Turkey’s membership to the EU has been a test of democracy and “Europeanness” for the EU rather than Turkey.
We were used to harsh criticisms of the “Europeans” about Turkey’s economy, democracy etc. Until now, they have scolded the Turkish people and the Turks have listened to them.
Most of the time, the EU side was right in its criticisms. They kept on saying “human rights”, “end the torture”, “consolidate your democracy”, “liberalize your economy” and many more. There were of course some unjust criticisms too. Particularly, the Cyprus and the Aegean disputes and the Armenian issue were giving us signs from the “dark side” of Europe. But it has never been this much dirty.
MODERN WITCH HUNT
Even listing the incidents one after another will be enough to demonstrate how ‘Europe’ is in a stalemate and how it nurtures a medieval “monster” within itself:
After September 11, so to say “the witch hunt” started in Western Europe against the Euro Muslims and Euro Turks. Being a Muslim has been equated with being a “potential terrorist” even in countries like the Netherlands and England, which are thought to be “minority heavens.” Many Muslims in these EU countries have unjustly been detained, and have remained in cells as if they were criminals. Some were proven innocent and released. Neither apology nor compensation… The detentions are still continuing. Those whose skin color is darker or who look like Middle Easterner now have to walk faster in the streets because of the attitude of the security forces towards them.
The Denmark daily Jyllands-Posten’s cartoon contest, which had an obvious aim of insulting the Prophet of Islam, and the publication of these cartoons in Denmark were also provocations. Turkey noticed that a crisis was imminent and called for a meeting to calm down the situation. However, the Denmark’s PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen ignored these calls, and what is more, gave a lesson of “Europeanness” to Turkey. He said “is Turkey European or not, it should decide on that.” Moreover, he strictly and impolitely rejected the requests of ambassadors of Muslim countries to Copenhagen for a meeting with him. “There is nothing to talk” he said. But the fears have come true. The Muslims, whose Prophet was depicted as “terrorist”, “murderer” and “barbarian” by the Danish newspaper, organized protests in many countries. Because they knew that it was not only the Prophet but also themselves who were being insulted. The one depicted in the cartoon was not only the Prophet, but the whole Muslim community, whose number is more than 1 billion. The Muslims were identical with terrorists in the subconscious of the Danish. When the Danish products were boycotted in the Muslim world, Rasmussen abruptly changed his attitude. He personally called the Muslim ambassadors for a meeting. But it was too late. The relations between the Christian and Muslim worlds had been seriously damaged.
There is another scandal and it is again in Denmark. The youth organization of People’s Party of Denmark, the rightist, if not racist, political party, organized a contest of humiliation of the Muslims’ Prophet. This party is the third largest party in Denmark and supports the government outside. Again, the aim is to insult the Muslims. Those members, who are mocking with Islam, are portraying a “typical” Muslim by hanging grenades on their belts. For Denmark, all these events must be considered as “freedom of speech.” But nobody talks about principles such as respect to faith and religion, keeping the balance of ethnic relations, and discouraging the intercultural hatred and violence. The freedom of thought openly turns out to the “freedom of insult and incitement.” As a matter of fact, the freedom of speech is just a tale. ‘The Christian Europe’ cannot control its annoyance after Turkey’s membership process has become a serious affair. There is a ‘monster’ in Europe which feels the clash of civilizations in its very veins particularly after the September 11. This monster is the monster which burned the Jews in Spain alive; the monster which could exterminate people at the hands of the Nazis because they were Gypsies, Jews or black. This monster is religionist and racist. This monster is fanatic, naughty and fully ignorant. Don’t pay attention to the science and technology cover on Europe, because the monster beneath is so strong…
And the Netherlands… A country seen as a fortress of liberalism and democracy… The political parties in this country are so privileged that the Dutch cannot afford to close a party which defends pedophilia and zoophilia. They say “Let everyone speak. The essence of democracy is the freedom of thought and speech.” But in the Netherlands, rejecting the Armenian claims against the Turks is a bigger mistake than even pedophilia. Three Turkish candidates were deprived to run for the elections from their party lists just because they did not agree with the Armenians. What is more, these parties, which dropped the candidacy of the three Turks, were not marginal or small ones. One was the party in power, and the other was the main leftist party. In short, it is even impossible to voice different opinions in the Netherlands, even in main current Dutch political parties.
