Turkey legalizes the denial of the Armenian Genocide – Part II

Originally published in NewropMag
June 06, 2006
By Houry Mayissian

One of many Turkish Efforts to Deny the Genocide

Article 305 is one of the most recent moves in a campaign the Turkish government has embarked upon to deny the Armenian Genocide. A prominent historian on the Armenian Genocide, Richard Hovannisian, has argued that during the years that followed the Armenian Genocide, the strategy of the perpetrators of the Genocide and their successor, the Turkish Republic, was “to avoid public discussion of the genocide believing that in the course of time the survivors would pass from the scene, their children would become acculturated and assimilated in the Diaspora, and the issue would be forgotten.” (1) Hovannisian has analyzed Turkish denial strategies and pointed out that one often-used method is denial under the guise of historical debate. The historian has examined in detail how the Turkish government attempts to present a distorted version of historical realities.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan’s proposal to Armenia for setting up a joint committee of Armenian and Turkish historians, to examine the issue, might be considered as the latest such effort. The proposal was rejected by the Armenian government based on the premise that historians have already made their statements on the Armenian Genocide. Instead, Armenian president Robert Kocharian proposed steps towards establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries (2).

Another historian, Rouben Adalian, has talked about three lines of arguments advanced by disputers of the Armenian Genocide: The denial thesis “reverses the course of history and depict the victims as the victimizers”, the revisionist thesis does not deny the fact, but tries to explain them in a way as to dispute that genocide occurred, the justification thesis defends “the policy of genocide by regarding the policy as an acceptable solution to a political problem.” (3)

Article 305 of the Turkish Penal Code is only one example of the denialist policy of the Turkish Government. Its significance, however, lies in the fact that it “legalizes” such denial and sanctions punishments against those who affirm the fact.

Reactions to article 305

The reactions to the article have not been many. Moreover, no justification has been given by any Turkish official or the government for the adoption of the article. The only explanation for it is included in the article itself, which considers affirmation of the Armenian Genocide to be against “national interests.”

First news about the existence of the article broke before the adoption of the Penal Code, when the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD), a Brussels based lobby group, issued a press release, warning that the new Turkish Penal Code would criminalize affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and calling on the “European Commission to end its silence in the face of Turkey’s denial campaign.” (4) The federation warned that the article is “fundamentally incompatible with the European values of free expression” and called on political parties, governments and human rights organizations across Europe to urge the European Commission to demand justice for the Armenian Genocide.

Nevertheless, the Penal Code was adopted and with it the article. Press releases issued by the EAFJD, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a US-based lobby group, and a couple of non-governmental organizations condemning the article, attested to its adoption.

In early October 2004, the EAFJD issued a press release informing that it has submitted to the European Commission a detailed report about the strategy of the Turkish Government vis-à-vis Armenian issues. The report had a “special focus on the recent adoption of article 305 which criminalizes the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.” (5) The executive director of the federation warned in the press release that “this attack on liberty clearly contradicts accepted international laws dealing with freedom of speech, specifically articles 10, 11 and 14 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

(1) Hovannisian, R. G. (1999). Introduction. In R. G. Hovhannisian (ed), Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide (13-29). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
(2) Danyelyan, E. and Melkumian, H. Kocharian rejects Turkish offer of joint Genocide study. Retrieved 06-06-2005.
(3) Adalian, R. (1992). The Armenian Genocide: Revisionism and Denial. In M.N. Dobkowski and I. Wallimann (ed), Genocide in Our Time: An Annotated Bibliography with Analytical Introductions (85-105). Michigan: The Pierian Press.
(4) The new Turkish Penal Code would criminalize recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Retrieved 01-01-2005.
(5) EAFJD delivers report on Turkey to the European Commission. Retrieved 06-10-2004.

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