Monday, October 23, 2006

NewU: Armenian Genocide Deserves Recognition

Just wanted to point out the discussion in this article about free speech and Holocaust Denial. Will comment later if I have time.

Link to article

Armenian Genocide Deserves Recognition
By Arin Torabian-Shams

On Oct. 12, the lower house of the French parliament adopted a bill that, once signed into law, will make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 carried out by the Ottoman Turks.

The passage of this bill has led to a general Turkish upheaval. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the measure a “great shame and black stain for freedom of expression,” saying, “A historical mistake has been committed.”

However, Erdogan’s statement is misleading. The Armenian genocide committed by the Turks was unjust and cruel. The massacre of 1.5 million Armenians and its subsequent denial is the real shame.

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, a recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, publicly acknowledges the Armenian genocide, which has led to his imprisonment in Istanbul on numerous occasions under the “insult to Turkishness” clause.

Many people believe that the bill limits freedom of speech. Even though freedom of speech is a fundamental right for citizens granted by many governments, those governments also have the power to limit that entitlement. The bill is a mirror image of the Turkish laws, except that the French want to make denying the genocide the crime.

The issue has also become intertwined with Turkey’s attempts to join the European Union. French President Jacques Chirac has affirmed that in order for Turkey to join, it must recognize the Armenian genocide, among other requirements. Turkey believes that the European Union is using the Armenian genocide as an excuse to keep it out of the 25-member bloc. However, after World War II, Germany regained international dignity only after it took full responsibility for the Holocaust. Hence, if Turkey wants to be a member of the European Union, it would benefit them to admit to their crimes.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and then signed by Chirac in order to become a law. If passed, the denial of the genocide would result in a one-year imprisonment sentence and a fine roughly equivalent to $56,000. Denial of the Jewish Holocaust also bears similar punishment and fines.

News of the legislation has sparked celebration among Armenians. Many Armenians believe that the passage of this bill is an unprecedented step towards the recognition of the genocide, which has yet to be officially recognized by many other countries, including the United States.

Although the bill may cause more inflated tensions between Armenia and Turkey, some people believe that consequences of this law may have even wider repercussions. Relations between France and Turkey will become especially unstable while the European Union pressures Turkey to improve its shoddy human rights record. It is clear that the French know what they are proposing and that they are well aware of the costs, indicating that they care more about humanity than Turkey’s involvement in the European Union.

Many critics believe the minority Socialist Party in France is only passing this legislation in order to gain the support of the Armenian voters in the upcoming elections. However, the Socialists are not the only ones who have supported the bill. HervĂ© Mariton, a member of the French conservative party, said, “The genocide is a fact. It is an absolute disgrace for the 20th century. It is an absolute disgrace for humanity. It has to be stated as such.”

The issues of humanity and justice are better understood in some parts of the world than others. After all, how would the Turks feel if the Armenians had killed 1.5 million Turks instead and never acknowledged it?

Arin Torabian-Shams is a second-year biological sciences major.

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