The footsteps of fascism

The footsteps of fascism

The headline read: “Wanted: 60 good senators!” 

This is the Turkish mood over the French Senate’s vote that illegalized the denial of the Armenian genocide (now along with Holocaust denial). In other words, all 348 French senators are “bad senators” if they fail to collect 60 signatures for an appeal to the Constitutional Council against the bill. 

“Why are the French bad people?” I overheard a 6ish-year-old boy asking his parents at the next table at a restaurant. “Not all French,” his father replied. “Their president is a bad man.” How bizarre! Nicolas Sarkozy was almost no one when the French Lower House passed a bill that recognized the Armenian genocide 11 years ago. Now he is the “bad man” – because he single-handedly blocks Turkey’s well-deserved membership in the EU?

In response to former GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s remarks that Turkey is “a country that is ruled by what many would perceive as Islamic terrorists – and hence its NATO membership should be questioned,” a shrewd statement from the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said “Turkey joined NATO when Mr. Perry was 2 years old.” 

Quite right. But applying the same logic, I should remind the Foreign Ministry that Turkey officially pushed the button for EU membership when Mr. Sarkozy was only 4 years old! Turkey was a door-knocker while Mr. Sarkozy was a child, a teenager, a young man, a grown-up, a no one, a president – and it will remain so probably when Mr. Sarkozy has become an old man, too.
So, France-bashing is the new trend after several months of Israel-bashing. Or will the Turks manage to perform both acts? Until, of course, another foreign nation / Parliament / leader does / says something to overshadow both Israel and France. Hopefully, the ruthless Turkish retaliation machinery will cool off Turkish minds with punishing measures. 

Last month, the state football betting company had delisted French games from its list of bets. This week, Hürriyet reported Turkish First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül refrained from inviting the wife of French Ambassador Laurent Bili to a luncheon she will host for the lady members of the corps diplomatiques of Ankara. However, in between the lines, Hürriyet’s story informs us that Madame Bili actually lives in France!

Inspired by the first lady’s retaliatory creativity, here are my humble suggestions to teach the bad French men a good Turkish lesson: Turkey should disqualify France from the 2012 European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine; Turkish companies should stop transferring nuclear energy technology to France; and, finally, Turkey should veto France’s EU accession as well as its permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. 

According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the French genocide bill symbolizes “the new footsteps of fascism in Europe.” The bill certainly is not Voltairesque, but the footsteps Mr. Erdoğan hears must be coming from not so distant lands. 

We learned just this week that Turkish prosecutors demand an 11 year prison sentence for a student who was caught last year with three eggs in his bag, which the prosecutors believe he had intended to throw at President Abdullah Gül during an academic ceremony. Eleven years in jail for three eggs not yet thrown! Like a life sentence for the author of a book not yet published… 

Mind you, last year, the European Court of Human Rights received nearly 9,500 complaints against Turkey (not France!) for breaches of press freedom and freedom of expression, compared to 6,500 in 2009.

No doubt Mr. Erdoğan is right about the footsteps he hears. But he’s awfully wrong about their source.