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Bragging and Intriguing : The Last Attempt of Armenian Nationalists in France

Ecrit par , 2011-04-14 06:00:00

One more time, Armenian nationalists are attempting to obtain the discussion and the majority vote, by the Senate, of the bill which would criminalize the challenge and “denial” of “Armenian genocide” claims. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF-Dashnak) claimed even, in a communiqué, that the bill will be discussed on May 4. As expected, several Turkish media reacted to the announcement. The ARF communiqué, however, reveals both exaggerations and indicates an underground, unfair tactic.

Background of the Recent Developments

The French Senate is traditionally less sensitive to Armenian claims and is more sensitive to Franco-Turkish relations than the National Assembly. The “recognition” of “Armenian genocide” claims was voted in National Assembly in 1998, but the Senate refused several times, in 1999 and in the beginning of 2000. Only an immense pressure, almost to the extent of physical threat, to the Senators forced them to a majority vote for “recognition” in Autumn 2000. Let’s notice that the French Constitution of 1958 defines precisely the field of law which can be adopted, and the purely declarative laws are not included in the definition. In 1998, the secretary to Justice Élisabeth Guigou (Socialist) claimed to cancellation of the vote for juridical reasons, obtaining only this response : “We know, but the Parliament does what he wants.” Any declarative law, including this one, is so totally unconstitutional and without any jurisdictional value.

The National Assembly voted in October 2006 a bill criminalizing the “denial the Armenian genocide”, by 106 voices for, 19 against and 4 abstentions ; 428 of the 557 deputies did not participate to vote, because although they did not want to support the draft, they did not dare to challenge it. The successive UMP governments refused to table the bill to the Senate, and the Socialist group of the Senate did not want to put the proposition on the agenda. Claude Estier, supporter of Armenian claims, resigned from his position of the presidency of the Socialist group in Senate in 2004, after he retired from political life ; he was replaced by Jean-Pierre Bel, who has no particular connection with the Armenian milieu.

In October 2008, the association of historians “Liberté pour l’histoire” (LPH, “Freedom for History”), created in 2005, launched the Blois Appeal against memorial laws. Thanks to the connections of LPH’s leadership, including the chairman Pierre Nora, member of French Academy and in charge of human sciences in Gallimard Publishers since 1965, Liberté pour l’histoire has widely found a voice in the medias, and the Armenian lobbies were not able to oppose an equate reply — quite the contrary, they were rarely invited as contradictors. As a result of LPH’s efficient action, a sub-committee of National Assembly, leaded by Bernard Accoyer, President of the Assembly (UMP), published a report concluding that the Parliament must vote no more memorial laws, even about Armenians. A member of LPH, the specialist of Holocaust issues Annette Wieviorka, said even on French public TV : “To be a genocide, an intention is needed ; such an intention does not appear in Ottoman archives.”

The demonstrations of Coordination Council of France’s Armenian Associations (CCAF), since Autumn 2008, succeeded only to show the weakening of Armenian activism in France. The author of this article, actually a Parisian himself, was witness of some of these demonstrations and “sit-in”, which did not attract the attention of mass medias. The Armenian demonstrators could rally only between ten and one (or two) hundred(s) of persons. The online petition launched by a Marseille’s Armenian, could claim only (on April 4, 2011) 23,750 signatories — despite that there are around 80,000 persons of Armenian heritage in Marseille’s county alone.

Recent Developments

In February 2011, the CCAF announced that the Socialist group of the Senate would put the bill the Senate’s agenda. But actually, the majority of the Socialist senators voted against the draft, and it failed. One more time, in last March, the CCAF demonstrated in front of the Senate, with slim participation, despite that the demonstration happened during the afternoon of a Saturday. The single important event was the letter of Martine Aubry, first secretary of Socialist Party since 2008, to the president of Socialist group in Senate, asking to put the bill on the agenda. Ms. Aubry did never support the bill until 2011 ; she is elected in a region where there are almost no Armenians, but a rather important population of Turkish origin. The Turkish side and all the persons concerned by free speech have reasons to be surprised. Even François Hollande, First secretary of the Socialist Party from 1997 to 2008, and a long time supporter of Armenian claims — above all by lack of knowledge —, recently decreased his support to Armenian nationalists. His knowledge of the issue was surely a bit improved.

So, the single possible reason for this change of mind is an underground unfair intrigue by few Armenians who infiltrated to the Socialist Party, and who took profit of the fact that to speak with Ms. Aubry was not considered as an urgent priority by the opponents to the censorship bill. Interestingly, it was the ARF, not the CCAF, which claimed this time that the bill would be discussed thanks to the Socialist group, on May 4. Of course, the non-Dashnaks of CCAF agree totally with ARF’s initiative, but seems to have taken no part to it.

On the other hand, will create this change serious consequences ? At least for the short time, no. Mr. Bel did not change his minds and remains opposed to the bill ; the majority of the Socialist senators share his views and are furious against the one-sided, unilateral and highly surprising decision of Ms. Aubry. As a result, what will happen on May 4 is not a proposition supported by the Socialist group himself, but a demand from few senators, elected in counties with an important Armenian community. Such a demand has to be examined by the conference of presidents, i.e. the meeting of the president of Senate and the presidents of groups represented in this assembly. Since no one president of group expressed his support for the bill, and since the current president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher (UMP), said systematically that he is strongly opposed to the proposition, the demand has just no possibility to be even discussed in séance. The personal initiatives of some senators, without the support of a group, claiming the discussion of a bill are very limited by the Senate’s rule ; so, the last supporters of Armenian demands will have limited opportunities in the future.

In addition, the last attempts provoked — and will provoke again — mails of protest and information to the senators, showing the dark past — and present — of ARF, including the use of terrorism (by the terrorist-wing of ARF, the so-called “Justice Commandos of Armenian Genocide”, later called “Armenian Revolutionary Army”) and the cooperation with Nazis in World War II.

Anyway, this last development, despite the very small risks which it represents currently, shows unequivocally that Armenian nationalists will continue to do all what they can to damage Turkey’s interests and to fight against free speech. Only a coherent fight to eliminate radically their presence in political life of the Western countries — especially by court cases for defamation or hate speech, and by a tireless effort of information — can solve the “Armenian issue”, in separating definitely the fanatics and the moderate, among Armenians — including in Diaspora — and also among their friends. The history has to be studied by historians, but a purely scholar response is almost powerless in front of political machines which were able to use (and/or glorify) terrorism, and which have no reason to exist but the permanent attack against Turkey, the Turkish people, and any person or group identified as “pro-Turkish”. To permit the scholar debate about Turko-Armenian tragedy and the realization of common projects in the future between Turks and Armenians, the professionals of anti-Turkism have to be retired out of the game.

*Maxime Gauin is a visiting researher at USAK.
Friday, 8 April 2011

Source : Turkish Weekly

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