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Interesting Guardian commentary

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  • Interesting Guardian commentary

    This ignorant act will only fan the flames of division

    The French vote to outlaw denial of the Armenian genocide plays into the hands of Islamist nationalists in Turkey

    Fiachra Gibbons
    Friday October 13, 2006
    The Guardian

    For those who enjoyed a country childhood beyond the reach of a reliable TV signal, entertainment often consisted of watching two farmyard animals headbutting each other to the point of unconsciousness. Typically, two young bullocks would square up to one another in the way the Turkish donkey and the French ass are doing today over the Armenian genocide, the collected crimes of French colonialism, the headscarf, the French insistence that it is their liberal duty to publish every Muhammad cartoon ever drawn, and any other raw nerve within reach. Stupider breeds of sheep can keep this up for hours.

    It is pretty poor sport, and one that must take a toll on the limited reasoning capacities of the creatures involved. Which is why it makes it all the harder that the supposed excuse for this release of political testosterone is one of the great forgotten tragedies of the last century: the massacre - or what some call the genocide - of around one million Armenians in what is now eastern Turkey. "Who remembers the Armenians?" Hitler remarked before he set his own Holocaust in motion. Sadly, few did, even in France.

    Turkey has been in headlong and hysterical denial of what was done between 1915 and 1917 ever since, coming up with one mad face-saving theory after another to explain how one of Anatolia's most ancient populations suddenly disappeared. It is true that Armenian rebels did their share of slaughtering, and that famine, chaos and Kurdish land-grabbers played their part as the Ottoman empire collapsed amid multiple invasions and uprisings. But Ataturk, one of whose adopted daughters was an Armenian survivor of the forced death marches, should have - but never could - bring himself to face the truth, possibly because of his shame at what his brother army officers had ordered while he was in Gallipoli fighting off the British. (Nor must we forget that Churchill urged the Armenians to rebel, with vague promises of support to divert manpower from his sorry mess in the Dardanelles.)

    But the taboo about even mentioning the Armenians has been slowly broken over the last four years, helped along by the brilliant and the brave, chief among them the novelist Orhan Pamuk. He has been prosecuted for "insulting Turkishness" by claiming that a million Armenians died. What irony that the same Turkish nationalists who wanted to lynch him then will today be celebrating his Nobel prize win. Pamuk's right to freedom of speech was yesterday on the lips of the French parliamentarians who voted through the bill that would jail for a year anyone who questions the use of the word genocide for the killings. No one seemed to have heard that Pamuk himself, in common with all Turkish liberals, had condemned the bill. It is of course a cynical exercise to harvest the sizeable Armenian vote, but so out of touch are the Parisian elite with their suburbs that they fail to realise the size of the Turkish minority. Officially, of course, it is illegal to count them, as everyone is French or nothing else.

    That the French - who last year voted to compel teachers in the immigrant suburbs to teach children the benefits of colonisation before seeing sense - should act now speaks of profound ignorance and self-satisfaction. It may also prove to be one of their most inopportune sallies from port since Villeneuve set sail for Trafalgar.

    For many in France this is not a fight for historic accuracy but another excuse to point out the differences between the east and west, between Islam and liberal values, and draw a line at where Europe ends. France is the fiercest opponent of Turkey's EU entry. It is also a place in which the climate is such that a schoolteacher has become a hero of free speech after unleashing a poisonous tirade against Muslims in Le Figaro that would have landed him in court elsewhere.

    Turkey and France are seen, from Paris now at least, as irreconcilable opposites, embodiments of the "clash of civilisation". Except, of course, they are not. They are in fact, peas in a pod - in many ways the two most similar states in Europe. Both are fanatically secular republics, saved from self-destruction by military strongmen (Napoleon and Ataturk). Both ban the headscarf in schools and are led by often-remote elites who see religion as a kind of mental affliction. Both lost great empires but still have the mentalities that went with them, and both are perpetually convinced that the rest of the world is plotting to undermine their imminent resurgence.

