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

 


Yes Turkey, it was Genocide — Vive la France!

December 23, 2011

Yesterday, we received the news from around the world that France’s lower house of Parliament voted to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide. Of course, Turkey’s Prime Minister went ballistic. In his tirade against France, Erdogan accused the French of stifling free speech. Ironically (of course), as the New York Times correctly noted, “Turkey’s own penal code makes affirming the genocide a crime on the grounds that it is an insult to Turkish identity. In March, Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize winner, was fined 7,000 lira, about $3,700, for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that ‘we have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians’.”

As new information concerning the Armenian Genocide occurs, I do my best to report it in this blog in a timely manner. However, yesterday, I was increasingly frustrated as I read articles published in the world’s leading newspapers, most using language which obfuscate the truth about the history of the first genocide occuring in the 20th century. There are official volumes (archives full) of the facts of Turkey’s systematic killing of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians under the cover of World War I.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam has documented the motivation for this genocide in his master work, “A Shameful Act“. Basically, in addition to racial hatred of the non-Turkish, non-Muslim Armenian Christian minority, Turkey coveted the land the Armenians occupied for thousands of years. The Turkish government also saw an opportunity to create an instant Muslim, middleclass by taking all of the Armenians’ properties and belongings and redistributing the ‘bootie’ (including houses) to its Muslim population.

During the genocide, the United States Ambassador to Turkey was Henry Morgenthau. In his first-person account of the Armenian Genocide, he recalls a conversation with one of the masterminds of the genocide, Talaat Pasha:

One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard.  The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians.  The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.  “I wish,” Talaat now said, “that you would get the American Life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders.  They are practically dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money.  If … all escheats to the State, the Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?”

This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.  “You will get no such list from me,” I said, and I got up and left him.

Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, p. 339. [Source]

In addition to the records in government archives in the U.S., France, Germany, and Great Britain, there was an unprecedented humanitarian relief effort spearheaded by Evangelical and Catholic missionaries, who went to heroic lengths to save the Armenians. Many relief workers documented what they witnessed in Turkey, in brutal detail. There are thousands of eyewitness accounts and so much scholarly work on this subject, that the veracity of the facts cannot be disputed.

However, the Turkish government spends millions of dollars each year to lobby lawmakers in the United States and countries all over the world to vote against recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has also infiltrated some of the world’s leading universities, ensuring books about the Armenian Genocide are not available in their libraries and endowing chairs. The effort and amount of disinformation Turkey continues to manufacture about the Armenian Genocide is astonishing.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the French government for standing up and saying no to Turkey. It is unlikely the United States and Israel will suddenly become enlightened with moral clarity, but one can always hope.


Tell New York Times: Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman Turks in Turkey not in Armenia

March 29, 2011

In the 21st Century, the United States and western allies are finally working to prevent genocide:

An Aide’s Clout Shows in Obama’s Address
New York Times | March 29, 2011

TAKE ACTION

Please call the New York Times to thank them for this article and thank reporter Sheryl Gay Stolsberg for including the reference to the Armenian Genocide. Be sure to ask them to correct an important mistake: The Armenian Genocide was carried out in Turkey, not in Armenia. Call the New York Times, toll-free: 1-888-698-6397. Or email reporter, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, by clicking her name at the top of the article.


Congress is reconvening Wed – Vote for HR 252, Armenian Genocide Resolution, possible

December 21, 2010

If you do not follow the politics concerning the United States Government’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide, you may not realize the news reported by Asbarez is a significant development (see link below). Despite threats from Turkey, President Obama is not actively pressuring Congress to dismiss the resolution. Past administrations have buckled to Turkey’s demands for political purposes, for decades. However, when President Obama was a senator, he made his views clear that he knows a genocide was committed by the Turkish Government at the beginning of the 20th century.

When you begin to learn about the history surrounding the Armenian Genocide, the eyewitness accounts and records locked in the government archives of the United States, France, and Germany, offer overwhelming evidence that genocide was committed by Turkey. Non-Armenian government diplomats, missionaries, doctors, and nurses, are among the individuals who recorded what they witnessed in letters, cables (telegraphs), photographs, and memoirs. The New York Times, National Geographic and other periodicals of the time also documented what journalists saw happening in Turkey.

Armenians all over the world can tell you some of what their grandparents and great grandparents told them. But, like my grandfather, most of what happened to the survivors remained burned into their memories and souls without ever being fully shared with anyone. Tonight, Armenians across America have hope that tomorrow the few remaining Armenian Genocide survivors may live to know that our government finally publicly will recognize the Armenian Genocide. Please read some of the other pages on this blog to learn more.

White House Indifferent on Genocide Resolution
Asbarez.com | December 21, 2010

The following outstanding documentary and books are highly recommended:

  • ‘Aghet: Armenian Genocide‘ an award-winning documentary by Germany’s ARD Television and Eric Friedler
  • ‘A Shameful Act’, one of the definitive books about the Armenian Genocide written by Turkish scholar Taner Akcam
  • ‘Armenian Golgotha’ by Grigoris Balakian, an Armenian priest’s devastating eyewitness account of the Armenian Genocide
  • Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story‘ by Henry I. Morgenthau, the American Ambassador at Constantinople from 1913-1916
  • If you haven’t called your Congressional representative and the House Majority Leader, it will take you less than one minute to make these calls. All you need to know is your zip code: MAKE THE CALL TO VOTE YES FOR HOUSE RESOLUTION 252

    Read the full text of House Resolution 252


    Antonia Arslan’s ‘Skylark Farm’ portrays an Armenian family’s journey through genocide

    June 1, 2010

    Tonight as I committed to finishing Italian-Armenian Antonia Arslan’s book, Skylark Farm, the concert on the radio was Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan’s recital at the Frick (in New York City). I listened to the sublime music over the airwaves in the comfort and safety of my home while reading about the savagery committed upon the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during the Armenian Genocide. Ms. Arslan’s book is powerful and painful. It is another narrative, no-doubt based on the real-life harrowing experiences, of the Armenians who lived 95 years ago.

    And, finally, here is some information about Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan:

    Nareh Arghamanyan—Concerts from The Frick Collection
    WQXR | May 31, 2010


    New York Times Letter to the Editor: The Armenian Genocide

    March 12, 2010

    Opinion: Letter — The Armenian Genocide
    The New York Times | March 11, 2010


    Armenian Genocide Resolution Opinion from New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof

    March 10, 2010

    In case you missed it, Nicholas Kristof shared his thoughts about the Armenian Genocide resolution (HR 252) a few days ago in his New York Times column. In today’s column he wonders if he ‘spoke too soon':

    Hmmm. Did I Write That? | March 10, 2010

    (You can link to the earlier article from the March 1oth article.)


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