The National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, yesterday passed a bill that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian claims concerning the 1915 incidents.
The bill introduces a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who deny the genocide officially recognized by French laws. Thus, although it had served as the cradle of enlightenment and freedoms for the whole world with the French revolution of 1789, this country paved the way for the creation of a new dogma, just as was the case in the Middle Ages, dominated by an abysmal fanaticism and darkness. With this outdated effort, French President Nicolas Sarkozy betrayed, first, France and, then, universal freedom of thought and expression. By introducing bans to one side of the debate about a controversial issue that must be settled by historians and just ahead of the presidential elections, he showed everyone what democracy à la Sarkozy is.
Given his now-well-established interest in creating dogmas via political and legal means over controversial incidents of the past, he should have turned a critical eye to France’s unquestionable colonial past instead of peering into Turkey’s dubious history. Banning views and ideas that may be voiced against a so-called “genocide” to which Armenians were allegedly subjected to in 1915, even before offering an official apology for the bloody massacres France had committed in Algeria until the very recent past, i.e., the second half of the 20th century, as well as for the French mass killings in other African countries, Indochina and in the French colonies in the islands could only be expected from a mealymouthed jester of French politics called Sarkozy. Well, Sarkozy knows better than me the recent history of France’s bloody colonization and invasion, but I still feel obliged to refresh people’s memories about it.
Any reference to French oppression and massacres quickly bring to mind the mass slaughters in Algeria. Being under French occupation for 132 years between 1830 and 1962, Algeria always engaged in a struggle for independence, albeit with occasional interruptions. On May 8, 1945, i.e., just in the wake of World War II, defenseless civilians rallied in the city of Sétif demanding that French authorities should keep their promises about Algeria’s independence, but they were raked with machine guns, and thousands of Algerians died. According to Algerian sources, at least 45,000 people were killed during this massacre. The peak of the Algerian struggle for independence was between 1954 and 1962. During this period, colonialist and invading French troops brutally slayed 1.5 million Algerians, torturing and ill-treating hundreds of thousands.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the founding president of Algeria, said France implemented genocide not only against the people, but also against the identities and cultures of people in Algeria. French officers confessed to the mass killings of Algerians. General Paul Aussaresses, an intelligence officer who specialized in torture techniques, said that he personally witnessed at least 1,509 people who had been extra-judicially executed during his term of office in Algeria, which started in 1955.
The uprising that started in Algeria on Nov. 1, 1945 continued until the cease-fire declared on March 19, 1962. In order to truly make sense of 1.5 million Algerians killed during this period, we should visualize that 557 Algerians were brutally killed daily on average. This figure should be enough to clearly show how brutal and ruthless were the mass killings performed by French authorities in Algeria. One of the reasons for such high death tolls is that French soldiers specifically attacked crowded gatherings of Algerians. Thus, about 15 percent of Algeria’s population, which amounted to 8-10 million during the struggle for independence, was killed by the French. The Algerian massacre is not the only mass slaughter France undertook in Africa. Indeed, it performed similar massacres in virtually all African countries that it invaded and colonized with the intention of sucking their human and national wealth to the full. During these massacres, it was acting not with a dark Middle Ages mentality that had once dominated the whole European continent, but with a modernist philosophy of the 20th century when human rights, international law and similar notions entered world literature.
For instance, by concluding agreements in 1861 and 1868 with the Kings of Dahomey, who ruled where today’s Benin is located, the French settled on the shores of Benin, and they attempted to invade the whole country in 1882 and occupied the whole of Dahomey in 1904. All revolts against the colonial administration were brutally suppressed by the occupying French troops. Benin would only become independent on Aug. 1, 1960. In 1897, colonialist France completely invaded the territories of Burkina Faso and maintained its domination by coercion and bloodshed until the country acquired its independence in 1960. The French colonialists also invaded Djibouti in 1888, changed its name to French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis). The Muslim people of Djibouti never accepted French colonialism. The Muslim resistance was suppressed by the French through pressure and oppression. In addition, French colonialists performed an intensive missionary campaign to convert Djiboutians to Christianity. The French not only banned Islamic education, but also invested great efforts in Christianizing the Muslim people of Djibouti, with limited success.
French invaders occupied all of Chad after extended struggles and a war in 1911, and they destroyed numerous mosques and madrasas in the aftermath of the occupation. They banned Islamic education to prevent Muslims from learning about their religion. They jailed countless scholars and tortured them to death. Some Muslim scholars had fled to escape French tyranny. But, in 1917, French authorities announced that a symposium would be held in Abéché for the reorganization of religious life in Chad. Some 400 scholars gathered together in the symposium hall with the hope that there would be a positive development. However, French soldiers soon blockaded the hall and killed all of the scholars inside. French massacres continued later. Although Chad would officially get rid of the French occupation in 1957, the effects of French colonialism still continues.
Likewise, in Rwanda, Gabon, Guinea, Cameroon, Comoros Islands, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia, France maintained its occupation and colonialism through oppression, pressure and massacres. The French tyranny and massacres in Indochina deserve to be discussed in a separate article. Shouldn’t Sarkozy face France’s proven and ongoing sins before peering into others’ alleged sins and apologize for the oppression and massacres committed by the country he is currently representing?
First, look in the mirror, Monsieur Sarkozy! There, you’ll certainly see who the real genocide perpetrator is.