How will the Turks in this country, whose number is about 450.000, voice their demands if political channels are closed to them?
Who will bear the responsibility if al-Qaeda says that “the Netherlands even doesn’t allow you to enter the parliament? You think differently from the Armenians but they cannot even tolerate that?”
What will the results of excluding the Turks, who are the most harmonious and peaceful Muslim minority in Europe, from the system?
Nowadays, we have been experiencing “Armenian genocide insanity” from France to the Netherlands, from Germany to Belgium. The Armenian claims are not new. For almost a century, the Armenians have been trying to get the great powers press Turkey with the hope of getting a homeland in Anatolia. They have tried many ways: Terror, assassinations, financial aid to the terrorist organizations in Turkey, boycotting Turkish products, issuing anti-Turkey bills in various parliaments etc. But they have failed. They have failed not because Turkey was a very strong country or the Turkish lobbies have done their best to stop these attempts. It was because the Armenian claims were so weak even baseless. It was because their method was wrong. It was because slandering a whole nation was illogical by just relying on claims. It was because it was against the nature of any small or big country to judge and blame a state or a nation based on the claims of just one side. And had the Armenians been right, they would have applied to courts, not parliaments.
Despite this picture, France approved the Armenian claims (I prefer calling them “obsessive belief”) in the parliament in 2001 as if they were the historical facts. The President of France also approved the bill and the Armenian claims were legalized in France. According to these claims, the Turks slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, that is, during the Ottoman State period. The name of this action is, they say, “genocide”. I cannot help myself but ask: Since the 1915 incidents were “genocide”, why does France pass the law as late as 2001. What have the French politicians been doing until now? For example, why didn’t they take that decision when France invaded the Ottoman territories at the end of the World War 1 and seized all the Ottoman official documents? Why didn’t they arrest and try the “criminals”? Why didn’t they investigate the Armenian claims on the spot instead of cooperating with the Armenians to kill thousands of Turks and Kurds at that time? OK, let’s assume that France was unaware of the situation because of the joy of victory, but how come the French politicians haven’t remembered the so-called “genocide” for 86 years? And didn’t they think of the 1915 Incidents while they were slaughtering the 1.5 million Algerian Arabs? Have they compared the Armenian claims with what the French soldiers have done in Africa and Asia?
We can ask more questions to France because the decision has no legal or political logic. The bill was passed in the parliament thanks to the 30-40 radical-militant pro-Armenian legislators’ insistence in the pre-election period. Other MPs, who did not want to draw the anger of 300.000 Armenian votes in France, did not even participate the voting of the bill. As a result, there was “genocide of facts” in the French Parliament, and the others just watched it.
The current step is more tragicomic. The French Parliament first issued the bill which approved the Armenian claims as true; they are now trying to criminalize to say “lie” to the lies. The French parties, which have been captured by the Armenian origin MPs and their supporters, are not aware of what impact they will have not only on Turco-French relations but also themselves and Europe.
Some rightist, religionist and racist people, like Sarkozy, support the idea of “Christian Europe”, and these people are endorsing anything which is against Turkey. Recently, the TUSIAD’s (Association of Turkish Businessmen and Industrialists) Brussels Representative has asked why he was so opposed to Turkey’s membership. His answer was “I know the Arab world very well.” Sarkozy, who is the minister of interior of France, a candidate for presidency and has been a politician for years, thinks that Turkey is an Arab country!
