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03 05 2008- Turchia : Art301 - SAME LAW, DIFFERENT WORDS
On Wednesday, April 30, 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted the AKP bill which “amends” the disturbing article 301 that penalizes freedom of expression in Turkey. The amendment, which consists only of replacing the crime of “insulting Turkishness” with that of “insulting the Turkish nation,” was adopted by 250 votes for and 65 against. In addition, prosecutions will now have to be pre-approved by the Ministry of Justice and the maximum penalty will be reduced from three to two years imprisonment.

For several years now, article 301, in its initial form, has been widely invoked to prosecute any author of dissident opinions on Turkish taboos such as the Armenian Genocide and its acknowledgment, the Kurdish issue or the occupation of Cyprus. A segment of the Turkish public opinion considers that the charges against journalist Hrant Dink, at that time, for his article led to his tragic assassination in January 2007.

Throughout Europe and even in Turkey, a number of entities have denounced this parody of reform and have demanded a complete abolition of article 301 and other clauses.
The general view is that the “reform” adopted yesterday will not change anything with respect to the critical situation regarding freedom of expression in Turkey and intellectuals will still be prosecuted. Indeed, the Turkish Minister of Justice intervened during the debates in Parliament to make clear that “with this law, there is no question of letting people freely insult the Turkish identity”.

“This so-called reform is a joke”, declared Hilda Tchoboian, the chairperson of the European Armenian Federation. “It curiously resembles the manipulation of article 305, which remained absolutely identical in its punitive clauses, but from which the Turkish Parliament just removed the statement of motives that cited the Armenian Genocide and the occupation of Cyprus,” she explained.
“The European Union should not let itself be anaesthetized by this gross manipulation of words,” stated Hilda Tchoboian.

The European Armenian Federation reminds that, in the hope of significant reform, the report on Turkey introduced by the MEP from EPP group (CDA – Christian Democrat – Netherlands), Ria Oomen-Ruijten, and adopted on April 21st 2008, used for the second consecutive year a complacent and flattering tone on the situation, however critical, of Human Rights in Turkey.

The Federation takes note, with admiration, of the official declaration in Turkey by two intellectuals – defenders of Turkish Human Rights, Ragip Zarakolu, Eren Keskin and Erdogan Aydin , affirming and recognizing the Armenian Genocide. (See declaration below)

“When we see the courage of these persons, we cannot accept that MEPs betray them by accepting this official trickery. The Parliament should also not accept “the omerta” (law of silence) imposed by Ankara on the Genocide in the report that will be adopted in plenary session in the coming weeks,” concluded Hilda Tchoboian.

The press release of the Human Rights Association for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

“Today, April 24 is known as the date signifying the Armenian Genocide in the entire world. Only in Turkey it indicates a taboo. The Turkish State is mobilizing all its resources to deny the signification of this date”.
In the diplomatic platforms, Turkish diplomats and their lawyers pretend to acknowledge “the great tragedy” and only object its nomination as Genocide”. This is not true. At every occasion in Turkey, not only the Armenian Genocide but also the great agony of the Armenian people are denied and there are attempts to justify the Genocide.

Less than a month ago, during a symposium on the Armenian-Turkish relations, the official denialist thesis had been formulated one after the other, offending Armenians living in Turkey and elsewhere, and insulting the memory of their grandparents. They lied in the “name of science” that “Armenians always sold their masters”, “deportations were the means to control the crisis”, the number of deaths during the deportation is comparable with the number of deaths linked to the epidemic disease of influenza in England at that time”, “there is no other people as noble as the Turkish nation in the world, it is impossible for them to commit a Genocide” and even more, humiliating people who are more instructed in the fields of science, art, literature, and in all other aspects.

The negation is a constructive part of the Genocide itself and arises from it. The negation of the Genocide is a Human Rights’ violation. It deprives individuals of crying for their ancestors, of a nation’s ethnic cleansing, of the annihilation of people of all age, of all professions, of all social classes, women, men, children, babies, grandparents in the same way because they were just Armenians independently from their political ideas or convictions. But, the most important may be the refusal of accepting a formal obligation and say “NEVER AGAIN”.

Turkey has never made any progress in the field of coexistence, democracy, Human Rights, and in the cessation of militarism since the period of the Union and Progress Committee. The annihilation and the negation had been and still are the only way to solve the problem. The villages evacuated and burnt and the obligatory displacements still are the manifestation of the same habit of “social engineering”. There have always been bloodsheds in the Armenian homeland after 1915. Unresolved murders, missing people during police custodies, rapes, and mass arrests in the 1990’s had not been a surprise in view of the fact that the current State had not any culture of regrets for the crimes occurred against Humanity.

In the same way, the revocation of the Republic prosecutor and the banning of practicing a profession just for having courageously indicted military officers is the manifestation of an old habit which consists in punishing those who raise any kind of objection against the army. And today, the mass of about 250,000 soldiers in the South East region of Turkey is the proof that a frame of mind is not able to develop any other kind of solution to the Kurdish issue except a suppression by weapons.

Turkey will not be able to make a step forward without putting an end to the Union and Progress Committee’s practices. Any violation of Human Rights will not stop in Turkey and there will be no hope to break the vicious circle of the Kurdish uprisings and their bloody losses unless the Turkish State agrees to create an environment where the public tribute is paid to the victims of the Genocide, where the pain of their grandchildren is shared and the Genocide recognized.

Today, as defenders of Human Rights, we would like to speak to all Armenians in Turkey and elsewhere in the world and tell them that “we would like to share the pain in your hearts and commemorate the memory of the missing people. They are also our losses. Our struggle for the Human Rights in Turkey is in the same time our grief for our common losses and a tribute paid to the victims of the Genocide”.

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