mardi 24 janvier 2012

L'anglophobe-turcophobe Sarkozy et le prétendu "génocide" arménien : l'opinion du conservateur britannique Daniel Hannan

Daniel Hannan
Daniel Hannan is a writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the European Union is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free.

Armenians suffered terribly in 1915, but France is wrong to insist on labels

By Daniel Hannan Politics Last updated: December 23rd, 2011

Turks: on our side more often than not

In any spat between Turkey and France, we surely know whom to back. Ankara has recalled its ambassador following the passage of a French law which makes it a criminal offence to deny that the massacres of Armenians in 1915 constituted a genocide.

They were tangled and tragic events, and historians have wrangled ever since about precisely what occurred. When the Ottomans joined the First World War, and fighting began along the Caucasian frontier between the two empires, many Armenians threw in their lot with the Russians. The Young Turks, at war on two fronts and foreseeing the overthrow of their regime, feared that their entire Armenian population would rise in revolt. Brutal repressions ensued, with arrests, executions, evacuations, forced marches and at least some deliberate pogroms.

No one, not even the most hardline Turkish nationalist, denies that guiltless Armenians perished. Similarly, no one, not even the most vengeful diaspora reparationist, denies that many Armenians died in Tsarist uniforms. (The argument is fiercer between expatriate Turks and expatriate Armenians than between the Turkish and Armenian states, which have been progressively improving their relations since the mid-1990s.)

The question is whether the deaths and atrocities amounted to a policy of deliberate genocide. While I have read a certain amount about the period, it’s not a question I feel competent to settle, since it is at heart a legal rather than a historical one. Defining a particular set of killings as genocidal goes beyond semantics. A series of juridical consequences flow: the matter can be lifted from the courts of the state concerned to supranational level, and the argument can swiftly move on to reparations.

As I say, I am not competent to pronounce definitively about 1915. Where I do feel competent is in condemning the French decision that, from now on, even to question one side of the argument is a criminal offence. In any free society, the right to say what you believe surely trumps the right not to be offended. This, though, is not even one of those ludicrous ‘hate crime’ issues. What is being proscribed here is intellectual enquiry.

Turkey is right to react as it has. French lawmakers would never dream of legislating to restrict a free discussion of, say, Stalin’s deportations, or the Belgian atrocities in the Congo – or, indeed, France’s own abuses in the Algerian war. Turks are being picked on because French politicians believe that there are votes in Turcophobia, just as Nicolas Sarkozy calculates that there are votes in Anglophobia.

There is no question where Britain’s sympathies should lie. Palmerston, Disraeli and Salisbury would have sided unhesitatingly with the Sublime Porte, and so should David Cameron. Indeed, though he will be far too polite to say so, I’m quite sure that he does. After all, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's impressive leader, has never called him a spoilt kid. Nor has he set out to maim the City of London. On the contrary, he heads arguably the most Anglophile government in Europe.

More to the point, Erdoğan is right to be offended at such behaviour from France – a state which happily lectures Turkey about repressive legislation. Turks and Armenians have a difficult past to excavate together, and the excavation should be carried out with the care and patience of an archaeological dig – slowly, reverently and with gentle brushwork. President Sarkozy has instead decided to slam his shovel brutally through the middle. That does no one any favours – least of all the dead.
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