From a Turkish correspondent

December 30, 2011

In Letters To Finkelstein News

Dear Norman,

I didn’t want to have to deal with this media fiasco, but a big deal is being made of it: A French parliamentarian proposed a bill making it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide. The AKP responded in populist fashion by attacking French history, which is dark indeed. So we are back to invented controversy, and here are my thoughts, briefly:

Firstly, I oppose the Turkish government’s stance on the Armenian Genocide. It has improved in recent years (under consistent pressure from intellectuals, both Armenian and non-Armenian coming from WITHIN Turkish civil society), but it is still reprehensible. It will continue to improve, I hope, and perhaps the day will come when large numbers of people here cite Hrant Dink not only to defend Turkey against foreigners, but because they actually want us to face up to what was done to the Armenians.

Secondly, this bill is a violation of the principle of free speech (which the French Republic supposedly values a great deal): In an idealized “free society”, we allow both you and Dershowitz equal time to speak. Of course in reality, money favours one of you over the other, but it is commendable that neither of your views are illegal. If we need the law to convince others of our view (as regards the Armenian Genocide, this IS the case in Turkey and will apparently soon be the case in France) it shows that we are unsure of what we are saying and can’t convince others with facts. Of course, none of this is really new: French democracy has long been flawed and the sudden Turkish awareness of this fact (especially considering the long-standing similarities between Kemalism and de Gaulleism) speaks to the narcissism inherent in every nation-state.

Thirdly, this bill does not help Turkey to deal with the Armenian Genocide. As most Turkish Armenians will agree, the issue has been making slow progress in recent history, but never because some foreign parliament bangs on about it. Indeed, now we also have foreigners (clerics in Qatar) DEFENDING the Turkish government position (for “Islamic” reasons, of course, which brings us back into the “Clash of the Civilisations” nightmare we’re all trying to escape). The AKP and Turkish media are using this opportunity to distract from other more important issues so they can look tough yelling about dead Algerians and make Turks enraged at the French. It will be weeks before the issue of 1915 can be brought up in Turkey without immediate references to France.

I have also noticed that protests in Istanbul against French and Armenian “liars” are more important news than the Kurds, and pardon my French, but it is a lot fucking harder to be a Kurd in Turkey today than an Armenian. I am sure that the media and government are intentionally focusing on what France is up to instead of the war with the PKK and its underlying causes or, for that matter, the recent renewed air force ties between the Kemalists and the Zionists.