Let us turn to ourselves as we vent our fury on France

Let us turn to ourselves as we vent our fury on France

We have never been able to form a consistent policy in the face of Armenian genocide allegations.
There was one truth constantly flung in my face while talking in Paris last week to French intellectuals and journalists who were well acquainted with Turkey, and which upset my whole chemistry, as they were dead on.

A journalist friend of mine who knew intimately human rights issues and problems pertaining to freedom of thought in Turkey said, “You criticize us incessantly and say we have struck a blow to the freedom of thought because of the law on Armenians. Why do you not take a look at yourselves a little bit? The French public knows the situation in Turkey, and people generally react by saying you ought to look at yourselves before criticizing us...”

Just as those claiming there was no genocide are going to be punished through the recent draft bill in France, those claiming the opposite are also getting badly bruised here.

Naturally, no wrong could be forgiven because of another wrong, but our situation is truly lamentable. There are several striking examples most often employed by those who propagate this law. One pertains to the misfortunes that befell Taner Akçam due to a book he wrote claiming there was a genocide; another is the trial of Hrant Dink on the grounds of “insulting the Turkish identity;” while yet another has to do with the mighty reaction toward Orhan Pamuk for saying that we killed the Armenians and the Kurds.

As a matter of fact, we need not go very far. The calamitous state of our record on the freedom of thought is glaringly blatant, ranging from journalists locked behind bars to the law about “insulting the Turkish identity” that is hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles.

We just cannot get used to the notion that people could openly propagate every idea as long as they do not resort to terrorism, use arms or tell others to go and bomb a certain place through broadcasted or published material. We immediately fall back on punishing every idea we dislike or find inconvenient.
That is the reason why we cannot put up with imprisoned journalists alleged to be sympathizers of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and who purportedly “share the PKK’s views” despite the fact they never got involved in terrorism. They, too, are journalists like us and should not be sent to jail.
Does it not look silly to slam the French and act as a champion for the cause of the freedom of thought after such conduct and so flagrantly trampling on that freedom?

It is not without reason they say, “Those living in a glass mansion should not stone another’s house.” Let us clean our own backyard first before stoning another’s.

No one can speak with any certainty yet, but it is generally reckoned that the denial bill is going to pass through the French Senate during the second half of February. That is why it is important to start preparing early on.

We should plot our moves so as to avoid a situation where a different voice issues from each ministry, or to avoid taking measures in a flush of excitement that would harm ourselves rather than punishing France.

And let us not forget, this bill in France is not the end of the road. Such bills will pass through the Parliaments of many countries until 2015, regarded as the 100th anniversary of the affair.

We ought to decide. Are we going to pick a fight with every country and shut our doors, or are we going to receive the increasingly more politicized matter of genocide in a different manner?
Let us decide fast and form an appropriate strategy. Otherwise, we are going to end in smoke by lashing out at each unfolding development.