Psychology of Armenians and the Denial Law of France

(Le Parlement N’est Pas Un Tribunal)[1]

The events that took place in 1915 in Eastern Anatolia were not forgotten by the Armenian side although one hundred years had passed. During the past years, the Armenians worked hard for their case. With the use of clever and persevering propaganda, they introduced their case to the world and did not let it to be forgotten by the coming generation and also prompted the adoption of their genocide allegations by some parliaments.

On the other hand, when we look at the Turkish side, after the demolition of a great empire, a great loss of territory and men was faced. In Balkans, Caucasus and in the Middle East, the territories dominated for a long time (some for even more than 600 years) were lost. After veiling this great loss without mourning, the Turks commenced a new life. Instead of contemplating the past and imagining the days she will get back her lost territories, the young Republic of Turkey preferred to hold the territories left and rebuild her future.

Thinking about the loss constantly is a pathological feeling. This feeling converts the people to be offensive, continuously thinking of taking vengeance and repossessing the territories they had lost. In 1915 some Armenians were relocated and as a result of this relocation, families were dispersed and a great deal of damage and deaths took place. Armenians built their identity on Turkish antagonism and according to them Ottoman Turks were responsible for everything they had experienced. Being in a very serious identity crisis, Armenians could not find a way out other than victimization. While doing so, they profited the state of being a Christian Victim.[2]

After the Second World War, Jews who were committed genocide nourished and reinforced by victimization. Armenians created a victimization psychology by integrating their relocation in 1915 with the Holocaust. They saw themselves as weak, down trod and victim, and the opposing side (Turks) as powerful, hostile and outrageous. Armenians want to strengthen the image of “victim” who survived and also need legitimization of the 1915 events.

According to the majority of people, genocide is “killing of a great number of civilians”. However, this case is a judicial concept and was defined at “The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”. This Convention was accepted in December 9, 1948 and came into force in January 12, 1951. The act of genocide is treated as a crime by the countries which approved the convention and Turkey is among the countries which approved this convention.

The second article of the Convention defines the crime of genocide.[3]  According to this article, genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

According to Article 6 of the Convention, “Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”

The Law Punishing the Denial of the Armenian Genocide (Loi pénalisant la contestation du génocide arménien)

As it is seen above, genocide is an international crime and must be determined by jurists on the base of the prescribed legal criteria for the recognition of an event as genocide is null and void. Although France recognised the 1915 incidents as “genocide” with the law of 2001”, the law did not have any sanctions.

In 2011, with the proposal of Mrs Valerie Boyer, a member of the ruling party (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) in France, the draft law penalizing the denial of all kinds of genocide recognised by law in France was accepted in December 2011 in the Lower House of the Parliament and in January 23, 2012 in the Senate.

The law foreseeing 45 000 Euros of penalty and jailing for a year to the people who deny Armenian Genocide was annulled by the French Constitutional Council in February, 2012. The Council determined that the bill was in violation of the most of the principles written in the French Constitution.

This draft law took the Gayssot Law which was enacted by the French Parliament as an example. The Gayysot Law makes it a crime to “contest” the “crimes against humanity” as defined in law.[4] However Gayssot Law takes its legitimacy from an international adjudication (Nüremberg Trials).

The former Chairman of the French Constitutional Council Robert Badinter claims that “Parliaments are not Courts” in his article published in French daily Le Monde and adds that the 2001 law of one sentence which this new law depends on, will be annulled.[5]

The upcoming elections of France may have made Sarkozy to push forward. Since the estimated number of Armenian electorates are about 450 000, Sarkozy tries to attract the voters of the right wing parties. Trying to be congenial to the Armenian origined voters by using the so-called Armenian genocide allegations, Sarkozy is facing with difficulties with the allegations of 2007 elections (the financial help of Kaddafi to Sarkozy) and with his rhetoric like “we have too many immigrants in France” and “France can quit Schengen zone”.

The Parliaments are not courts and they are not authorized to make a decision on genocide. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide explicitly put forward the definition of genocide/what genocide is. According to this Convention, it is hard to claim that Turks have committed genocide. The solution of this case could only be possible through judicial means though Armenians constantly reject this option.

Turkish and Armenian sides can use dialogue as a tool to correspond and to understand each other’s psychology. While doing so, the other countries should be left aside. This will lead to the construction of empathy and as a result hostile behaviours among the nations will decrease. This process can be the only solution which will pave the way for the opening of negotiations.

Zerrin Dağcı, Instructor, European Research Center, Ankara University

Please cite this article as follows:

Dağcı, Zerrin (April, 2012), “Psychology of Armenians and the Denial Law of France”, Vol. I, Issue 2,  pp.21-24,  Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London: ResearchTurkey (http://researchturkey.org/p=628)

[1] The Parliament is not a ‘Court’.

[2] Göka, Erol, Ermeni Sorununun (Gözden Kaçan) Psikolojik Boyutu, Ermeni Sorunu, Temel Bilgi ve Belgeler, ASAM Yayınları, Ankara, 2007, s.187.

[3]  United Nations, “The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”

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