France “remained French”

France “remained French”

No… No… I did not Google “France” to find out where it was. That would have been absurd. France is a great country that has been having diplomatic relations with Turkey for centuries. Cultural interactions between Turks and French have been immense. Put aside Galatasaray, the late Ottoman early republican monumental man of literature Tevfik Fikret, as is testified with the many words added to the Turkish language, up until the end of World War II French was the dominant foreign language in this country and late Ottoman diplomatic correspondence was all in the French language rather than Turkish.

Despite such strong cultural interaction between the two countries and peoples, in Turkey there is a rather odd expression: “To remain French” vis-a-vis something or some development. What’s the meaning? Simply, if someone remains indifferent or intentionally refuses to acknowledge an important happening, Turks say that person “remained French.” Obviously there ought to be some connotation of the expression with the “fatuous French” perception.

Yesterday, by approving the law criminalizing “genocide denial” French parliament demonstrated that it could indeed “remain French” to the foremost principle of democracy; freedom of thought. How would France be able to turn on Turkey and complain of human rights violations in this country, while itself has taken a step to blatantly violate freedom of opinion, a fundamental right and moved to criminalize objections to Armenian charges of genocide? Naturally no one can deny the immense sufferings of the peoples of Anatolia – including Armenians, but not only Armenians – during World War I and the dissolution period of the Ottoman Empire? What indeed happened during that period ought to be examined by historians as Turkey has been suggesting and Armenia has been rejecting, rather than a handful of greedy politicians trying to buy Armenian votes. Such laws could of course silence in France people who would like to research genocide claims. Could they serve any real purpose other than adding even further difficulty a process of reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia?

The approved law does not have a reference to Armenian claims, but as France adopted earlier a parliamentary resolution describing 1915 events in eastern Anatolia as genocide, this law has angered the Turks. The law needs to be approved by the French Senate to enter into force. Because of the tight French political schedule it might not enter into force by late spring. Whatever, Turks were enraged with the development and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated that this time Turkish reaction might go further than some impulsive and rather symbolic moves aimed mostly at soothing Turkish public outcry.

This law adopted by a handful of greedy supporters of the little man of the Elyse showed in all clarity at the same time that France could indeed be held captive by some greedy politicians who would “remain French” to the French national interests when at stake are their petty political interests.

If France deserves such politics and politicians, Turkey can as well “remain French” to the existence of France.