I have written it above: The monster which Europe nurtures inside is not only racist and religionist but also ignorant. Imagine, Mr. Sarkozy’s ‘knowledge’ on Turkey is not limited with that. He says “shall we just let the 100 million Muslim Turks to migrate Europe?” The French Minister of Interior Nicolas Sarkozy thinks that the population of Turkey is 100 million. One cannot say that he rounded the number. The discrepancy equals to three times of Greece’s population. Let’s assume that Turkey’s population is 100 million. How ignorant and militant is the one who thinks the all of the Turks will flow to the European cities once Turkey is a full member. It is obvious that Sarkozy sees himself as a Pope in the Medieval Age. He sees Turks invading Europe in his nightmares every night!
On the other hand, the leftist groups in France have been the “captive” of the Armenian constituents and lobbies. The Armenian lobby, which spends more than 100 billion dollars for the Armenian cause each year, has made this affair an industry. They have formed up a strong network consisting of universities, parliaments, companies and even movie theaters. They are using the Armenian Diaspora very well for this job. The country where the Armenian “genocide” industry has been most successful is France. But the France’s current pathetic situation is not only because of Armenians’ attempts in that country.
The most important reason for this extreme behavior of France is Turkey’s speedy progress towards full EU membership. Turkey has been breaking growth records in the last five years. It has become the 17th (or 18th) largest economy of the world. There are no obstacles for the Turkish economy to be in the top ten in the near future. Turkey has surprised the entire Europe with its reforms in the last few years. Turkey’s realization of numerous reforms in a few years was defined by the European countries as “outstanding.” The Turkish economy and the maturity of its politics were seen as sufficient in 2004 and 2005 for the EU membership, and as a result, the EU decided to start accession talks. In other words, the full membership of Turkey, a country which has been procrastinated since 1959, has become a serious issue for the EU. Turkey could be a full member if nothing is done. For the first time, a Muslim country would be a member of EU with equal rights. This scenario has been the nightmare of many people in Europe. First, the Pope said “the Europe is Christian; Turkey should establish a union with Arabs”. These words were noted down by the Turks, never to be forgotten. This is perhaps the reason why the strongest reaction to the Pope’s words on the Prophet of Islam has come from Turkey. However, the Pope was not alone unfortunately. The German PM Angela Merkel also opposed Turkey’s membership in 2004. Though the French President Jacques Chirac ostensibly approved Turkey’s accession talks, in other occasions he said “don’t worry, many things will change until the accession talks finish and their membership depends on the results of the referendum in France.” This is a very disrespectful attitude, and in fact, it is a fraud. The French President, who promised full membership in written agreements and mobilized Turkey’s economy and politics for this aim, was thinking just the opposite in reality, and he has done everything to impede Turkey’s membership. Chirac was unable to criticize Turkish democracy and economy, and he was unable to reverse the signatures he made. So, he wanted to use the Cyprus issue and then the Armenian issue against Turkey. The Cyprus issue is a problem which the world has been unable to solve for decades. The United Nations peacekeeping force, UNFICYP, was deployed in Cyprus in 1964, and it is still there. That is to say, France knows that conditioning Turkey’s membership to the solution of the Cyprus problem means delaying Turkey’s accession for many more decades. But the most effective way to hinder Turkey’s entry to the EU is the Armenian issue:
There are claims and counterclaims, and it is almost impossible for any party to convince the other one in this issue. The Armenians blame Turkey and Turks with one of the world’s worst and most insulting crime, genocide, by relying on statements such as “my grandfather said this, my grandmom said that”. Naturally Turkey or any country cannot admit such accusations. In such a case, conditioning Turkey’s membership to the acceptance of the Armenian claims means intentionally excluding Turkey from the EU forever. A problem which hasn’t been solved for a century cannot be solved in a short time, and anyone in the EU knows that the Armenian issue cannot be solve in couple of days or years. The Armenians are not aware of the situation. The Armenians in the Diaspora are content with their lives. They are making money, reputation and power through the difficulties of the Armenians in Armenia. On the other hand, Armenia Armenians cannot even decide on their fate. The country is headed by a diaspora Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharian, who is obsessed with the Turks and more territories. Mr. Kocharian is an Armenian from the Diaspora, who later obtained Armenian citizenship. He talks of nothing but blood and war. He stays in the power thanks to his discourse on creating tensions and obtaining more territories. He stays in power thanks to the militants recruited from Karabakh. He even repressed street demonstrations by using the Karabakh militants.
