February 22, 2007


France's National Assembly last October passed the bill criminalising the denial of the Armenian Genocide and called for penalties of one year in prison and fines of 45,000 Euros for those who did. The bill has not yet been included in the Senate's agenda where it would have to be pass in order to become law. In the French Upper House the current Center-Right government of President Chirac, who opposes the bill, holds a majority.

Since France's parliamentary session is almost over ahead of the electoral campaign for the presidential and legislative poll to be held this spring, the draft bill would have to be voted on again by the new National Assembly to resume the process

Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist who is a strong critic of Article 301 of Turkey's Penal Code (which enables legal prosecution undermining the freedom of expression in Turkey), has stated that the French move sparked nationalist reactions in her country that eventually harmed people like herself who are trying to push for an open debate on such sensitive topics.

Ms. Shafak is quoted as saying that,

"I think that 1915 is such a sensitive and delicate political theme that it shouldn't be subject to political power games. It should not be up to politicians to decide which version of history should be acknowledged by everyone," she told the EU Observer. I criticise my own government for curbing freedom of expression. But it is a universal principle. If I defend it in Turkey, I will defend it in France or everywhere with the same zeal and determination. And the French bill was very much against this principle."

(One can only commend Ms. Shafak for her principled stand when it comes to defending a person's freedom of expression, especially in a country like Turkey where the consequences of such pronouncements can be quite lethal. However, it appears that she skirts the real issue when she categorizes the near total destruction of a two thousand year old nation on its historic homeland as a "delicate political theme" that should not be utilized for "political power games". Unfortunately, the Armenian Genocide has been used as a political football by the powers that be whilst Turkey has taken on the role of referee, tooting her whistle and calling "foul" against the side that forgot to pay the bigger bribe before the game got underway..)


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