Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Armenian question

What is the world coming to?

When I arrived back from Paris, Fred told me about the latest political scandal, namely that teh two largets political parties in Holland had removed three candidates from their lists of candidates for the upcoming parliamenmtary elections in November. These candidates were Dutch people of Turkish origin and their crime was not recognising the massacres of the Armenians by tthe Ottoman Empire in 1915 as 'genocide'.

Why should they? Well, a lady from a small Christian party wanted to introduce a bill making it a crime for anyone to make a mock any genocide. (People would be allowed to deny it or have their own opinion about it, but would not be able to mock it). Somehwo this started a series of events whereby these two parties asked their candidates of Turkish origin to formally stae their recognition of the Armenian masscres as genocide, as apparently this is part of the internal party business... i.r.r the parties tehmselves recognise the genocide and it would majke sense that the candidates they are presenting to the public also recognise the massacres as genocide. Well, three of them did not and they have been removed from the lists.

Of course, many Turlks are quite shocked about this, as are the rest of us, as what do events from 1915 have to do woith governing Holland from 2007 to 2011? Also, why all of a sudden this request? And, what's more, even the Dutch State does not formally recognise the genocide. Many Turkish leaders have called for a boycott of the elections, especially as the majority of Turks have traditionally voted for PvdA (Social Democrats), which had kicked out one of their candidates.

In the meantime, it seems to be against the law in Turkey to admit that a genocide took place and France is passing a law to make simple denial of a genocide. All set for a collision course.

By all accounts, there were large scale massacres but historical research has not conclusively confirmed that tehre was a genocide and also the context of the genocide has not been dealt with properly. By many accounts, just prior to the genocide, when the Russian troops left that part of the Ottoman Empire which was crumbling to pieces at the time, the Armenians saw theur chance to grab some territory and killed very many Turkish villagers in that area of what is now Eastern Turkey. So there is more than one side to the story, but as is our want, we tend ot side with the underdog and feel sorry for the losers, which in this case, are the Armenians.

We are also left wondering why it is that we have laws telling us what we can say and think when we are supposedly living in a free society, especially with regards to genocide denial. OK, making a mockery is not something we would want to encourage, but to legislate that everyone should have the same opinion is going a bit far. In our own time there are massive legal battles taking place to define whether or not the events in Darfur amount to genocide, so it is obviously not so easy even to define genocide.

Again, one is left with the feeling that the political leaders in this country lack a sense of perspective and the ability to calm issues down. Where are the statesmen? Maybe that is a question every generation asks, whereby only history can give us real statesmen retroactively - we only notice them once they have gone.



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