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Opinion – Genocide Law in France

Evelyn Demirchian
Staff Writer

There’s a question in my mind that keeps repeating, “Why such a fuss about the “Armenian Genocide” law in France, if they [Turkey] have nothing to hide?” Why must there be such a push from the nation of Turkey (and Turkish individuals abroad) to bully, blackmail, threaten, and intimidate their allies when these allies attempt to recognize a wholly-accepted facet of their past?

No country has a clean record; all nations have shameful moments in their histories. Why refuse to let this skeleton out of its glass closet?

At the time that this piece was written, the French Constitutional Council overturned the “Armenian Genocide” law that had been approved by both houses of the French Parliament. If validated, the law would have criminalized the denial of the Armenian Genocide in France. It has been a controversial topic as there is a large Turkish population in France, as well as sensitive relations between the two countries.

For me, something about this issue remains mildly unsettling.
While recognition, education, and open public discussion of the Armenian Genocide must be pursued, I wonder if the law like the one proposed in France now is the right course of action.

In first world countries, such as in France and the United States, where the idea of Free Speech is virtually sacred, what does the criminalization and subsequent punishment of denial achieve?

At Fresno State, in last week’s campus newspaper The Collegian, editor Tony Petersen quoted French philosopher Voltaire, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

As an Armenian, my heart aches watching the ancestors of those who attempted to kill off my people continue this cycle of hate and denial. Yet, as someone who wholly believes in free speech, I would sooner defend the right of a man to speak freely in France, whose philosophy is “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” rather than see that man punished.

It’s a slippery slope of regulations and consequences once a law such as the proposed “Armenian Genocide” law is enacted.

Until the issue is resolved and the French parliament and courts make up their mind, let these Genocide deniers and naysayers spew their ignorance and continue to make themselves look like fools. Let the rest of us take the high road and continue to learn, educate, and remember. The ignorant will learn, and history will right itself. Politicians can attempt to right these matters, but ultimately we as individuals carry the responsibility of awareness.