Monday, October 16, 2006

Completely mad

The International Herald Tribune brings us news of another demonstration in Turkey, but this one does not appear to be a rage of any kind. They are unhappy with the French legislation (not yet through the Senate) that makes it illegal to deny that the massacre of Armenians in 1915 was a genocide. Why the Turks should care about the French limiting their own freedom of speech is a little hard to understand but when they accuse France of hypocrisy one cannot but sympathize.

There are, after all, certain taboos in recent French historiography as well: treatment of their opponents in Algiers, for instance, or the treatment of North Africans in France; the ruthless massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Paris; and other suchlike interesting events. The Turks are clearly aware of all this.
The Turkish Parliament's Justice Committee, meanwhile, has discussed a retaliatory law that would make it illegal to deny that France was responsible for a colonial-era genocide in Algeria, which France ruled from 1830 to 1962.
Other suggestions have included the deportation of the remaining Armenians from Turkey, a seemingly pointless exercise unless one takes the “1066 And All That” view of history in the Near East.

Seriously though, the Turks do seem to have sized up the situation correctly. They see the French legislation as part of a campaign to prevent Turkey from joining the European Union. Whether that is still something the Turks really care about remains to be seen. The nationalist element in Turkish politics has been strengthened to some extent but some ideas of retaliation sound perfectly reasonable:
Ankara has rejected calls for an all- out boycott of French goods, but Turkish officials say some lawmakers are considering retaliatory measures, including blocking French defense and energy companies from bidding for Turkish contracts. Ordinary Turks speak of making their own symbolic protests, like selling their Peugeots.
While far from being a potential repetition of the catastrophic American boycott of France and French goods, not being allowed to bid for Turkish contracts will not go down well among the French defence and energy companies.

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