possible for us to accept this bill which denies us the freedom to reject unfair and groundless accusations targeting our country and our nation.” Last week, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the French government the hostile bill targeted Turkey and Turks living in France. Turkey said it would pull its ambassador to France if the bill passes.
Turkish Members of Parliament (“MP”) and business representatives lobbied Juppe and Jean-David Levitte, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser, in France this week. The Turkish delegation desires to remove the bill from the National Assembly’s agenda. If the bill remains, they urge the upper house of parliaments not to pass it.
Armenia reports Turkey killed 1.5 million people during mass deportations, but Turkey claims only 300,000 people died. Turkey also asserts Turks died when Armenians fought against the Ottoman Empire and Russian troops invaded Turkey during World War I. Turkey refuses to call the deaths genocide. Rather, it asserts the people died during civil unrest when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
During his visit to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, in October, President Sarkozy commented, “Turkey, which is a great country, would honor itself by revisiting its history like other countries in the world have done.”
For further information, please see:
BBC – French Genocide Bill Angers Turkey – 20 Dec 2011
Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish President Urges France To Drop Genocide Bill – 20 Dec 2011
The Jerusalem Post – Turkey Calls On France To Halt ‘Genocide’ Bill – 20 Dec 2011
Today’s Zaman – Turkey Urges France To Immediately Drop Genocide Bill – 20 Dec 2011