Historians say if the bill is passed, freedom of speech will be harmed and history will have been “censored.”
Lobbies in Brussels make jokes that the French parliament is being influenced by the 301st clause in the Turkish criminal code which is frequently criticized by the European Union (EU).
Professor Eric Zurcher, a famous Dutch professor and an expert on Turkey, considers getting stuck on the word “genocide” is unfortunate.
Emeritus Professor of Political Science Guenter Lewy, who became the target of Armenians because of his recently published book “The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide,” wants history to be left to the historians.
Britain’s Dr. Andrew Mango says it is “an insult to pass such a ridiculous bill.” The three important academics responded to questions posed by Zaman.
Jewish origin American scholar Lewy says he also opposes the laws that suggest criminalizing the denial of the Jewish Holocaust. “Parliaments should discuss the laws, not history. The French draft law against denial of the Armenian genocide is ill advised and makes no more sense than laws against denial of the Jewish Holocaust. The freedom of speech in democratic societies should also be applied to fools speaking unwisely. I oppose the existence of such laws wherever they are – in France, in Germany, in Switzerland or in Turkey. Such laws could have functioned in Germany after the Nazi defeat in 1945; however, they are not needed anymore.”
Lewy says he is not concerned about being arrested in France over his book. “If French judges want to censor history, including all the history books published all over the world,” he said, “they will be insulted by everyone siding with the academic world, and with free and uncensored researches.
Algeria and Congo are forgotten
Professor Zurcher considers the French bill is objectionable in two aspects: Primarily historians should avoid writing history; and the use of the word “genocide” is a hindrance to any research being conducted on the events in 1915. He also believes Armenians were exposed to ethnic cleansing and if it is to be compared to any other event, it can be more likened to the Serbian massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo, not to the Jewish holocaust.
Zurcher points out that the French law could be spread throughout Europe, but the issue, he says, cannot be made a condition for Turkey’s entry to the European Union. “What France did in Algeria; Belgium in the Congo and in my country, The Netherlands, as well as in the Far-East, have never been discussed by the EU; so then why Turkey?”
British scholar Andrew Mango puts the so-called Armenian genocide allegations aside and considers that freedom of speech will be restricted after the bill becomes law.
Mango says, “Such a law is unlikely to be exercised in my country, Britain. Britain even allows you to deny the Jewish Holocaust because we highly appreciate the speech freedom.” He says defending such a law is an “insult against freedom.”
When asked whether he will hesitate about traveling to France if the bill becomes law, Mango replied: “I was asked the same question in my previous France visit. I said, ‘I will not talk about the Armenian case here because there is no freedom of speech in your country.’ I will probably not talk about these issues in France anymore.” The British historian says enemies of Turkey consider the EU bid as an “opportunity.” Don’t the Greek Cypriots do the same thing? Turkey portrays itself as if it is ready to accept everything for EU membership.”