France has deliberately insulted Turkey, said Sahin Alpay in Istanbul’s Zaman. The French lower house last week passed a bill making the denial of the so-called Armenian genocide a crime. The bill refers to the deaths of several hundred thousand ethnic Armenians who perished during World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. Some historians contend that the Armenians were massacred by Turks, but this is “a matter of debate.” To outlaw any debate on the subject, as France is trying to do, is to label Turkey a genocidal nation. It’s all the more astonishing that the move comes just as the European Union has been pressuring Turkey to scrap its own laws limiting free speech, notably those that criminalize “insulting Turkishness.”
Evidently Turkey and France are more alike than the French suppose, said Hrant Dink in Istanbul’s Milliyet. Both countries are “equally stupid.” As an ethnic Armenian writer in Turkey, I’ve been a leader in the campaign to repeal the Turkish laws that ban discussion of the massacre. But if France’s upper house approves this ban on speech and it becomes law, “I will go to France and publicly declare that there was no Armenian genocide—even though I fervently believe the opposite.” Freedom of expression is a more important principle than recognizing historical truth.
Such truths can be tough to pin down, said Emin Colasan in Istanbul’s Hurriyet. That Armenians died is a historical fact. But whether the deaths constituted genocide is a matter of opinion. Turkey doesn’t deny that the Ottomans expelled hundreds of thousands of Armenians from eastern Anatolia. The Armenians there were siding with Russia, the Ottoman enemy, and made up a “fifth column.” Many died in the expulsions. But if the Turks had truly been bent on genocide, they would have also killed the many Armenians in Istanbul and other western Turkish cities, and nobody claims that those Armenians were persecuted. Saying that Armenians suffered genocide is an insult to the real victims of genocide: the Jews, said Murat Yetkin in Istanbul’s Radikal. Holocaust denial is a crime in France, as it is in Austria and Germany. To make Armenian genocide denial a crime implies an equivalence between the two events that “belittles” Jewish suffering in Nazi concentration camps.
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