mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Illiberal Turkey Blasts Illiberal France

The Turkish pot is calling the French kettle black, as AK Prime Minister Erdogan denounced France’s foolish and illiberal law criminalizing the denial of genocides, including the massacres of Armenians in modern Turkey during World War One.

Somewhat hysterically, Erdogan warned of the “footsteps of fascism” in France over the bill.  In fact it was the footsteps of opportunism he was hearing: the deeply unpopular and desperate French president Nicolas Sarkozy is straining every nerve to eke out a re-election win, and pandering to Armenians is a time honored if low rent way to gin up support in bad times.  (There are about half a million people in France with Armenian roots.)

Erdogan is right that the French law is a bad idea.  But Turkey has an even more miserable law making it a crime to assert that the deaths of so many Armenians constituted a genocide and it has repeatedly invoked that law to stifle rational argument and debate.

Erdogan is being exactly as opportunistic and disingenuous as Sarkozy. He is wrapping himself in the Turkish flag and bellowing demagogically to milk as much political advantage out of the situation as he can.  It’s an unworthy performance from both leaders and between them they are making this a sadder and sillier world.

Both countries should leave history to historians and the educated public.  Legislatures have no business passing laws limiting debate or proclaiming this or that historical interpretation to be the sacred dogma of the state. Thoughtful Turks are embarrassed and humiliated by their government’s stand on this issue, and thoughtful French people are now in the same boat.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Robert Morris

    Not a fair comparison at all. A country that is barely a century removed from absolute despotism, and that has had a fully functioning democracy for less than a year, should be held to a lower standard than the fifth French Republic.

  • LarryD

    “The bigotry of soft expectations” is no favor to anyone.

  • Anthony

    Politicians (PUPPOLS) generally (though unfortunately) seek “low rent” ways to gin up support – we are experiencing parallel in U.S. campaigns (perhaps to our chagrin). Both Erdogan (Turkey) and Sarkozy (France) know where to locate the “sweet spot” when in political….

  • ari

    Your analysis of this issue is right

  • Cunctator

    It is absolutely ridiculous that anyone living in a Western country takes anything Erdogan says seriously. He is rather like the Chavez of the Middle East. This is the premier of a country where the Orthodox Church is actively discriminated against, where senior public figures (military officers, diplomats, former government ministers) are arrested and detained for months all because they criticise the government, where journalists are regularly harrassed and where opposition media are taxed into submission.

    Rick Perry was wrong in describing the Erdogan government as a group of terrorists (although members of his governing party have had connections to al Qaeda and other extremist groups). However, he was absolutely right when he said that Turkey is no longer an ally. We ought not to continue to fool ourselves. Turkey is becoming a part of the problem in the Middle East.

  • John

    France recognizes the genocide of the Jews and the Armenians (by Turks). It has a law punishing the denial of the genocide of the Jews, used by hateful fear mongers and demagogues. Now it has a law punishing the denial of the genocide of Armenians. It is called consistency. And, coming from politicians, is a welcome sign!

    In addition, “thoughtful Turks” are engaged in economic war against their neighbor, Armenia, by blockading it and even threatening to deport (again?) Armenians in Turkey. Sounds familiar?! Somehow, this fact escapes the professor’s astute observation.

    Moreover, “thoughtful Turks” have been threatening military actions and/or lawsuits against Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Iraq, etc.

    Further, “thoughtful Turks” somehow cannot accept that the Kurds deserve an autonomy, at least, or a statehood, at best.

    Furthermore, “thoughtful Turks” somehow can’t handle the imprisonment, murder, persecution of thousands of journalists, academicians, etc.

    The phrase “thoughtful Turks” must be a bad joke. The question is should we laugh or weep.

  • Kenny

    The Islamic Turks seem to want the right to murder Christians without being reminded of their crimes.

    And think of all that stupid talk of just a few years back from the world elites of admitting Turkey into the EU.

  • cubanbob

    Given the choice between criminalizing the denial of truth versus the criminalizing of speaking the truth i would side with the French.

  • Otman

    Hmmm…I do not know atnyhing about an Armenian genocide. Any good books or online resources you would suggest?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service