Even the Greeks realized that an EU-member Turkey is better than a Turkey outside the EU, but Armenians. If Turkey becomes a full member of the EU, Armenia will become a neighbor of the Union. This probably means that the border between Turkey and Armenia will be opened, and the Armenians will prosper. For the moment, there are more than 70.000 Armenians from Armenia who are living and working in Turkey. Some are babysitters, some are servants, and some others work in constructions. Most of them come to Turkey illegally or as tourists. But then, they find a job and start living in Turkey with bad conditions. They are taking care of children and houses of Turks, who have been presented to them as “the perpetrators of genocide” for the years. These Armenians are surprised of the Turks’ trust in them. These Armenians, who were afraid of being treated badly in Turkey, after a while see that being an Armenian has no advantage or disadvantage in Turkey. So, they work in Turkey and send remittances to Armenia motherland. I don’t think that 70 million Turks will emigrate to European cities once Turkey is an EU member, but I will not be surprised if the number of Armenians living in Turkey reaches at least 1 million. As a matter of fact, the population of Armenia has dropped from 3,2 million to 2-2,5 million during the Kocharian period. If Turkey becomes an EU member, this number is likely to drop to 1,5 million. In other words, what the Diaspora has wanted will come true: The Armenians will have returned to Anatolia! This is just a joke, but it is apparent that Armenia will be the most profitable country from Turkey’s accession to the EU.
IS FRANCE SINCERE?
As I have discussed before, the issue has nothing to do with the Armenians. They are only the pawns in the attempts to hinder Turkey’s membership. It is so obvious that France is not sincere in its support to the Armenian claims. When the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked for the withdrawal of the Armenian “genocide” bill from the French Interior Minister Sarkozy, the minister had three conditions:
1. “The Commission (proposed by Turkey for the investigation of the historical disputes between Turks and Armenians by historians) be set up of any person, not only historians,
2. Abrogate the Article 301 of the (Turkish) Penal Code, which restricts the freedom of thought in Turkey according to Mr. Sarkozy,
3. Assure the opening of Armenia-Turkey border.”
If the 1915 Incidents were really a genocide, which was legalized by the French Parliament, and if this crime is so grave that even its denial will be punished, how come Mr. Sarkozy propose such conditions to Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of the bill? What is the relationship between Turkey’s Article 301 and “not punishing” the ones who denies the so-called genocide? Let’s say, if Turkey becomes the most democratic state in the world and if Turkey opens its borders fully with Armenia, will that change the history? What can be the relationship between the Armenian bill in the French Parliament and the participation of historians or businessmen in the joint Turco-Armenian commission set up to investigate the allegations?
It is clear that France’s priority is not recognizing Armenian claims as “genocide”, or punishing those who deny it. Their problem is neither the Armenians nor the historical facts. Their real objective is to exclude Turkey from the EU, and forcing Turkey to act under the French influence. That’s why they offer to make bargain on crucial principles like ‘genocide’ and ‘freedom of speech’.
Another indication of France’s lack of sincerity is the exclusion of scientists or researchers from the current bill. In other words, if an ordinary citizen or a politician denies the Armenian claims, he/she may be imprisoned up to five years, according to the French bill, but if a researcher, historian or an academician commits the same “crime”, he/she will not be punished at all. Is there such logic of law? If an act is a crime, it is a crime for everyone. So, can there be a rule which dictates that a professor doesn’t have to stop in the traffic if the light is red, but an ordinary citizen has to stop in red light? And if the subject in question is the biggest crime, that is, genocide, can there be such levity? If someone denies the Holocaust in France, do the authorities check his profession to punish him?
WHAT BENEFITS ARE EXPECTED?
It is surprising that those who haven’t recognized the Armenian claims as genocide for 86 years, and who haven’t considered penalizing the denial of Armenian claims for 91 years have suddenly found “the right way.” Timing is important. So, what do the French expect to receive from the bill?
