100e anniverssaire de la république de Turquie


Professor’s daughter forced out of French local polls

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A Turkish candidate standing in French local elections has been forced to withdraw her candidacy amid pressure from Armenian groups who wanted her to publicly recognize Armenian claims of genocide in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

The candidate, a member of the Greens Party, was the daughter of Professor Baskın Oran, who himself was a candidate for Parliament in Turkey’s July 22 elections, Today’s Zaman has learned. Professor Oran, a liberal, campaigns in Turkey for reconciliation with Armenians and has passionately called for punishment for those who are behind the January 2007 murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in İstanbul. Sırma Oran, who has been living in France for a long time, had to withdraw her candidacy for the city council in Villeurbaunne after she had been pressed by Mayor Jean-Paul Bret to visit an Armenian "genocide" monument in Lyon and make a public statement backing the genocide charges.

Bret, a politician from the French Socialist Party, which is cooperating with the Greens in the local elections slated for March, is known to have close ties with the Armenian diaspora in France. He was the chair of the French-Armenian caucus in the French National Assembly during his term as a lawmaker. French news reports said he had forced Oran to make a public statement backing the alleged genocide after an Armenian member of the city council threatened to resign if she is elected.

Under pressure from Bret, Oran met with a group consisting of representatives from local Armenian groups and the politicians from the Socialist and Greens parties in a closed-door meeting and assured them that she believed that an Armenian genocide had happened in eastern Anatolia during the final years of World War I, as Armenians claim. But she later came to the conclusion that she would have to deal with constant problems due to her ethnic identity as a Turk even if she were elected to the Villeurbaunne City Council and thus decided to withdraw her candidacy after she had been forced to make the same statements publicly, sources told Today’s Zaman.

Béatrice Vessilier, a representative of the Greens in Villeurbanne, speaking with Today’s Zaman, expressed her deep disappointment over the incident. "None of us expected the issue to come to this point. I’m so sorry — also in regards to the political ethic," Vessilier said. She also emphasized that Oran withdrew her candidacy at her own initiative because she didn’t want to be on the political agenda solely related to this issue if elected. "She [Oran] didn’t want to be reduced to her ethnic roots as an elected person and to be constantly annoyed because of that," Vessilier added.

Vessilier said that Bret’s demand was "not easy to be fulfilled" by Oran, while describing Bret as "extremely engaged concerning the genocide issue."

Richard Llung, Bret’s election director, defended Bret’s stance, saying that nobody should look for "courtesy" when the issue is politics. "Every politician represents himself, but also represents the society that he belongs to. This treatment … may well be very brutal. However, politics is not a profession that has courtesy in it," Llung said.

Ali Gedikoğlu, chairman of the France-based Cojep Platform — a multicultural youth association established by Turks in France — said the incident in Villeurbanne was not an exception, as young politicians who are members of the Cojep have been constantly pressured in districts where there is a dominant Armenian population.

The Socialist Party, which had in the past gained huge support from Turks, has gradually lost this support due to these kinds of discriminatory policies, Gedikoğlu added. "I’m calling on Armenians to act in a responsible manner. Nonetheless, I’m also calling on the Turkish community who has left our daughter [Oran] alone in this struggle. The indifference of the Turkish community encourages this kind of inappropriate treatment," Gedikoğlu said.

Relations between Turkey and France were strained after the French parliament approved a bill criminalizing the denial of the alleged genocide in 2006. The bill, backed by the Socialist Party, drew ire from Ankara, which said relations had sustained a heavy blow with the law. France’s 400,000-strong Armenian community constitutes a formidable voter bloc. Former French leaders said that Turkey must accept the alleged genocide to become a member of the EU, while the country’s current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is against Turkish entry under any condition.

Ankara rejects outright the Armenian claims of genocide and calls for joint research of the events of the years of World War I, a proposal that has not been welcomed by Armenia.

A. İhsan Aydın, Fatih Yetim Paris, Lyon
Source : Today’s Zaman

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