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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

French Senate Passes a Bill Criminalizing Armenian Genocide Denial

Today is a happy day for us Armenians because the French Senate yesterday on Monday 1/23/12 passed the bill to criminalize any public denial of the Armenian Genocide.  This is a great occasion for us Armenians to celebrate. Despite threats and bullying from the Turkish state, the bill was passed by 127 votes against 86.

Thousands of French-Armenians gathered in front of the French Senate building in Paris to express support for the bill. The Armenian crowd on the other hand, was singing Armenian national and revolutionary songs and celebrating  

Turkish Protesters demonstrate over the Armenian issue outside the French embassy in Ankara in December 2011. (CNN news)

Friction over Armenia genocide issue
(CNN) – "Politicization of the understanding of justice and history through other people's past and damaging freedom of expression in a tactless manner are first and foremost a loss for France," the statement added, "Turkey is determined to take every step required against this unjust action, which disregards basic human values and public conscience."

The Turkish-Armenian controversy over the killings that took place last century has reverberated wherever Diaspora communities representing both groups exist. Armenian groups and many scholars argue that Turks committed genocide starting in 1915, when more than a million ethnic Armenians were massacred in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey officially denies that a genocide took place, saying hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians and Turkish Muslims died in intercommunal violence around the bloody battlefields of World War I.

Before the vote, Sen. Herve Marseille, one of the bill's supporters, argued that since France already recognizes the Ottoman-era killings as genocide, the same standard that applies to Holocaust denial should apply to the Armenian case.

"When we contest the Jewish genocide, we can be punished," Marseille said. "And up until now, when we contest the Armenian genocide, there is no punishment. So we can't have a legal punishment for one and not for the other. Everyone is equal in front of the law."

But Sen. Jacques Mézard, who opposed the legislation, said freedom of expression was at stake."It calls into question historical and scientific research. Tomorrow will there be a question of a Vendée genocide?" he asked, referring to a revolt against the French revolutionary government in 1793. "Will we put the Spanish and the United States in the stocks for the massacre of Native Americans? We must reject this text and consign it to history books."

After December's vote in the National Assembly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France of committing its own "genocide" during its war against Algerian independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Erdogan announced that Turkey was reviewing its ties with France. Ankara recalled its ambassador to Paris for consultations, canceled bilateral visits and wouldn't cooperate with France in joint projects within the European Union.

The French Foreign Ministry shot back at Erdogan's comments, saying France "assumes with clarity and transparency its duty to remember the tragedies that have marked its history." And Sarkozy has said that his country doesn't need an OK from another nation to develop its policies.

The genocide debate is also a source of tension between Turkey and the United States. The White House, for example, annually beats back efforts in Congress to pass a resolution that would formally recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.

The bill’s passage did not come as a surprise, as both the Left and the Right in France had expressed support for it.

France had adopted a bill officially recognizing the Armenian genocide in 2001.

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