Ostensibly, they want to support the Armenians. Chirac, in his last visit to Armenia, clearly stated that the Turks committed Armenian genocide. Moreover, he presented acceptance of the Armenian claims as a precondition for Turkey’s EU membership. On the other hand, Chirac has neither condemned nor criticized Armenia’s invasion of Azerbaijani territories. He only said “put a little bit more effort in solving your problems with Azerbaijan.” He definitely did not mention the Hocali Massacre (if not genocide) committed by the Armenians during the Karabakh War, or the Armenian terror in the 1970s and 1980s which claimed the lives of many Turkish diplomats. And now, the bill penalizing the denial of the Armenian claims… As one would remember, France approved the Armenian claims as a historical fact in 2001. France claims that it has fulfilled a historical justice. Secondly, Paris maintains that Turkey should open its border with Armenia and establish good neighborhood relations before entering the EU.
Despite all these policies, France’s approach doesn’t help a Turco-Armenian rapprochement at all. On the contrary, this policy intensifies the reactions in Turkey against the Armenians and undermines the credibility of France and the EU in the eyes of the Turkish public opinion. One cannot expect the Turks to be tolerant towards the Armenians, who always make intrigues against Turkey. Moreover, those who attribute the biggest crime of the world to the Turkish people must admit that this is not a good way of solving the problem. The people who have good will and are constructive don’t take one-sided decisions. Insulting is not a good way to initiate dialogue. On the other hand, French Parliament’s attempt to silence Turkish people on Armenian allegations has eroded the credibility of France and the EU in Turkey. Even the most pro-Western politician or author cannot defend the EU at the moment. Those who criticize Turkey on the issue of freedom of speech cannot explain the five years imprisonment for having a different view in France. The EU authorities, criticizing the court decisions in Turkey, cannot explain the expulsion of three Turkish politicians from their parties in Netherlands just because of their different views on the Armenian issue. From time to time, there are people who take the Article 301 as an example. They say “you are preventing the discussion of the Armenian issue in Turkey with the Article 301.” But the Article 301 has nothing to do with the Armenian issue. The Article regulates the insults on Turkishness, and similar laws in one way or another also exist in other European countries, like Italy. Prevention of insults to a nation or individuals is a matter which has to be protected by laws. It is true that this law has been sometimes abused and that some people have been unjustly tried. Among these people are Elif Shafak and Hrant Dink. But none of these authors were found guilty on the basis of the Article 301. We definitely wouldn’t like to see them tried. But those who sue these authors are not state authorities, but “ordinary citizens”, and the courts have to consider the petitions. The Article can be amended or a better practice can be applied. But there is no similarity between the Article and the bill that France wants to pass. Turkey is the most liberal country on the earth to discuss the Armenian issue. You cannot discuss the issue neither in Armenia, nor Switzerland nor the Netherlands. In these countries, if you claim something different than the Armenians do, you will be silenced, you will be imprisoned. You may lose your job. The state institutions may insult you for your different ideas than the Armenians. And whether you are a professor or a diplomat, the outcome is the same. The case filed against the Turkish consular general in France is a good example. Similarly, the warrant of arrest issued for the Chairman of the Turkish History Institution, Prof. Yusuf Halacoglu, in Switzerland just because Halacoglu was thinking differently than the Armenians is another example. Last year Armenia authorities imprisoned a Turkish historian when he wanted to make research in Yerevan.
The situation in Turkey, however, is completely different. You will find many pro-Armenian books in any of the bookstores in Turkey. Most of the significant Armenian language books on the issue have been translated into Turkish language and Turkish readers freely can reach the Armenian books now. Pro-Armenian scholars and authors can freely express their views on Turkish TV and radio channels. There are pro-Armenian scholars at state and private Turkish universities. The newspapers are full of Armenian approach. Under these circumstances, we can say that only Turkey in the world left to discuss freely the historical Armenian claims relations, but no where.
Director, USAK & Davos Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2006
BA (Ankara University), MA (University of Sheffield), PhD (King’s College, University of London)
Trns. by: A. Noyan Ozkaya