In passing genocide bill, France does Turkey a favor

Sandy Smith's picture

The process of coming to terms with a shameful past is long and painful - just ask the French, who took nearly 60 years to acknowledge their role in helping carry out the Holocaust. With today's National Assembly vote for a bill making denial of genocide a crime, France is giving Turkey a firm shove down that same path. The country will be better for it in the long run.

The path is similar to the grieving process: First denial, then reckoning, then acceptance. Right now, nearly a century after the fact, Turkey is still officially in denial, but individual Turks have begun the process of reckoning, and a growing number of their countrymen are joining them in calling for the country as a whole to face its past honestly.

Turkey's immediate response to the bill's passage shows that the government is not yet ready to do that. It recalled its ambassador to France for consultations, a stronger sign of protest than the one it registered when the French government formally recognized the Armenian genocide in 2001.

Turkey still maintains that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the years 1915-1918 were the result of a civil war that caused heavy loss of life on both sides. Many historians disagree, and a number of governments have gone on record as supporting those historians.

For many years, French films, literature and public history glossed over the active assistance the Vichy government gave Nazi Germany in similar fashion. To hear the official line, the entire nation was behind General Charles deGaulle and the Free French resistance. But now that France has acknowledged that many French actually did collaborate with the Nazi program to exterminate the Jews, it has added moral authority in calling for others to face their own past sins.

The Turkish government does have a point when it accuses France of making this move for political reasons: French President Nicholas Sarkozy opposes Turkey's application to join the European Union, and this bill throws a serious roadblock in the path of the currently stalled bid. It will be more difficult now for Turkey to gain EU membership if it continues to deny that genocide occurred in Armenia during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Yet acknowledging that genocide would complete a process the founders of modern Turkey earnestly sought: to anchor the country firmly in both the Middle East and the West and serve as a bridge between the two.

Image source: French National Assembly

Comments

Submitted by David92 (not verified) on
Mr. Smith wrote this: "Yet acknowledging that genocide would complete a process the founders of modern Turkey earnestly sought: to anchor the country firmly in both the Middle East and the West and serve as a bridge between the two." Dear Mr. Smith: Ataturk was himself a genocidist who cleansed the territory of virtually the last remnants of INDIGENOUS Christians, most notably Armenians. As even Turkish historians note, many of whom acknowledge the Armenian genocide, Ataturk had many Young Turk war criminals and genocidists on his staff, in his cabinet, and in the Grand National Assembly. Read Taner Akcam's "A Shameful Act." Sorry to say you have been taken in by the Turkish propaganda line. Ataturk also ordered General Karabekir - you may not know this - to " physically destroy" the fledging Armenian state (1918 - 1920) in the Caucasus. So that is your "modern" founding of Turkey: built on genocide with Turkish genocidists. Much has been written about these matters. They are not in serious dispute. Otherwise, you have written some nice things.

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