97 years after 1915

April 24, 2012

Every April 24th Armenians around the world answer Hitler’s question, “Who remembers the Armenians?” This day is the anniversary of the rounding up, imprisonment, and eventual deportation and murder of Armenian intellectuals in Turkey in 1915.

Ninety-seven years after 1915, Armenians and non-Armenians, world leaders, governments around the world, and more and more Turkish intellectuals condemn the Turkish Government for its choice to actively deny the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish Government’s immoral genocide denial campaign extends beyond its borders. The Turkish Government’s propaganda has insidiously infiltrated the highest levels of many democratic governments, including the United States.

At least one and one half million Armenians (two-thirds of Armenians) died in the Armenian Genocide. Over six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Many believe Hitler was emboldened to carry out his plan to exterminate the Jews because he was inspired by Turkey’s near success with its systematic destruction of the country’s indigenous Armenian population.

Ninety-seven years after 1915 the world community continues to stand by and monitor genocides (e.g. Rwanda, Darfur). An evil dictator such as Syria’s Assad takes license to kill within his country’s borders because he believes he can get away with his crimes.

In a world in which the Iranian President can deny the Holocaust and incite fanatics to wipe Israel off the map, we must look inward and ask ourselves how we allow this behavior. We must vote out government leaders who enable genocide denial and genocidal regimes. We must mean what we say, when we declare “Never Again”.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of every Armenian victim of the massacres, pogroms, mass deportation and genocide committed by the Turkish government.


97th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide: Times Square — April 22, 2012

February 28, 2012

Click link for details:

97th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide to Be Held in Times Square, Sunday, April 22, 2-4 pm
Theme “Turkey Is Guilty of Genocide: Denying the Undeniable Is a Crime”; Armenian Genocide experts and survivors available for interviews
Wall Street Journal Market Watch | February 6, 2012


France’s Constitutional Court rules Armenian Genocide denial law violates freedom of speech

February 28, 2012

The Washington Post reports, “France’s Constitutional Council has ruled that a law concerning the mass killings of Armenians a century ago violates the country’s constitution.” An Armenian Weekly article states that President Sarkozy will reintroduce the bill with changes. There is a fear that the ruling could endanger France’s law which criminalizes Holocaust denial.


Protect free speech for Turk Ragip Zarakolu: Imprisoned for publishing books about Armenian Genocide, Kurds

February 3, 2012

Do you know Ragip Zarakolu? He is in prison in Turkey for publishing books which ‘insult Turkishness’ because they are sympathetic to the human rights of minorities in Turkey. Zarakolu has suffered the wrath of the Turkish government for publishing books, including a Turkish translation of British author George Jerjian’s, The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks and Professor Dora Zakayan’s, An American Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922.

Prime Minister Erdogan is Turkey’s leading demagogue (a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument). He twists truths as he shines the spotlight on human rights issues, including inhumane blockades and freedom of speech. Rather than looking in the direction he points (as the media tends to do as if by reflex), learn more about Turkey’s nearly 20-year illegal blockade strangling the Republic of Armenia and look-up Article 301 which renders free speech in Turkey a crime.

Until Turkey acknowledges and apologies for perpetrating the Armenian Genocide, let’s use the publicity surrounding the Turkish Government’s interference in France’s legislative process (protesting France’s pending genocide denial legislation which would give  Armenian Genocide denial the same legal status as Holocaust denial in France) as another opportunity to educate the world about genocide and crimes against humanity.

You can protect the human right of free speech by supporting courageous righteous Turks such as Ragip Zarakolu. Read more about Ragip Zarakolu and his case on the PEN American Center website. Please send a letter on his behalf (there is a link on the PEN webpage).


Free Speech and Armenian Genocide Denial

January 31, 2012

A new development has occurred in France concerning the signing into law of a bill passed by both houses of France’s parliament. The spotlight has shifted to the question of free speech rather than the crime of genocide. 

At the moment, the most vocal defender of free speech in France appears to be the Turkish Government. This is because Turkey does not want France’s president to sign the “Armenian Genocide Denial bill” into law. One fact which seems to have been lost in the muddied waters of this spectacle is that France already has a Holocaust Denial law on its books.

