I want to highlight the basic (accidental and deliberate) misunderstandings in discussion of the French ban on denial of crimes against humanity. I want to write a “readable” blog post, though (unlike its tl;dr predecessors), so there is a five-point correction of the basic misunderstandings, then a wince-inducingly-long demonstration of my claims.
France has passed the law banning denial of any officially-recognised crime against humanity (thus including the Armenian Genocide). Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian declared that it was a significant event ‘in the annals of the history of the protection of human rights worldwide’.
None of France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States complained about the criminalisation of the denial of the Atlantic slave trade. However, Turkish Embassy spokesman Engin Solakoğlu warned that ‘France is in the process of losing a strategic partner’ because of its criminalisation of the denial of the Armenian Genocide.
Before the vote, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, warned of ‘permanent sanctions‘; after the vote, Davutoğlu stated that the measures would ‘stay in place as long as the law stays in force’; and Turkey’s Ambassador to Paris, Tahsin Burcuoğlu, warned of ‘total rupture‘.
In this post, I want: to think about whether French laws against genocide denial are motivated by politics, economics, or morality; to analyse official French and Turkish rhetoric; to review a few examples of reaction in the British press; and to highlight one absurd instance of local implementation of a non-existent law. Warning: it is tl;dr – more than 2,000 words. (At the end, I have summarised the past decade of Franco-Turkish diplomatic dispute over history law/hate law.)
[Update: France has passed the law against denial of crimes against humanity.]
Five years ago today, I was living in a studio flat on Alyon Alley in Istanbul, learning Turkish. I popped out to get some dinner. My favourite kebab-and-pide salon, on Hasnun Galip Street, had stopped doing kebab; so I went to a kebab shop on Sadri Alışık Street instead. Waiting for them to prepare a couple of chicken doners, I stared up at the TV and tried to decipher the evening news. “Hrant Dink öldürülmüş.”
Turkist ultranationalist paramilitary leader(1) and Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktaş died on the 13th of January 2012.
To avoid the fate of senior Hellenist ultranationalist paramilitary(2) and Greek Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos – whose grave was robbed (3), and whose grave’s Greek flag was desecrated – Denktaş will be ‘buried in a safe place‘, in Republican Park. (It is a symbolic place, because the Turkish Resistance Movement (TMT) was founded there.)
Until recently, academics said that a doctoral thesis had a readership of five – the candidate, their supervisor, their two examiners and their mother. (I had two supervisors, but my mum
didn’t read [skimmed] it (1). Still, one of my examiners’ supervisees read it, so I guess my thesis had a readership of six.)
In Turkey, it is illegal to recognise the Armenian Genocide; and, in France, it may soon be illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide. I believe it is possible, in law, to balance the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom from persecution. I think the real difficulty, in politics, is successfully promoting both freedom from persecution in free countries and freedom of expression in unfree countries.
This blog post may be quite dull; but then the next one, on public reactions to denial, can be fun, laughing at idiots. [The follow-up post ended up as exasperatedly sighing at idiots discussing the politics and morality of the ban.]