    While the French elite are still petrified by the old Napoleonic fear of the mob, now transposed to the often nominally Muslim kids from the suburbs, the Turkish military secular establishment see any show of religious faith as a harbinger of a fundamentalist takeover. Entry into Europe means relaxing the iron grip they have imposed in three coups in a generation. That is why many in the Ankara barracks will be happy to see Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal compete with each other to demand that, in their eyes, Turkey humiliates itself yet again by making a full and frank confession before being admitted to the top table of civilised nations.

    This confirmation that Europe is a closed Christian club also plays into the hands of the resurgent Islamist nationalists in Turkey, whose ranks may or may not contain the present prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man who one day presents himself as an advocate of multicultural tolerance and the next as an old-fashioned Turkish xenophobe. His own very hazy grip of history was demonstrated yesterday when he declared that "in our history we never had any inquisition, dark ages or colonialism" - curiously forgetting the Ottoman empire, of which he is a fervent nostalgic.

    Just as with butting heads, brains seems to suffer when talk turns to clashing civilisations. The countless Armenian dead are testimony to the danger of forgetting, and how the past cannot be ignored or covered up. Equally we should remember that Nicolas Sarkozy's great-grandparents were also citizens of the Ottoman empire, living a few streets away from Ataturk in Salonika, both comfortable members of the Islamo-Judeo elite. That is not a combination of words we see often now. What we forget in a few generations.

    · Fiachra Gibbons is writing a book on the Ottoman legacy in Europe
    [email protected]
    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”

  • #2
    The Guardian - what a bad joke that newspaper is. Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach (and read the Guardian).
    Plenipotentiary meow!


    • #3
      Originally posted by bell-the-cat
      The Guardian - what a bad joke that newspaper is. Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach (and read the Guardian).
      Still a pretty interesting article nonetheless.
      General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”


      • #4
        Originally posted by Joseph
        Still a pretty interesting article nonetheless.
        I can't be bothered with any of it anymore. Those that advocate the bill often seem to be as ignorant as those that oppose it. And worst of all are those Guardian-reading there-are-two-sides-to-everything types. All it seems to show is that a lot of people are very stupid, and are not shy in revealing that they are. There is a whole rabble of them here: Though there are a few worthwhile thoughts amongst them, to be honest (just spotted one by someone called cloudsunday).

        And another bit of Guardian XXX, with comments
        It's mostly the same old recycled comments though.
        Plenipotentiary meow!


        • #5
          Originally posted by saranbula
          "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." — Voltaire, When I see this saying, I understand that sometimes 380 thousand votes can be more precious for politics than some revolutions in 18th century.
          Voltaire characterised the Turks as:

          "tyrants of the women and enemies of arts".
          He also spoke of the need:

          "to chase away from Europe these barbaric usurpers"
          He accused the Turks of having destroyed Europes ancient heritage from :"the Orient’s Christian realm" and wrote:

          "I wish fervently that the Turkish barbarians be chased away immediately out of the country of Xenophon, Socrates, Plato, Sophocles and Euripides. If we wanted, it could be done soon but seven crusades of superstition have been undertaken and a crusade of honour will never take place. We know almost no city built by them; they let decay the most beautiful establishments of Antiquity, they reign over ruins."
          In this passage Voltaire refers to the brutal 500 year Ottoman occupation of Greece.

          [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]


          • #6
            Originally posted by saranbula
            You wrote a long message,but it only work on morons. This is not answer of my message. Im talking about the Voltaire's sayings about freedom of speech and Revolution of Freedom in 18th century in France and abolition of these by VOTE HUNTERS. But you re insisting on to pass it over.
            this isn't answer of my message and I didn't surprised.

            Seems like you want to pretend you are in favor of freedom of speech.

            However, when the AG gets mentioned in turkey, it's a crime known as "insulting turkishness."

            Also, do you have a problem with the French law regarding denial of the jewish experience in WWII???


            • #7
              Originally posted by Varouj
              Seems like you want to pretend you are in favor of freedom of speech.

              However, when the AG gets mentioned in turkey, it's a crime known as "insulting turkishness."

              Also, do you have a problem with the French law regarding denial of the jewish experience in WWII???
              Varouj you have made two excellent points. I'm curious to know what his/her views are on those two laws as well. Thanks for bringing it up.