Nicolas Sarkozy has sponsored a proposed bill to make the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime in France, which would be met with up to a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.
Predictably, the move has brought a fierce response from Turkey.
France has warned her against any reprisals that would damage Paris’s commercial interests, arguing that law was part of the French state’s commitment to the World Trade Organisation.
The Europeans have always taken the high ground when it comes to human rights, whilst being strangely myopic when it comes to admitting to their own crimes against humanity.
Here are a couple of episodes that I discovered during research for my novel, Pictures and Words.
Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire which had allied itself with Germany and Austria in the First World War against the allies, Britain, France and Russia.
The decision to go to war was made by Ottoman War Minister, Enver Pasha, the head of a movement that aimed unite the empire under the idea of a greater Turkey, in the same way as Germany and Italy had been forged from disparate states.
Europeans called this movement the ‘Young Turks.’
The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-16 was a publication of the British Propaganda Office. It was written by James Byrce and Arnold Toynbee, and presented, until now, unpublished news sources that showed how the Armenians suffered during the First World War. The only problem with the report, known as the ‘blue book’, was that it ignored the slaughter of Muslims by Armenian rebels whilst they were under Russian control and French tutelage. As the war began to turn on the Ottomans, Armenian nationalists pursued their dream of a Greater Armenia stretching all way to the Caucasus. Nothing would get in their way – they would commit horrendous acts while exaggerating the pain suffered by their ‘own’ people.
“I arrived at Bayburt on August 8 1917. What I saw was terrifying,” observed Tatiana Karamel, a nurse Russian Red Cross. “Armenians under the Russian administration were carrying out horrifying wild atrocities against the Turks in Bayburt and Ispir.
“The rebels named Arshak amd Antranik slaughtered the children in the orphanage, I worked at, with their daggers. They raped young girls and women.
“They took away 150 children with them, while they were withdrawing from Bayburt and killed most of them while they were still on the way.”
Old men and women, who had made it past a century of living, recounted some of the horrors they witnessed in their youth, when Armenian rebels committed atrocities in the eastern and southern Anatolia, all the way through to modern-day Azerbaijan.
Sirri Huseyinoglu, from Alacain, in Erzurum, remembered: “I was 19 during the period of Armenians atrocities. The Armenians had established an organisation.
“An Armenian general called Antwon-ich led them. They started atrocities in the villages
“At Erzurum they massacred 6 or 7000 people. They imprisoned them in huts
They tied a quilt on a water buffalo then they poured gasoline on the quilt and set it o on fire, They closed the buffalo in the hut. It went wild in the hut killing people.
“Makes a man go out of his mind to remember it.”
Mehmet Ackal , 106, Sambeyli, Adana : “Not one Muslim man was left they were imprisoned and killed. Children were boiled in water. They said ‘We are serving you lamb’ and made women eat their husbands.”
On Russian commander wrote on Jan 29, 1915 that the Armenian rebels were behaving in an “undisciplined and immoral” manner, “subjecting the civilians to violence” during the takeover of Van.
To this day, the stories of these people is ignored, written out of history as an irrelevance.
Europeans prefer the version offered by Jewish writer and poet Franz Werfel.
Fearing for the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany, he wrote an allegory called ‘The 40 Days of Musa Dagh,’.
In this work, Werfel substituted the Nazis with the Young Turks, and the Jews with the Armenians.
Before the American defeat at Vietnam, it was the Algerian war of independence that had inspired the colonised peoples of the world.
When the French had forced their way into what they regarded as a rundown Ottoman province, it took them decades to ’pacify’ this land. During this time, her soldiers took a fancy to the silver ear rings, leg rings and arm rings worn by the local girls, which they took by cutting off entire limbs. Then, no one was too concerned for the French were bringing the benefits of civilisation to a backward people. France always felt bitter about the way the Arabs had repaid them, as the world horrified at the military crackdown forced the colonisers to leave a land they still regard as theirs.