On Thursday, France’s lower house of parliament approved a motion making it a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide. Specifically the motion “reprehends the contesters of genocides accepted by law” including the Armenian Genocide which the French parliament voted in 2001 to recognize the World War I massacres of Armenians as genocide.
France’s 400,000 strong ethnic Armenian communities comprise mostly of decedents of those who survived the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. These communities have established churches, schools, cultural organizations, sports clubs, and political organizations. The following is an interview with Mr. Kevork Satchlian, Chairman of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party’s Armenian Council of Europe after France’s lower house of parliament passed the law on Genocides.
Massis Post: Mr. Satchlian, can you explain your feelings on today’s proceedings?
I am very pleased and thank the Parliamentarians who helped push this motion through the lower house. Yet we have a lot work to be done, the struggle is not over, rather this once again is just the beginning process to make this law into reality.
Massis Post: Mr. Satchlian, how instrumental was your organization, the Armenian Council of Europe in obtaining this victory?
In all honesty, this is not a victory that any one Armenian organization can take credit for. Rather this is a culmination of our collective activities to push the passage of this motion in the lower house of parliament.
I can tell you, as part of that effort, the ACE along with all of the Hunchakian affiliated organizations pressed on our membership, families, Armenian and non Armenian friends and even elected officials to contact and urge their members of parliament to pass this bill. We also, as an organization, directly advocated Parliamentarians. This was evident at our recent meetings with Parliamentarians; André Santini a leading member of Nouveau Centre party (the new right-of-center party in the French Parliament) and René Rouquet a leading member of France’s Socialist Party, we expressed the importance of this motion’s passage to our organization as well as France’s Armenian community.
Massis Post: Mr. Satchlian, you mentioned that a lot more must be done for this to become actual law, can you elaborate?
Armenians must not forget that we have gone through this process once before, when in 2006, the lower house voted to criminalize the denial, yet the bill later failed in the Senate. Once again we face the same dilemma, it passed France’s lower house, yet it is not scheduled for a vote in the French Senate. After February 2012 the Parliament will be at a standstill for the May Presidential elections and the Parliamentary election that are to follow. Consequently, if the motion does not pass the French Senate by February 2012 it will virtually be impossible for it to become law.
On the positive side, all of the French political forces, including President Sarkozy and his soon to be Presidential opponent Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party have articulated their will to make this motion into law. This is significant in particular because France’s Socialist Party in 2011 won control of the Senate for the first time in more than fifty years.
Therefore, ACE commends the French Parliament, but we also realize that our work is far from over.