Open letter to French lawmakers
SOPHİE QUİNTİN ADALIHonorable members of the Senate and of the National Assembly,
There is something rotten in our Republic. The adoption by the two chambers of a law criminalizing a thought crime (denial of Armenian “genocide”) is both a shame for French democracy and a violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The September 2005 Declaration by the civic organization “Liberty for History” had warned about the dangers of so-called memory laws. “History should not be a subject of law-making. In a free state, it is neither for the parliament nor for the judiciary to define historical truth.” Reports have amply elaborated on the risks incurred. Yet their findings have been ignored.
The text supported by a minority of deputies and senators is “anti-liberty, inquisitorial and obscurantist,” as Senator Josselin de Rohan said in May last year when the bill was voted down in the Senate. His courage and honesty to say it like it is must be commanded.
The bottom line is that the saga of the Armenian question in our Parliament has had nothing to do with the search for the truth. History has been utilized as an instrument for electoral reasons under the pretence of morality with consequences worthy of a totalitarian regime, namely state-imposed historical truths.
Shame on those who have voted in favor of this law, and on the many who avoided responsibility altogether by abstaining or staying away at such a critical time! The sound of their silence will resonate for a long time.
I hereby inform you that in spite of this vote, I have not formulated an opinion on the events which occurred during a civil war in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and affected so tragically both the Muslim and Armenian communities. I believe that history does not belong to anyone, and it is certainly not for the French or indeed any other Parliament to write the history of other nations. It would be a tragic mistake for the U.S. Congress to follow the path down this road.
Come what may, I intend to remain the master of my own conscience and do not recognize the right of the state - any state - to impose on me a historical “truth” with the force of the law. “The totalitarians in our midst,” as Friedrich von Hayek would put it, will not dictate my thoughts.
Vote-seeking politicians turned our Parliament into a tribunal. Their actions are not only unconstitutional but by creating a useless and harmful diplomatic crisis with an allied country and a friendly nation, they have acted against the best interest of the nation. The damage they have caused will take years to repair. And, when the President of the Republic signs this “liberticide” law to please the French Armenian community, he will dim further the light of freedom of opinion, of thought and of scholarship in our country.
President Sarkozy will have to bear the responsibility for the economic consequences of this folly and for pouring oil on the ashes of communitarianism in a society weakened by recession. At a time when France needs statesmanship and vision, what the people are getting is a spectacular deluge of hyper-electoral agitation and short-termism.
With this law and the rise of technocratic governance in the EU, it has become painfully obvious that the democratic and leadership deficit can only get bigger. Be it in Paris or in Brussels, when interest groups rule with their diktats “lobbycracy” is what we have, not democracy. But I refuse to bow to unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists intent on taking us step by step on the road to managed democracy and authoritarianism.
“So that liberty can live, men will always have to stand up against indifference or resignation”, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834).
Sophie Quintin Adalı is an analyst for unmondelibre.org, the Francophone project of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. The views and opinions expressed in this open letter are the author’s own.