France legally recognizes the Armenian Genocide (tens of thousands of Armenian survivors sought refuge in France in the aftermath of the mass deportation of all Armenians from Turkey) and the Holocaust. As the New York Times correctly points out, “the bill criminalizes the denial of officially recognized genocides…The bill does not make specific reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians slaughtered under the Ottoman Turks, but France recognizes only those deaths and the Holocaust as genocides and already specifically bans Holocaust denial.

The same Turkish Government who is now France’s newest proponent of free speech in France, does not champion free speech in Turkey. Within Turkey’s borders, the Turkish Government censors the press and the Internet, and criminally prosecutes those who “insult Turkishness” with their words, this includes openly commenting about the Armenian Genocide. While the facts about Turkey’s human and civil rights abuses are well known, Turkey’s aggressive multi-decade, multi-national, multi-million dollar lobbying efforts aimed at blocking Armenian Genocide recognition are less frequently in the headlines.

Do we have free speech when an outside government dictates what we can and cannot say under the guise of foreign diplomacy? Questions raised about free speech are fair and essential. However, we must not limit this discussion to the passing of a law in France. Michael Bobelian’s book, Children of Armenia, which is painstakingly documented, illuminates the dark side of genocide denial and illustrates how it is possible to forget (or never learn) about seismic events in modern history.

If criminalizing genocide denial is not the answer, how do we combat hate speech and state-sponsored genocide denial?

Here are a few articles about today’s news from France:

France’s Armenian Genocide Law Put On Hold
Armenian Weekly | January 31, 2012

Top French court asked to weigh in on bill making it a crime to deny Armenian genocide
Washington Post | January 31, 2012

France Turkey row: Genocide bill faces court hurdle
BBC News | January 31, 2012

 


Passage of France’s Armenian Genocide Denial Law is an Opportunity for Education

January 24, 2012

According to the organization Genocide Watch, the last stage of genocide is denial. Seen through the prism of any Southern Poverty Law Center newsletter, yesterday’s passage of the Armenian Genocide Denial law by France’s Senate is easier to understand. Holocaust denial and genocide denial laws are not a new concept. Similar laws to the one passed yesterday in France already exist in several European countries (including France) and Israel. 

As I was seeking answers to address the multitude of questions raised by France’s historic genocide denial vote, I came across this paper, “Holocaust Denial Laws and Other Legislation Criminalizing Promotion of Nazism“, written by Michael J. Bazyler. Professor Bazyler is a von Oppenheim Research Fellow International Institute for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, and Professor of Law, Whittier Law School. Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem is committed to four pillars of remembrance:

  1. Commemoration
  2. Documentation
  3. Research
  4. Education

Unfortunately, the Turkish Government is the primary perpetrator of Armenian Genocide denial. Its intense and emotional reaction to yesterday’s vote in France includes lashing out at France’s leaders with accusations of racism and being ‘anti-Islam’. Once again, Turkey’s elected leaders are inciting Turkish nationalist sentiment, rather than doing what is necessary as a nation to make amends for the crimes against humanity committed almost a century ago. This counterproductive behavior ensures that Turkey’s shameful Armenian Genocide history remains very much alive in the present and in our collective consciousness.

Within Turkey, a major obstacle to real solutions for moving forward is Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is used to prosecute individuals who “insult Turkishness”. In Turkey, acknowledging and discussing the Armenian Genocide is grounds for imprisonment and large fines. Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for a statement he made in an interview, which referenced the Armenian Genocide.

While it remains a challenge for Turkey to acknowledge and apologize for the Armenian Genocide, the time must come. This is necessary for Turkey to take the place it aspires to have on the world stage, and as a member of the European Union. After reading about last week’s groundswell of Turkish outrage at the outcome of Hrant Dink murder trial in Istanbul, I do believe such a time is not far off. It is also not fanciful thinking to imagine the day when Turkey passes a law forbidding Armenian Genocide denial.

France, Germany, and Spain are among the countries that have apologized for their countries’ past atrocities. They are also setting an example for Turkey to follow regarding how to educate the world about the evils of genocide, hate speech, racism, and xenophobia. In a past blog post, Armenian Genocide denial doesn’t make it go away, I mentioned seeing the topic of slavery incorporated into the educational displays at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall historical sites in Philadelphia, which are part of the U.S. National park service.

Sadly, I do not hold out hope that Holocaust or Genocide denial will be outlawed in the United States, because the right to free speech is a value which Americans cherish more than safeguarding the rights of victims of hate speech, as the US Supreme Court 8-1 decision in the matter of Snyder v. Phelps clarified.

 


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