THE FRENCH BILL AND ARMENIANS

Today's Zaman
Dec 29 2011
Turkey

Measures being taken today to address great pains in the past can
only mean a limited improvement or healing process. For this reason,
every single step and measure is expected to encourage the next one
and to generate a sense of confrontation. To this end, there is an
overall sentiment that the first step is recognition.

However, in case this becomes a state of recognition out of necessity
and imposition of the conditions, it is obvious that that would not
satisfy the people who experienced the suffering and would not heal
their scars. To the extent that this is presented as a political
success, it may appease the sense of revenge held by the victims and
cool down their anger; however, it may also forever substitute the
genuine need of the victims with an artificial solution.

Armenians and particularly the Armenian diaspora seem to be unaware
of this situation that they need to think about. If the Armenian
genocide is recognized and its denial is criminalized in all countries,
maybe Turkey will recognize it as well. However, this will for a long
time delay an authentic recognition from the people of Turkey that
comes from their hearts and consciences. The kind of recognition the
Armenians need and deserve requires an authentic and genuine one by
the people of this country.

The diaspora has been right in its policy so far because Turkey has not
only tried to conceal the matter but also determined how people should
think and speak about the Armenian genocide, and imposed this through
education and media. The republican era sought to make sure that the
people remain ignorant about the Armenian issue, and it was successful
in this attempt. In such an environment, there was no other way for
the Armenian diaspora but to rely on external political supporters.

However, Turkey has over the last decades been going through a mental
transformation that it only became aware of later. Now, for the first
time in 90 years, a new Turkey is eager to take a look at history and
recall its cosmopolitan past thanks to the emancipation of the Islamic
identity from the influence of Turkish nationalism. The representatives
of the diaspora failed to realize this change, and when they did,
they did not actually like what they were facing since a political
sphere had been formed over time vis-a-vis the genocide.

This sphere has formed a mental hierarchy over the Armenian community.

In other words, the macro politics conducted against Turkey also
translated into the power of micro politics over the Armenian
community, and this created a conservative status quo.

This structure is actually being eroded today. For this reason, the
bill adopted in France that criminalizes the denial of genocide will
not be beneficial for the Armenians. But it will not do any great
harm, either, because it is impossible to ignore the fact that the
Turks are mature enough to try to understand what really happened in
the past. For this reason, it appears that the bill adopted in France
will remain an insignificant detail in history.

On the other hand, it is unpleasant that French politicians have used
an ethical and moral issue like the Armenian genocide as a tool for
the promotion of their populist ambitions. It is already known that
the Europeans are prone to describing the denial as a grave crime
and see freedom of thought as a requirement for the protection of
democracy. However, political actors should be more focused on ethical
considerations on such a delicate issue. Opportunistic approaches mean
use of the Armenians' anguish. In addition, it seems that these laws
ignore the main emphasis upon the prevention of other genocides. Above
all, there is no such guarantee or assurance. In other words, it is
ridiculous to assume that recognition of genocide by France would
prevent another genocide by Turkey. To achieve this, Turkey should
be convinced and cognizant of the crime it committed. However, as
long as such parliamentary decisions in other countries appear to
be signs of power, they promote nationalist sentiments in Turkey,
making the attempts of persuasion meaningless. It is also impossible
to argue that such laws contribute to the enhancement of relations
between the Armenians and the Turks, or between Armenia and Turkey. We
could even argue that such attempts may further exacerbate relations.

In conclusion, the bill adopted by the French parliament and other
similar initiatives will do nothing good to Armenians or Turks. It may
make Armenians feel they won a victory and the Turks that they were
defeated. However, the real issue is that the relations between the
Armenians and the Turks remain in the hands of nationalists. The great
catastrophe was experienced because this was the case in the past. Is
it useful for humanity to stand at the same place in ideological terms?