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).

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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

 


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